The Festival of Cascamorras, locally known as La Fiesta del Cascamorras, held every September 8th, in the Spanish towns of Baza and Guadix, is an annual event unique to the Granada region of Spain. The legendary origin of the festival can be traced back to 1490.
Guadix and Baza are two neighbouring Andalusian towns in the Province of Granada in Spain and long ago, Don Luis de Acuña Herrera decided to construct the Church of Mercy in the town of Baza, on the site of a preexisting Moazarabic mosque. While clearing the rubbish and digging the earth, Juan Pedernal, a worker from Guadix, suddenly heard a soft and low voice from deep inside, pleading for mercy. Juan Pedernal was struck with awe and surprise and he could not believe his ears. Yet, he tried to locate the source of the sound and finally stumbled upon a statue of the Virgen de la Piedad, Our Lady of Mercy. Encouraged and instigated by his friends and countrymen, Juan Pedernal tried to sneak away with the image to his town, but he was caught by the workers belonging to Baza, who snatched it back from him. As the ownership of the image became the apple of discord between the two towns, it was decided that, on Saint’s Day, if a nominated person from Guadix can enter the town of Baza and reach the Church of Mercy in a clean dress, without getting stained by locals, he will be permitted to take the holy statue with him to his home town.
The modern Festival of Cascamorras is based on that legendary story. The first Cascamorras was builder Juan Pedernal and since then, every year the people of Guadix choose a new Cascamorras, who tries to reach Baza church unstained and all the young people of Baza, covered in black paint, await to make him smudged. It is obvious that, since the inception of the festival, not a single Cascamorras could escape unstained and retrieved the statue. Though the festival is based on a dispute between two of the Andalusian towns, the people of both the towns celebrate the festival together.
The annual festival of Cascamorras consists of two runs, one in Baza and the other in Guadix. Traditionally, the first part in Baza takes place on the 6th of September, when a new Cascamorras, dressed in special clean clothes, starts his journey from Guadix to Baza to get the statue of the Virgen de la Piedad in stainless dress. Meanwhile, the villagers of Baza go to Las Rodeas, the nearby hill overlooking the town and cover themselves with black oily paint. On his way through the streets of Baza, the Cascamorras faces those ‘dirty’ villegars, who try their best to make him dirty by simply rubbing their dirty bodies against him. To defend himself from the attack, the Cascamorras is equipped with a Porra, a rubber ball tied to a wooden stick by a leather cord, while his team also tries to keep him clean through the Baza streets and fails miserably. As the runners reach the Convent de Virgin de la Merced, they are permitted to enter the convent to take bathe and clean off the oily paint. Finally, the townsfolk disperse and make their way home at about 21:00, while the city cleaners begin their night shift to make the city clean.
The second run in Guadix traditionally takes place on 9th September, when the Cascamorras heads back to Guadix, without the highly-prized statue. Meanwhile, thousands of villagers, smeared with black paint and armed with coloured paint in plastic bottles, move towards the field near the railway station. The run starts at 18:30, with the sound of a rocket.
The Cascamorras makes various halts along the way and waves the brilliant multi coloured flag of the Virgin de la Piedad above the heads of the people around him, who immediately get down on their knees. The local fire brigade helps to cool the supporters with water spray. Along the route the villagers also hurl buckets of water on the runners from their respective balconies. The runners are sprayed with foam, as they pass through the town hall square. The run ends, as they reach the church at about 21.00.
The Cascamorras festival was declared a Fiesta of National Tourist Interest of Spain in 2006.