Welcome to February, the month in which we (us Spaniards...and yes, I am decidedly Spanish) celebrate Carnaval. Carnival is one of Spain’s main popular festivities which is celebrated only in the province of Cádiz with street parades, costumes, beauty pageants, music, and gastronomical festivities. Cádiz is famous in Spain and worldwide for its Carnaval celebrations. The celebrations in the capital city of Cádiz (Cádiz) are most famous of all (and yes, I will be heading there on Sunday to take part).
However, even in Ubrique (a fairly small town with a population 18,000), we know how to get down and party. Carnaval began the first weekend of February, on Saturday Feb. 7th at 2:00 pm with the Tortillá and the Jamoná. Both were hosted outside in local plazas, and provided free Spanish tortilla (at the Tortillá) and free ham bocadillos (at the Jamoná) to those who purchased a beverage (Cruzcampo beer, Coke, Tinto...etc) for 1 euro. While people mingled and enjoyed the refreshments and Spanish culinary specialties, the various Comparsas and Chirigotas were introduced and performed for the crowds (See below for explanations). The party continued into the night...and into Sunday morning...finally coming to a close around 6 am.
The second weekend of Carnaval began Saturday, Feb. 14th at 1:00 pm with the Chicharroná. Like the Tortillá and Jamoná, the Chicharroná was celebrated in another outdoor plaza, and provided samples of chicharroná (pork mixed with fat) with the purchase of a refreshment. You are probably thinking pork bits mixed with fat sounds quite awful. However, it is actually quite flavorful...but admittedly is not my favorite and should be consumed in small doses haha. The afternoon flew by as we bar hopped, and continued to listen to the various Comparsas and Chirigotas. Perhaps the best part of the evening came around 8:00 pm when I went with my friends to help dress (in costumes) one of the Comparsas (in which their boyfriends sing). The official presentation of the Comparsas and Chirigotas began at 9:30 pm and was held in the high school auditorium. Tickets were limited and were 6 euros each. Fortunately for me...I was able to enter with my friends and the Comparsa, and watch from back stage. Not only was it free, but it was up close and personal, and frankly, one of the best experiences of my life. I have never seen nor had the opportunity to participate in such a fun celebration/event in my life. When the official presentation ended, the party continued into the night...and into Sunday morning...and didn´t come to an end...
Sunday at 2:00 pm, the Murcillá (another gastronomical festival) began, and once again the Comparsas and Chirigotas were in the streets to serenade the crowd. Unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of murcillá (or more commonly known as blood sausage), so I did not enjoy the free food quite as much this time around. Not to worry, though, the community, the atmosphere, and the singing made up for it. The party continued into the afternoon...and did not come to an end until around 6 pm. Phew, what a weekend.
Stay tuned for more updates on Carnaval. Next weekend is the Chorizá (one of the most popular events in Ubrique). The weekend after that, is the parade and costume party. Two more weekends of excitement (and no sleep).
PS...have I mentioned yet that I am in LOVE with this country, its culture, its language, and its traditions?? Let´s just say I am pretty much obsessed and would be happier than ever to spend the rest of my life here (if only my family were closer).
Now...for some definitions and explanations:
Comparsas. These are the most serious of the groupings. Their specialty is pasodoble and they organize in groups of 15 members. The song lyrics can be satirical and vindictive and they tend towards a more emotive and poetical tone instead of the silly mocking tone of the chirigotas (source: http://www.escuelai.com/).
Chirigotas. Comical and outrageous, these groups are the complete opposite of the comparsas. Laughter is guaranteed as their 12 members try to characterize reality to the point of exaggeration. They use whistles, as well as other simple percussion type instruments (cajas y bombos), creating more noisy accompaniment than musical. They perform couplets recited in the form of tongue twisters with an amusing satirical tone (source: http://www.escuelai.com/).