Cadiz Carnival is one of the most famous carnivals in Spain, this fact has been acknowledged – together with the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the Carnival of Águilas in Murcia – by declaring it a Festival of International Tourist Interest. Precisely since 2014, the Carnival of Cádiz and the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife are twinned, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the twinning of both cities that took place in 1984.
To shed some light on the origin of Cadiz Carnival, scholars refer us to different civilizations that, without using the same concept of the party, have handled objects and utensils similar to those used in Carnival, and remind the remote origin that the bacchanals, the saturnalia (to the god Saturn) and the lupercalia (to the god Pan), celebrations that were known both in ancient Greece and in classical Rome.
However, it seems thatCadiz Carnival is a son, albeit prodigal, of Christianity; rather, without the idea of Lent it would not exist in the way it has existed since dark dates of the European Middle Ages. It is also related to the rhythms of time, with the qualitative perception of time. Christianity establishes “a passionate order of time,” in which the moments of joy and sadness alternate chronologically, according to the time of prohibitions or tolerances, assimilated by Christianity. Carnival is a consequence of the simple conception of time adopted by Christianity. A conception adjusted to life cycles and crops.
Its main significance is that it authorizes the satisfaction of all the appetites that Christian morality, by means of Lent, restrain immediately. But by allowing them to expand for a more or less long period, Christian morality also recognizes the rights of the flesh, carnality. Carnival thus finds, in addition to its social and psychological significance, its balancing function in all aspects. And all in spite of the fact that in 1523, Carlos I had totally forbidden the masks.
But undoubtedly with the passage of time different aspects have been marked with greater depth to reach a different party in Cádiz. In the process of its own definition, the Cadiz Carnival takes on peculiarities of Italian, explicable by the fundamentally Genoese influence that Cádiz knew since the fifteenth century, after the Turks’ displacement to the Mediterranean, the Italian merchants moved to the West, finding Cádiz a place of settlement perfectly communicated with the commercial objectives that the Genoese were looking for: the north and center of Africa. The masks, the serpentines, the confetti are as many elements that were assimilated from the Italian carnival.