CITIES all over Spain shake a sequinned tail feather in the lead-up to Lent but nowhere out-razzle dazzles Carnaval in Cadiz – Mardi Gras with a Spanish twist.
I only found out how twisted last week when I was Googling chirigota – one of six types of musical acts who compete at a song contest held in the lead-up to the carnival proper. Like flamenco, it’s complicated, but think risque limericks performed by guys dressed up as dinosaurs or pirates (there are hardly any female groups) whilst playing medieval lutes, kazoos, reed whistles and gourds and you’ll get the picture.
Everyone from politicians to celebs are sent up in these witty ditties – a Venice carnival tradition introduced by 16th century Italian merchants when Cadiz was a port-of-call en route to the New World.
Most expats go for the parades but for Gaditanos, COAC (Official Competition of Carnival Groups) is a big deal.
Performances are X Factor-slick as the several hundred groups of artists rehearse all year. Tickets for the televised final at the Gran Teatro Falla (February 21 this year) are in such demand there’s a lottery for them.
Or you can watch it live on a big screen outside the theatre – although unless you have an Honours Degree in Andalucian slang, the lyrics will float way over your head.
Perhaps that’s as well because some of the humour is as ripe as anything you’d hear in the men’s locker room.
I wouldn’t have known had I not discovered Carnaval Feminista, a collective campaigning for Carnival Equality by shaming the most misogynist songs on Facebook and Twitter.
Lyrics mentioning La parienta (Her Indoors), mother-in-law jokes – ‘I bought my suegra an igloo because that’s where focas (seals) live’ – quips about vibrators, pube-shaving and fellatio and crude comparisons between chorizos/seafood and the male/female anatomy have all come under their spotlight.
Complaints this year are already in, with the Chirigota group No te gusta na…Jose, cited twice: ‘Jose doesn’t like anything – he doesn’t get excited if the woman DRESSES UP AS A SCHOOLGIRL’, commented one peeved contributor.
‘In the end he gets excited with the mother-in-law who of course did not wear her dentures to make the couplet funnier.’
Another on the same act reads: ‘In the medley, Jose doesn’t like going to the gym until they see a bikini photo of the woman running it, then they all want to go.
Vamos, they’ve started doing push-ups in the middle of the theatre!’
In a previous year, a group called La familia Verdugo (The Executioner Family) were called to account on the gender violence front for beheading ousted Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont but sparing ‘an adulterous woman’, as the lyrics went, because ‘it would be a waste.
This girl makes me hard so instead of with an axe, I will kill her with my cudgel’ (cue pelvic thrusts).
“We are tired of sexism in the Carnival,” say Carnaval Feminista, whose members remain anonymous.
“Exposing the macho attitudes of groups dedicated to a creative effort is not pleasant, but it is necessary to put on the table what is sometimes almost invisible to those who do not see the problem, in order to deconstruct a misogynistic society,” they explain.
So now you know a bit more about Cadiz Carnival. Enjoy?