Anchored, according to Baroja, in the “nights of the ages”, Carnival is, without a doubt, one of the richest celebrations of Mediterranean culture. If you’re used to diving into the local customs around your house at La Manga Club, you’ll already know there are many gatherings, celebrations, and festivals in this corner of Europe. If you like to experience them like a local, February is just around the corner and the entire peninsula will be immersing itself in the various Carnival activities that precede Holy Week. One such festival, filled with tradition, music, and history, can be enjoyed not far from our golf resort: the Las Águilas Carnival, declared a festival of International Tourism Interest in 2015 and replete with entertaining events and colorful parades designed around four archetypal characters that connect the past with the present.
Some sources date the original Las Águilas Carnival to the XVIII century, although the first official records of it are from the end of the XIX. Relaunched at the end of the ‘80s after the dictatorship, today it’s one of the most high-profile and beloved celebrations in the Region of Murcia. In it, the “Aguileños”, as the inhabitants of the city are known, become the true protagonists of an event that encompasses more than two weeks of laughter and costumes. Four archetypal characters are the focus of excitement for the celebrants throughout the year: the Muse, Doña Cuaresma, Don Carnal, and the endearing Mussona. Chosen in a gala in August among the hopeful contenders, they bring the essence of the festival to the different events and personify the struggle between the sacred and the profane in a full program of parades, performances, and speeches.
Considered the equivalent of the Carnival Queen of Tenerife, the Muse is the undeniable protagonist of the festivities and represents the joy, beauty, and fantasy of this tradition. On the other hand, acting as nemesis, is Doña Cuaresma, the incarnation of sobriety and abstinence. Among the famous traditions of the Las Águilas Carnival is the Saturday before the parades when the boring Doña Cuaresma is dialectically defeated by Don Carnal and forced to allow him – against her will – to let loose that whole week until her final triumph on Piñata Saturday. That day, the beach plays stage to the end of Don Carnal, who is symbolically “burned” as the closing act of the festival and the beginning of the clean up before Holy Week.
Lastly, somewhere between the religious and pagan traditions is the final character from the Las Águilas Carnival, and the one that draws the most from the local culture: Mussona. Half human, half animal, Mussona represents Man’s duality and crafts her unique costumes from the humble fibers of esparto, shells, and refuse from the sea that the locals used more than 100 years ago to make their costumes for Carnival.
This 2020, beginning the 14th of February, which is when the changing of the guard happens between those who will personify these key characters, until the 14th of March, which is when the Certamen de Chirigotas is celebrated, Aguilas will offer a packed program of activities and contests. The agenda’s peak is the 22nd of February with the Battle of Doña Cuaresma and Don Carnal, and the first major parade of acts and floats happens on the 23rd. A day later, on the 24th, is the Night Carnival, when the townsfolk compare their creative strengths in masks and costumes that will leave visitors floored. And throughout the rest of that week there will be more parades and performances lasting until the burning of Don Carnal on Saturday the 29th.
If you want to get into the mix, join the battle of “cascarones” or confetti eggs, laugh at the “mamarrachos” or improvised costumes and try the “cuerva”, the festival’s signature drink, make sure you plan a day to immerse yourself in this incredible tradition and mix in with the revellers. Just an hour by car from your property at La Manga Club, you can even plan a few days away so you don’t miss any of the intense Carnival nights.
More information at: www.carnavaldeaguilas.org