Dancing Moorish Giants Infiltrate Spanish Town

Did that subject line grab your attention? LOL

Well, this is a new one on me!  From the Telegraph:

[Image: maginus_3401456b.jpg]

The strange case of the dancing Moorish Giants of St Maginus
Tarragona is consumed by 10 drink-filled days' celebration in honour of a very obscure patron saint
St Maginus

By Christopher Howse
7:00AM BST 08 Aug 2015

Bearing in mind that it is hard to find anyone sober in the streets of Tarragona during its 10-day annual fiesta from September 15 to 24, another big fiesta a month earlier may come as a surprise. But Friday sees the beginning of six days of festivities in honour of Sant Magí.

Actually, they’ve started the pre-festival shenanigans already, with a tug-of-war this morning. Since the thermometer is trembling at 90F, it is lucky that a theme of the festival is water, with a lot of it being sprayed about on young people drinking and listening to loud live music late at night.

So who is Sant Magí that such a fuss should be made in his name? In one sense, it hardly matters. But if there is an English name for him, he’s St Maginus, whose sanctity was sealed by his martyrdom in 306.

For the people of Tarragona, his history includes the founding of a chapel, still there at the top of the old town on the foundations of the Roman walled citadel. They say he lived for decades in a cave at Brufaganya, in mountains west of Montserrat.

Today it is from Brufaganya that barrels of water are brought to Tarragona on the eve of the saint’s feast day, which isn’t till August 19. Pious folk collect a bottle of the blessed water to sprinkle at home. The next morning at five o’clock the first Mass in his honour is said at the little chapel on the city walls. If this were England it would survive if at all as a charming little ceremony. In Tarragona, 210 events over more than a week compete for attention.

Not all the fun is religious. There is tiresome political preaching on the need to save water. There is even an erotic picnic, whatever that is, planned by some group. The folkloric side of things includes the unveiling of the recently restored giants.

If you have never seen giants dancing, it is remarkable how lightly they tread in time to the music and how dignified the movements are of these 13ft figures. It all relies on the strong man underneath their ornate robes, with a wickerwork frame on his shoulders. A piece of music in the traditional style has been composed for them: the Rumba of the Moorish Giants of Tarragona – for these two giants are Moors, a man and a woman, or king and queen. Moors form part of festivals all over Spain. It’s part of the cultural landscape, just as, in Cuba, the ordinary name for the staple dish of rice and beans is moros y cristianos. The beans represent the Moors.

I sometimes wonder what the North Africans who have settled in Spain, mostly since the beginning of this century, really make of the role assigned to them in traditional festivals. Some places mount a sort of historical re-enactment of Christians fighting Moors, but in Tarragona the dance of the giants conveys no triumph of reconquest.

The real barrier between the people of Tarragona and the recent Muslim immigrants is one of everyday culture. In theory Muslims do not drink. In general Spaniards, and Catalans, are a sober people, but in festivities alcohol plays a very prominent part.

Such cultural differences (like the wide use of pork, from jamón to lard, in Spanish cookery) have a far bigger role in separating Muslims and Christians in Spain than any overt religious ceremonies.

Vox Wrote:
That's a surprising and telling thing to read, isn't it?

In nearby Tortosa, a secular “Renaissance” festival has been contrived since 1996. It is just as mystifying to the immigrant community, confronted by bands of men in tights marching through the streets beating drums.

At least the festival of Sant Magí has a recognisable focus, though it may be as strange to new immigrants as the rites of the Shia day of Ashura seem to outsiders.

That's very nice and interesting.


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