‘The Manolo Experience’

Sweet seller

Picture taken by Alison Fearn

Manolo is a very common Spanish name that can also be used as a noun. The term ‘Manolos or Manolas’ started being used back in the early 19th century referring to low class Madrid citizens who distinguish themselves by their elaborate outfits and sense of style in dress and manners, as well as by their cheeky behaviour. The style stood in strong contrast to the French styles affected by many of the Spanish elite under the influence of the Enlightenment.

Also known as Majos and Majas, it was a recurrent subject for many artists. Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya, depicted both, standing out his ‘La Maja Vestida’ and ‘La Maja desnuda’. This second version of the model completely nude is renowned for the straightforward and unashamed gaze of the model towards the viewer.

Nowadays, the term is mainly used for those Spaniards who perpetuate a saucy attitude but not necessarily well dressed neither elegant in their manners.

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Picture taken by Alison Fearn

This time around, Manolo, wasn’t a 19th century character, but a man that we bumped into on our way to San Sebastian Castle while on a one-to-one tuition photography course. He was taking a nap in the mayhem of beach supplies. Chairs, ‘gargaillos’ (gaditanian word for rubber shoes use for fishing), portable fridges, toys and so on, framed him and the contrast with the calmness he showed caught my eye. I stopped to take a picture and the shutter woke him up. To my surprise, instead of being annoyed he was kind and mellow. I explained him what we were doing and he immediately offered us a slice of the Tortilla (Spanish Omelette) he had prepared at 7 o’ clock am and a glass of ‘tinto de verano’ (the national summer drink- not Sangria).

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Under the sun umbrella, Alison Fearn and I enjoyed what, from now on, I’ll call ’The Manolo Experience’. It is not uncommon to find such nice people on a common basis. Here in Cadiz, people are sweet and kind to foreigners. They are willing to enjoy and have a laugh. Due to their witty and loose attitude, every time you turn a corner, expect the unexpected. Incredible experiences may happen. Taking the time and following the mood makes the difference between visiting a city or experiencing the culture and the people of that city. When Manolos family arrived from their dip in the sea, laughter surrounded us as he joked about us being part of an international TV crew doing a reportage on him.

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Thank you Manolo!!

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Budha Madre

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As the road unravels through palm trees and ‘chumberas’ (a very common cacti around this area), you get the feeling you’ve taken the wrong turn and that you’re heading directly into the bulls barn; but then, you see colourful lights in the distance and your heart starts pumping in excitement… we’re here!

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In the middle of the country side, between El Palmar beach and Vejer de la Frontera, there is a group of friends who have set a whole stage inside a truck, to perform every wednesday Music Jam Sessions.

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Budha Madre, is this Music Association’s name. A playful expression in reference to a common spanish slang way of saying AMAZING!

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It is certainly amazing how, once you manage to get there (there aren’t any signs on the way), you can listen to many different kinds of music, from Rock ’n Roll to Reggae, Jazz, Brazilian or even Metal, depending on who’s on stage…

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As if they were waiting for Cinderella to arrive from her dance in a pumping, the Jam Sessions start at 12 o’clock, and as long as the night lasts, everyone is free to join in and perform what they’re best at or simply enjoy the show with a beer.

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Summertime

… and the night life is easy…

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Tightrope walker practices at La Caleta beach

Holidays, relaxation, stress free days to enjoy beautiful beaches, like La Caleta (the one in the picture) and up to other 27 blue flag beaches in the region (more info on this link Blue flag beaches in Andalucia). Planning the long days ahead of us to seize the Cadiz summer takes little effort. It’s easy and always fun!

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A group of friends enjoy the sun set with beer and toasted sunflower seeds.

It is time for hanging out with friends and the company of the loved ones. Staying till the sun sets at the beach and then taking a shower and heading out and about on the streets. Going for some ‘tapas’ at any of the lively squares like ‘Plaza del Tío de la Tiza’.

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Plaza del Tío de la Tiza, bursts in activity at dinner time.

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Last years Jazz Music Festival.

Later you might want to listen to some life music in one of the many venues arranged for the summer (Summer concerts programme), and to top it all, I suggest you have a long drink at one of my favourite bars, ‘La Colonial’.

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‘La Colonial’ bar at The Alameda also has a wonderful open air terrace to enjoy cocktails till late at night.

More info on the 2015 Jazz Music Festival starting July 20 (click here- Jazz Festival web site).

 

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A streetwise guide to enjoying the Cadiz Carnival


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I have experienced many times The Cadiz Carnival, in fact, the first time I arrived in Cadiz, back in 2000, was to enjoy this magnificent event. It is mainly an open air party, so prepare to hang out in the streets. An incredible experience for the senses, but also for the soul. The humour involved in the lyrics and attitude are contagious. It takes place 40 days before lent, normally around February, so it is still a little bit cold even for South of Spain, although a good costume will provide enough warmth until you get the heat from the crowd. This would be the first and most important tip if you want to fully enjoy the Carnival:

GET DRESSED!

It doesn’t have to be an expensive or very elaborate costume. Actually, this is a party where creativity beats high budgets. If you don’t have time or can’t be bothered, simply paint a couple of red dots on your cheeks, that will do. Once you get dressed you will be part of the FIESTA and will be considered by others as part of the ‘gang’. If you’re part of a group, consider the possibility of themed costumes. They are great!

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GETTING INTO TOWN

That first year I visited Cadiz I still lived in Madrid. A couple of friends joined me last minute and we drove for 8 hours (normally it would take 6, but my van was an old one) on a Friday afternoon. We arrived at 3 o’clock in the morning just in time to finish our costumes and join in the party for the whole weekend!


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Trains work very well and there are many. Consider this option instead of driving. Parking is absolutely a nightmare.

