Moros & Cristianos is a peculiar celebration which is held in different cities along the Spanish Coast.
Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) is a peculiar celebration which is held in different cities along the Spanish coast. This festival acts out a part of Spanish history demonstrating the battles between the Arabs and the Christians that took place in the region centuries ago. One of the best places to see this fiesta is Alcoy, in Alicante, where the celebrations take place between the 22 and the 24 of April.
Armies march all day to the sound of the bands. Berbers, soldiers from Marrakesh, Mudéjares, Abencerrajes and Benimerines are all preparing for war. A group of Andalusian bandits is also there, as well as Basque soldiers, an army from Asturias, and even a band of Valencian peasants armed with farming implements. All of them are ready for the battle. Martial music announces the glory of the upcoming struggle. The people lining the streets admire and encourage the warriors. Soldiers march, sergeants wave to the crowds and horsemen show off their skills. All day long the hosts parade through a city decked with banners, especially the red cross of Saint George. The mood is festive as Alcoy sends her armies off to war.
Two days later, the city is filled with the roar of battle as gunpowder smoke covers the city like fog. The Moors and Christians battle the whole day; the Christians are defeated in the morning and the Moorish crescent can be seen on the ramparts of the castle where the red cross had once flown. When the fighting is at its fiercest, Saint George himself appears at the top of the castle to aid the Christian armies. The tide is reversed; the Moors retreat.
Every year, in April, the Saint gives victory to the Christian hosts as Alcoy, in Valencia, re-enacts the famous, and largely mythical, battle. The celebration is one of the great fiestas in Spain and the greatest in the world, according to many an Alcoyano.
La fiesta is a year-long business for the people of Alcoy, as they prepare for those four days. Membership in one of the twenty-eight Moorish or Christian armies, called filaes, is much more than a hobby. The participants meet regularly throughout the year to commune with their brethren, raise funds, organize banquets, and plan out the numerous activities that make up this fiesta. For them, the year starts and ends in April, the time when they make their costumes and march to the sound of the bands.
The euphoria is topped off, when they fire hundreds of blanks with their blunderbusses making this the noisiest of Spanish fiestas. Money and time are spent prodigiously by the members of the filaes. Many save up throughout the year, and more than a few make yearly visits to the local pawn shops. The matter of clothes is expensive enough. Every army has its own traditional costume design, both fancy and fanciful. Many of them, especially those for the captains, cost a small fortune. Every year, the Christian and Moorish captains are provided by different filaes on a rotation basis. They always vie for the best-dressed captain ever. At the end of the fiesta the captains, usually well-to-do businessmen, donate their costumes to the Moors and Christians museum.
Although no effort is made to achieve strict historical accuracy in the clothes, plenty of attention is given to the details and the costumes have to follow certain rules. Some modern accessories are allowed, like eyeglasses and watches, and most of the soldiers, even non-smokers, chomp on cigars. These cigars are a tradition of the fiesta, although nobody seems to know exactly why. "They're just part of the fun," says one Alcoyano. But this is no costume party, no carnival. No tell tale trouser legs or modern shoes remind you that this is all make-believe. Maybe because, in a sense, it isn't make-believe; it seems that you are seeing these insurance salesmen, shopkeepers or bank presidents emerge from drab existences into their true, glorious selves. After the flags and drums, horses and castles, feathered helmets and shining armour, the rest of the year seems like mere Clark Kent stuff. This is fun taken seriously. At the end of the fiesta, Alcoyanos are always sad. But there remains a consolation: "only 361 days till the next one".