Monday, 20 July 2009

Moros y Cristianos

The Moors and Christians fiestas (Fiestas de Moros y Cristianos) which take place each year in Guardamar, date back to 1973. Francisco García Viudes, the mayor at that time, decided that Guardamar, too, should celebrate these fiestas, as did other towns and villages in the vicinity. He invited representatives of each neighbourhood to attend an inaugural meeting, but only four of these decided to attempt to organise the event.

None of the four knew much about Moors and Christians, but they had sufficient enthusiasm to arrange for an initial parade of four groups that first year: Rosario Aldeguer was responsible for Los Marineros (to become Los Piratas in 1974); Carmen Aldeguer Verdú set up Las Mosqueteras; Soledad Navarro García began Los Moros Musulmanes; Vicente Aldeguer Palomar, with the help of his daughter Mercedes, created Las Brasileñas, who were more a carnival group than a Moors and Christians outfit, so this was the only year they paraded. Still, Vicente remained part of the organising committee and continued to play an active part in all the local fiestas.

During the first few years, the parades started from the Plaza del Rosario, but they soon grew larger and moved to the longer route, which is still used, incorporating the Calle Mayor and the Avenida del País Valenciano. (This route is one of the great attractions of the Guardamar Moors and Christians fiestas, as it is unusually straight, long and wide, allowing groups to parade in full splendour to a large and appreciative audience.)

The Moors and Christians fiestas in Guardamar have grown from these very humble beginnings (the first groups had little money for costumes and there was only one band!) has grown to a huge week-long spectacle. The undoubted highlights of the week, however, remain the two nights of parades, when the now eight groups bring out hundreds of members to parade in strict lines through Guardamar, accompanied by tens of bands from both Guardamar itself and surrounding towns and villages: three hours of stunning costumes and thrilling music. ¡Fenomenal!

This year's parades will take place on Friday, 24 July and Sunday, 26 July. As a teaser, you might wish to take a look at some photos I took during last year's parades.

PS And here are some photos taken during this year's Moros y Cristianos parades.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Looking High, High, High

Guardamar will soon have the tallest structure in the European Union. Nothing new is going to be built, however. Indeed, the structure that will merit this praise has existed since the early 1960s, when it was built by the US Navy: the Torreta de Guardamar, a guyed, low frequency, high range radio mast situated just outside the town of Guardamar, in the hamlet of El Campo de Guardamar. Construction of the mast was started and completed in 1962 and the mast served the US Navy until shortly after the first Gulf War. It was then transferred to the Spanish Navy, who has since been operating it under the call sign of "Radio Estación Naval - Antena LF 380 metros - Guardamar". Its main function is to keep an eye on marine traffic in the Mediterranean, with particular attention to the submarine activity (the major submarine base of Cartagena is close by).

So why will this almost fifty-year-old structure suddenly become the tallest in the EU? Well, according to a report in the Independent, the current holder of the record, the Belmont Transmitting Station, in Lincolnshire, is to be reduced in size in order to support a new digital aerial. Belmont is 385.75m tall, but will soon see itself reduced by some 36m. The Torreta measures 370m (the Americans left a notice stating that it is 380m., but Americans tend to see things big and know little of the metric system of measurement, so the mistake is understandable).

Like Belmont, the Torreta de Guardamar is largely ignored by tourists. It is not in the tourist heartland of Spain, of course (though is reasonably close to the overcrowded beaches and urbanisations of the Costa Blanca); furthermore, its huge size is not immediately apparent, as there are few buildings in its vicinity to offer a comparison of scale. Nevertheless, it is an imposing structure if one cares to study it, and can be seen from a great distance (it can be relatively easily seen on a clear day from the El Corte Inglés store in Elche), especially at night, when it is adorned with red warning lights.

I have posted several photos of the Torreta de Guardamar to this Picasa Web Album.