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Some manage to park and spare the hotel room. This is quite a common view around town, specially on the opening night or should I say day?


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GATHER SUPPLIES

It is not the end of the world but act like if it was! Once you go on the streets you may find yourself stuck in the middle of a crowd and unable to walk to the nearest bar to ask for a ‘manzanilla’ (dry sherry). It is a real shame to run out of supplies the exact moment a ‘Chirigota’ starts its performance. At the Central Market you can get really tasty ‘bocadillos’ (sandwiches) with all kinds of different ‘sausages’. The famous ham or chorizo, but I would also recommend the ‘chicharrones’ with a pinch of salt and a squirt of lemon juice.


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Michael Ferullo, an Amercican visitor, decided to buy his pack at the neighbour supermarket.


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Another convenient option is to buy sea food from the many open air stores set around the busy areas. Sea urchins are a fantastic delicacy, freshly caught in the nearby sea at La Caleta Beach.


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This is a marathon more than a sprint. The party lasts for a whole week, so don’t go all crazy the opening night. The real thing is about to come and it would be a shame to miss it due to a terrible hangover.


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IT IS A SINGING PARTY!

As simple as that. The Cadiz Carnival is about getting together and listening to the witty lyrics a bunch of friends have put together during the past year and are now performing with more or less success, but always with tons of impudence.

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There are four different kind of groups. Choirs, Comparsas, Chirigotas and Cuartetos. Some sing more serious themed lyrics than others. Some participate in the official contest and others just like performing in the streets (‘illegal’). All of them get together and take over the whole town. The carousel of Choirs are programmed during the weekends so you can’t miss them. The ‘illegal’ chirigotas, which are the most funny ones, simply stroll around and perform whenever they feel like it.

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BRING YOUR KIDS

As crazy as it may seem there is also time and space for kids to enjoy the Cadiz Carnival.


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Sneaking into private parties shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve followed hint number one and you’re kind to those you bump into. Gaditanians are such relaxed people all year round that during the Carnival this can only multiply.


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Sneaking into the official contest that takes place at The Falla theatre demands other kind of skills.

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Selu's Chirigota perform at the Falla Theatre in the Official Singing Contest previous to the party in the streets.
The official contest starts a month before the whole street mayhem. Try getting your tickets online, but I tell you, it is very complicated. If you can’t manage, then, you’ll always have the street!

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Official Vs Illegal

Selu's Chirigota perform at the Falla Theatre in the Official Singing Contest previous to the party in the streets.

Selu’s Chirigota perform at the Falla Theatre in the Official Singing Contest previous to the party in the streets.

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THE OFFICIAL CONTEST

Jose Luis García Cossío, aka ‘El Selu’ is a central character of the Cadiz Carnival. He started his own group back in 1992 and has  been involved ever since, winning the Official Contest four times. Known for his sharpness, Selu, creates satire based on typical Gaditanian stereotypes, with lyrics as if they were written by the characters.

Getting dressed before their life performance in a 'peña' near by the Falla.

Getting dressed before their live performance in a ‘peña’ near by The Falla.

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This year he participated with a ‘Chirigota’ named ‘Ahora es cuando se está bien aquí’ – Now is when it’s good here – in reference to the Spanish housewives who hang out at the beach during the summer from early morning to late afternoon, when most people have already gone home. These ladies arrive at ‘La Caleta’ beach, equipped with everything but the kitchen sink, including fridges of food, chairs and sun umbrellas, and dedicate themselves to gossip, Bingo and sunbathing. This year they made it to the semifinals.

The 'Pasacalles' is the moment were the group heads off to The Falla.

The ‘Pasacalles’ is the moment were the group heads off to The Falla.

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Selu's chirigota member play his character infront local tv interviewer, after their performance at El Falla backstage.

Selu’s chirigota member play his character infront local tv interviewer, after their performance at El Falla backstage.

Four different kind of groups perform in the Official Contest: Coros (Choirs), Comparsas, Chirigotas and Cuartetos (Quartets), each one of them with different characteristics, number of participants and instruments. This year the official contest had 125 different groups. However, the main action is in the streets.

THE ILLEGALs TAKE THE STREETS

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In the official week of Carnival the city becomes the biggest open-air theatre in the world as the so-called ‘illegals’ perform on every street corner, and fill the old town with humour and talent.

The ‘illegals’ don’t participate at the official contest, and don’t need to submit their repertoire to any rules. Considering that the Cadiz population is 125.000 inhabitants, the number of artists per square meter is overwhelming. The final result is an incredible census of actors, poets, singers and guitarists, unrivalled by any other city in the world.

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‘Las Diógenes’ are an example of these ‘illegal’ chirigotas. They are a group of four friends who have been involved in the Carnival for 6 consecutive years, performing live in the streets. Their ‘tipo’, Gaditanian word for costume, was created by local artist Arsenio Rodríguez, whose amazing work with colourful recycled plastic containers of all shapes and sizes reaches it’s peak with this satirical dresses of Tenerife’s Carnival Queens, and closely referred to the Diogenes syndrome.

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The Cadiz Carnival is a feast of wit and satire, unknown to most foreigners, although it is getting more and more well known. This big street party involves getting dressed in costumes and enjoying the outrageous humour and vibrant atmosphere, and often getting involved ourselves. The lyrics can be social, political or religious themed, or simply a way to complain or protest, or make light of current affairs. Officially the feast lasts 11 days, but with the Falla Theatre contest and other gastronomic affairs, the spree lasts almost a month. Not forgetting the ‘Carnaval Chiquito’, The Small Carnival, that takes place on Sunday a week after the official conclusion, for the greatest enthusiasts.

 

 

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