Moros y Cristianos - A Tradition from the Comunidad Valenciana
The Valencia region is home to all kinds of unusual festivals and cultural celebrations. All visitors are sure to hear about the festival of the Moors and Christians, or Los Moros y Cristianos, celebrated all over Valencia and in the Alicante region. The festival is a sight worth seeing, with huge parades, elaborate costumes and plenty of music and gunpowder. And far from being a tourist attraction, it has great importance to the region, with traditions going back as far as the 16th century and marking a decisive moment in the area’s history.
Valencia is one of many parts of Spain to have a strong Moorish (or Muslim) influence, as it was under Moorish rule from the 7th century until the 15th century. The festivities commemorate the period known as the Reconquista, or reconquest, of Valencia by the Christians in the 15th Century and the battles that were fought between the Moorish and Christian armies. The events are also held in honour of the city’s patron saint, Vincent of Saragossa. He is said to have intervened in the final battle, in which the Christians defeated the Moors despite being greatly outnumbered.
The festival gets off to a spectacular start. The two armies march into the city in the early morning hours, a grand entrance accompanied by loud music from their bands, fireworks and much pomp and ceremony. The Moorish and Christian armies march in procession, dressed in colourful, elaborate costumes, each side attempting to outshine the other. The participants can number in the hundreds or, in some cases, thousands. Their arrival is eagerly awaited by the assembled crowds, who pack into the streets and onto balconies draped with the flag of St George before the sun even comes up.
This spectacle is followed by religious ceremonies in honor of the patron saint and the negotiations, or embajadas, held in the town’s castle or another important building, in which each side reads out a text in an attempt to persuade the other to surrender. Then the grand finale begins: a reenactment of the final battle, a riot of noise, colour and smoke, ending in victory for the Christians.
The festivities usually last for three days and involve all the street parties and paella cooking competitions you’d expect from any celebration in this region. Every part of Alicante (or the rest of the Comunidad Valenciana) celebrates it on different days of the year. They tend to take place from March til December. Make sure to check the website of your local ayuntamiento (town hall) to find out when this tradition will come to life in your area.
Two of the most popular places to enjoy the festival are the towns of Villajoyosa, which celebrates in late July, and Alcoy, which holds the festivities in April, with up to 5,000 people participating in the morning procession.
Wherever and whenever you go to see the festival of Los Moros y Cristianos, you’re sure to have a truly unforgettable experience.