If you pass time often at your La Manga Club residence, you know it’s the ideal place to disconnect and play sport. But it’s also a great opportunity to learn about the native traditions of a place as replete with history as the Region of Murcia.
Influenced by its Arab past and European history, Mediterranean culture and Iberian traditions, this is a land filled with rich and unique customs and contrasts that will delight any person fascinated by culture or anthropology. Today we’d like to tell you about one of the most joyful: musical cuadrillas.
Cuadrillas are groups of 10 to 15 people who band together to dance and sing when the mood strikes them. These are not professional musicians but rather autodidacts and folklore addicts who have kept this tradition alive for centuries thanks to knowledge passed down from parents to children over generations. In fact, researchers have found evidence of the first cuadrillas in hispano-arab musical expressions, but they say that they were formalized as musical groups in the XVI century for the entertainment of the court of Felipe II.
The tradition stayed strong, but over time, particularly beginning in the XVIII century, cuadrillas gained even more relevance and visibility, participating in all the popular festivals throughout the region. Though their activity persists throughout the year, it’s at Christmas when they really come alive, with packed schedules between the 7th of December and the 2nd of February.
The rhythm of the bandurrias
The cuadrillas perform aguilandos or Easter cantos, which are typical Christmas holiday songs, each of which has its own special dance. The traditional guitar is accompanied by bandurrias, lutes, violins, cymbals, tambourines, castanets, triangles, and bells to offer sounds that are authentically Murcian and difficult to replicate in any other artistic expression. In addition, the musicians join up with dancers to perform malagueñas, jotas, boleros, parrandas, and sevillanas, as well as waltzes, pasodobles, and mazurkas.
It’s definitely a spectacle worth seeing for its originality, long tradition, and elevated expression, and it’s within easy reach of your property at La Manga Club.
Some of the most interesting musical cuadrilla activities during the season will include:
- La Carrera, from the 25th of December to the 6th of January, in which the cuadrillas roam the countryside and collect alms and donations for the poor or for the Church.
- The Gozo Masses, celebrated 9 days before Christmas Eve, to represent the nine months of the Virgin Mary’s pregnancy.
- The Gallo Mass, celebrated on the night of the 24th of December, and one of the most important religious ceremonies for many Catholic believers.
- The Fiesta de los Santos Inocentes, celebrated on the 28th of December and during which the cuadrillas break into the pujas dance with an actor who plays the parte of the Inocente.
- The Fiesta de los Santos Reyes on the 6th of January. Here the cuadrillas participate with joyful dances and song to add to the presents brought by the Three Kings to the Baby Jesus.
If you’re here at La Manga Club during the months of December or January and you want to learn about one of the most beautiful, entertaining, and authentic Murcian cultural expressions, don’t miss the cuadrillas. You’ll be surprised by the cultural and folkloric heritage that has been preserved with little intervention over centuries, and enjoy a Christmas filled with tradition and joy.