CASCAMORRAS FESTIVAL IN BAZA
by Chris Chaplow
Cascamorras festival in the towns of Guadix and Baza has been declared Fiesta de Interés Turístico Internacional (Festival of International Tourism interest) due to its intriguing history. Although the festival is relatively little-known outside Granada province, by latest estimates up to 20,000 people take part, running through the streets and covering each other in black olive oil in Baza and coloured paste in Guadix.
There are main two parts to the Cascamorras festival - one in Baza, traditionally on 6th September, and the other in Guadix on 9th September.
HISTORY OF CASCAMORRAS
The origins of the festival are impressive, with different versions of the legend, of which this is the most widely accepted. When a workman from Guadix nicknamed Cascamorras was building a church on the site of a mozarabe temple, he found a sacred image of the Virgen de la Piedad (Our Lady of Mercy) buried in the ground. Both Baza and Guadix claimed the find as their own. The tribunals decided that the image should remain in Baza, except one day a year when it could be taken to Guadix, but it seems that neither town trusted the practicalities of this decision.
Either before or after the tribunal's decision, the workman and his fellows from Guadix attempted to take the virgin back to their town, but the people from Baza snatched it back. When Cascamorras returned to Guadix empty-handed, the deeply disappointed villagers castigated Cascomorras and continued to pray to 'their' Virgin who was located in the other town.
Baza declared that on the saint's day, if a nominated person from Guadix was able to reach the Virgin remaining clean, he could keep it for Guadix. Each year the Cascamorras tries to fulfil the pledge, but to this day has never succeeded due to being pelted with eggs and flour and olive oil.
525 years later the festival is more popular than ever with 15 to 25 thousand taking part. It has to be one of the most impressive least known festivals in Andalucia if not Spain. We do recommend it. Perhaps it the longevity that add a fervent interest, it certainly seems to have more at the core than an excuse for a drunken party as some others are heading. In fact there is no alcohol openly consumed at all. Cascamorras run marks the becomes the first day of the Baza feria.
PROGRAME OF EVENTS
There are a whole series of events to mark this important festival. The main highlights for the visitor are the two runs.
Part One - Baza (Read a personal, first hand account of the 2016 Baza Cascamorras here)
The first takes place on 6 September in Baza, where hundreds of villagers and onlookers go to a place called Las Arrodeas (GPS: 37.4865N, 2.7896N) on a nearby hill over looking the town and cover themselves with black oil (special mix of black paint mixed with ecological olive oil; prepared by the Town hall). At 18.00 hrs the third rocket indicates that Cascamorras has arrived on the hill. Protected by cohorts he begins the run 1,5 km down the hill into the town.
The locals from Baza are now well prepared to 'dirty' the Cascamorras (by simply rubbing against him) and the first to do so is honoured. The Cascamorras has a porra (rubber ball tied to a wooden stick by a leather chord) to defend himself. His team of cohorts including a flag bearer and a drummer man, try in vain protect him on the hill and through the Baza streets.
The route is typically Avenida Cascamorras, Bullring, Atleta Jose Luis Martinez, Alameda, Alamillos, Calle Agua, Calle Ancha, Calle Corredera, Plaza Mejor and finishing at the Plaza de la Merced. The Cascamorras enters the church courtyard and the crowds disperce to clean up.
There are 10 nominated Juras de Bandera (Flag waving) points along the 6km route which takes from 90 minutes to over two hours to complete. Each year is slightly different as the nominated Cascamorras dictates the pace and adds his character to the event.
As a reward for his vallient attempt, the Cascamorras is permitted (if he cleans himself up) to enter the Iglesia de la Merced and pray to the Virgin de la Piedad.
Download a 2.5 MB PDF leaflet prepared for the 2016 Cascamorras with route map and safety advise prepared by the Town Hall.
Part 2 Guadix
The second is in nearby Guadix, traditionally on 9 September, when thousands of villagers first head up to the field near the railway station armed with coloured paint in plastic bottles. They proceed to cover themselves in paint, and each other, and any onlooker is likely to be covered as well. More about Guadix Cascamorras
PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR BAZA
If you want to take part in the Cascamorras run most importantly you will need a hotel room where you can clean up afterwards. Common attire is a white or black ripped T-shirt and black shorts, but anything goes; all ages take part.
You can ascend the hill on foot in the hot afternoon sun and scoop some oil from the drums provided by the Town Hall at about 17.00 hrs in preparation for the 18.00 hrs start. The early arrivals tend to scoop large quantities of oil from the drums with small plastic jugs and liberally cover themselves. Later arrivals just smear their faces and clothes. As well as participants there are also a number of curious onlookers and photographers who (rather surprisingly) don't tend become target of oil attacks. Having said that it is imperative to wear clothes you are prepared to throw away just in case become a target or accidently brush pass a well oiled individual.
You can also drive to the top of this hill by taking the N-334 to a point near Bodegas Jabalcon (between junctions 37 and 39 of the A-92N motorway), taking a country road which is signposted La Atalaya and NILA and after 1km taking a dirt track on the left hand side called 'Barriado Cuevas Llano de Angel' past the concrete water deposit to Las Arrodeas (GPS: 37.4865N, 2.7896N). It is safe to leave the car on the hill and collect it later in the evening.
On the third rocket Cascamorras will appear surrounded by his cohorts and they will soon begin the run and it will not be long before he is covered in oil by the young people from Baza who wait for him on the track. The downhill run is reasonably strenuous if you try to be near Cascamorras and the main pack. After about half an hour the group reach the town's streets.
The route is usually Avenida Cascamorras, Bullring, Atleta Jose Luis Martinez, Alameda, Alamillos, Calle Agua, Calle Ancha, Calle Corredera, Plaza Mejor and finishing at the Plaza de la Merced. Many locals who don't ascent the hill wait along this route and join the run along the way. The route is easily identified for the black plastic protecting the walls, statues and street furniture. Many local take the opportunity to get ahead of the crowd by taking shortcuts along the minor streets. There will be the biggest concentration of followers in the Plaza de la Merced. After ritual goodbye salutes Cascamorras enters the church by a seemingly secret side door hidden behind the black plastic protection to the right of the main doors. The crowds disperse to clean up. There are public showers set up nearby at the bus station and other locations.
Personal account and tips
Read a personal, first hand account of the run which includes more tips.