Moros y Cristianos, as well known as Moors & Christians date back all the way to the year 711 when Tariq ibn Ziyad led a strong Muslim army across the Straits of Gibraltar from Morocco. His army quickly defeated the ruling Visigothic forces of King Roderick and faced little resistance in taking control of their capital, Toledo. With the fall of Cordoba an Islamic state known as ‘Al-Andalus’ was formed under direct control of Damascus which was the capital of the Islamic world. Only a few years later the Christian Reconquest of Iberia began in the mountains of Asturias and a 700 year battle began to evict the occupiers. Whilst the Moors far from controlled the whole territory it wasn’t until 1492 that the Christian Reconquest was complete when the city of Granada fell to ‘Los Reyes Católicos’.
Moors and Christians, is a set of festival activities which are celebrated in many towns and cities of Spain, mainly in the southern Valencian Community. According to popular tradition the festivals commemorate the battles, combats and fights between Moors (i.e. Muslims) and Christians during the period known as Reconquista. There are also festivals of Moros y Cristianos in Spanish America.
Due to Spanish colonization, the performing art has been adapted in the Philippines since the 17th century and is a popular street play throughout the country. Unlike the Spanish version, the Philippine version is dominated by indigenous Philippine cultures which are used in language, costumes, musics, and dances of the play. The main story of the art, however, has been faithfully retained.
HOW DOES IT WORK
Noise, colour and fun abound as the Christian and Moorish armies march around the town all day long accompanied by their own bands. The Spanish love of fireworks is evident during the fiesta and the balconies of the whole town are decorated with the red cross flag of St George. In the streets mock battles take place between the armies of the Moros y Cristianos and the city is covered with the fog of gunpowder.
On the final day the Christians are defeated in the morning then after the appearance of St George they surround the Moors in the afternoon and defeat them.
For the people of the city the fiesta is serious business. All year round they prepare for their four day festival in which a total of 28 armies do battle. This means a never ending task of fund raising, planning for the next April and preparing costumes. The end of the fiesta is a sad day for the town, the only consolation being that it all begins again in a year’s time.
MOST KNOWN MOROS Y CRISTIANOS FESTIVITIES
The most well-known Moors and Christians festival are the Moors and Christians of Alcoy that takes place in Alcoi (Valencian Community) from 22 to 24 April, around the Feast Day of Saint George, the patron saint of the Crown of Aragón. According to legend, after James I of Aragon reconquered the city of Alcoi, the Moors, in turn, tried to recover it. As fighting was about to resume, Saint George miraculously appeared, and the frightened Moors scattered in defeat. Other traditions ascribe a miraculous saintly appearance to Saint James, the patron saint of Spain, particularly at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, sometimes guiding the Christians to surprise the Moors; else rallying Christian forces during the battle. The feast day of St. James is 25 July, so some of the Moors’ and Christians’ festivals occur at the end of July.
Villajoyosa celebrates it in the last week of July, with a reenactment of the Berber pirate attack of 1538 (desembarc), according to tradition repelled when St. Martha (feast day 29 July) sent a flash flood. Especially in northern and western Spain.
Other noteworthy Moors and Christians festivals are celebrated in the towns of Villena with approximately 12,000 participants (most crowded festival), Cocentaina, Crevillent, El Campello, Elche, Elda, Oliva, Ontinyent, Orihuela, Petrel, and some districts of the city of Alicante.
UPCOMING MOROS Y CRISTIANOS
- MORAIRA: 7 – 16 June
- Benissa: 28 – 1 July
- Javea: 12 – 20 July