Cascamorras festival in 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 nominated Cascamorras tries to fulfil the pledge, but to this day has never succeeded due to being smeared with black oil.
Programe of events
There are a whole series of events to mark this important festival including culltural presentations and even a childrens run. The main highlights for the visitor are the two runs.
Part One – Baza
The first traditionally takes place on 6 September in Baza, where ten thousand villagers go up onto a nearby hill to cover themselves with black oil. When the Cascamorras makes his run down the hill and through the streets of Baza, they are 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 try in vain protect him through the Baza streets.
Part Two – Guadix
The second is in Guadix, traditionally on 9 September, when thousands of villagers 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.
A rocket marks the start of the Cascomorras run. Traditionally he was being punished and so needs to carry his porra to defend himself, although nowadays he is the hero. The local fire brigade helps cool the supporters with a water hose, and the run begins at 18.30. Along the route the villagers hurl buckets of water from balconies and when they pass through the town hall square they are sprayed with foam. They then move on to the church and the run finishes at about 21.00.
Practical advice for guadix
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 T-shirt and black shorts, but anything goes; all ages take part. Many wear the festival neckerchief tied as a scarf or a headband. The uphill run is reasonably strenuous if you try to be near Cascamorras.
If you want to watch the cascamorras run a good place is Plaza Constitution near the Town Hall, where you can sit in a café and await the tumultuous arrival. The roads in the area are closed to traffic several hours before, but you can arrive on foot to Plaza Constitution until 18.30. The video below shows the scenes in Plaza Constitution in 2015.