When people think of world famous carnivals places like Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans and also some major German cities often come to mind. However, there is a carnival that internationally doesn’t have that same name but surely can compete with them all: the Cadiz Carnival. It is one of the highlights of the year on the Costa de la Luz and is undoubtedly the most popular carnival on the Iberian peninsula.
Carnival traditionally occurs the weekend before Ash Wednesday that starts Lent, though Cádiz tends to celebrate Carnaval a ‘bit’ longer: this year’s event began on the 27th of February and concludes on the 9th of March. So the final day lies already in Lent, quite remarkable for the religious name Spain still has.
Carnaval and carnival come from the Latin word “carnelevarium” which means eliminate meat because traditionally the Christians wouldn’t eat meat during Lent. Now – as anyone can tell you – Carnival has lost its religious meaning as is just another excuse to party. The carnival itself dates back to the 16th century and just does not know when it is beaten; In 1937 the dictator Franco abolished Carnival. In 1950 the celebrations were allowed to continue but in a much more censured and subdued manner. Finally in 1977 after the Franco era, the people of Cádiz were able to recuperate their original celebration and traditions. Nowadays the vibe is very much about colour and music. Including choirs, classical music, solo acts and groups that provide modern Spanish sounds. As for the colour, you only need to witness the processions to see just how vibrant and bright the carnival is. You will also be able to sample the wonderful tapas that Spain is renowned for around the world. A true sensory sensation.
The costume is fundamental to Carnival. It breaks the social order and repressions and is liberating and cathartic. They often invert social orders, satirize society and authority and give way to fantasy. The main places where the festivities take place are the historic center (or La Viña neighborhood), Gran Teatro Falla and the Central Market (Mercado Central) which is in Plaza de la Flores.
As for the locals, they are famed for their sense of humour and the Chirigotas (the satirical groups of performers) exemplify this perfectly with their comedy sketches centred around satire and everyday affairs.
If you are going to go to one party in Spain ever, make Cadiz Carnival that party. It is a decision you will not regret.