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Christians and Moors in Spain

Oct
20
2006

Being a Moor in Spain just isn’t what it used to be.
It used to be, if you were a Moor – “moros” in Spanish, the Muslim conquerors of Spain – you had a pretty steady gig at the annual fiestas held all over Spain to celebrate the “Reconquista,” when Spain became unified under Christian leaders after winning the last Islamic-ruled territory. People dressed up as “Moors” have mock battles and parade along with the people dressed up as “Christians” at these local festivals. The “Christians” usually are Christian, but the “Moors” are less likely to be Moors because they were all eventually kicked out of Spain after that 1492 unification. Although there are Muslim immigrants back in Spain these days of course, and some join in on the celebrations.
Anyway, so the local villagers have a good time dressing up and such, and in the same vein that makes it more fun to dress up as Darth Vader than Luke Skywalker, being a Moor is apparently more popular than being a Christian in a lot of these villages. But earlier this month, the Moors got left behind when a village that has one of the most noted festivals went off to parade in New York’s Hispanic Day parade. The town, Alcoy in Eastern Spain, showed up with just its Christians, saying that the logistics of bringing twice as many people would have been too complicated, as well as slowing down their parading.
And other towns recently have geared back their celebrations. Besides battles and parades, some places like to drop an effigy of Mohammed off a castle wall or something, or have the head explode with fireworks. This is not so unusual in the context of Spanish festivals, which can get quite nutty, with exploding things or throwing firecrackers at people, or tossing goats or chickens around, or torturing bulls. But in the Christian/Moor fiestas, some places have lately cut back on that exploding head stuff.
Now, you might remember the ruckus that followed the Danish cartoons of Mohammed (well, more than ruckus), or the Pope’s recent comments on Islam. A few tradition supporters here think towns have caved in to fear of fundamentalism, or, more commonly, are simply going overboard with political correctness. Other people disagree, and say it’s about time the customs moved on and became more inclusive and sensitive to differences.
No one wants to cave in rather than defend a principle, but I can’t see any principle worth defending on this one. Freedom of speech? Freedom to blow up papier-mâché doll heads? Sure, that’s a good time, especially after a drink or two, but a principle to uphold? The towns do seem to be concerned about provoking an extreme response, but it’s also possible they realized some customs are insensitive and unnecessary. Tradition doesn’t get to be protected just ’cause; it needs to be still worthwhile. The Christians won the battles that are celebrated, but that was over more than half a millennium ago – that’s enough time to start sparing a thought for the other side.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 1:51 PM | Permalink

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