The festivities in honour of the Virgen de la Piedad are held in Guadix and Baza between the 9th and 15th September. The main activities are the runs that take place in Baza, on September 6th, and in Guadix, on the 9th.

From an ethnographic point of view, the runs, whether in Baza or Guadix, are the highlight of the festival and in which most of the population of both cities participate. The rest of the activities around the festival have a more ceremonial character, participation is less spontaneous and the protagonism usually falls on the municipal authorities and civil or religious entities.

The figure of El Cascamorras is the main element of the ritual. His function is simple: he is chosen by the Brotherhood of the Virgen de la Piedad of Guadix to recover the image of the Virgin, kept in Baza. To do so, he has to arrive clean to the church of La Merced on September 6th. However, the people of Baza will prevent him from doing so by throwing paint at him. In the following days (September 7th and 8th) El Cascamorras occupies a prominent place in the festivity in honor of the Virgen de la Piedad in Baza, wearing the traditional costumes: a suit made up of pants and jacket with one half in red and the other half in yellow, decorated with motifs in green, yellow and red representing sunflowers, stars, flowers and moons. The week before 5th September, accompanied by several children and a representative of the brotherhood, he goes around the shops and neighborhoods of Guadix collecting money to defray the festivity costs.

By the end of August, the man who will assume the role of Cascamorras is elected, and the flag he will portray presented. On September 5th, the Cascamorras departs for Baza, symbolically bidding farewell to his neighbours in order to recover the image of the Virgin and return it to Guadix. In the city of Baza a crowd awaits to stain him, thus preventing him from taking the image away.

The Cascamorras carries a stick or cane from which hangs a leather bladder stuffed with wool or rags, with it he can defend himself from those who attack him.

On the 9th, the Cascamorras returns to Guadix. At the train station the people from Guadix wait to throw him water dyed with paint, a symbolic act of punishment for not having recovered the image of the Virgin.

Historical notes and origin:

After the Reconquest by the Catholic Monarchs, churches and convents were built over Arab mosques. In 1490, works began in Baza to transform the old Mozarab chapel into the Church of La Merced. Tradition has it that while Juan Pedernal, a neighbour from Guadix, was working on one of the walls of the church, he heard a voice saying: “Baza, Guadix, mercy on me”. The worker removed the rubble to discover the image of a Virgin with a scar on her face (the image of the Virgin actually has a scar on her face). The city of Guadix claimed the image for them because it was a man from Guadix who had found it, while the city of Baza claimed it as it had been found in their town.

After a series of disputes and reaching an agreement, it was decided that a commissioner from Guadix would go to Baza every year. If he managed to enter Baza and reach the Church of La Merced without being stained, he would be able to recover the image of the Virgin for Guadix. For this reason, the tradition arose in Baza of staining the Cascamorras, in order to prevent him from taking the image back to his city.

The commissioner would go to Baza every year to celebrate the religious ceremonies accompanied by a jester, whose task was to distract the lords with his jokes. It seems that this character is the origin of the figure of the Cascamorras, who was entrusted with the theft of the Virgin, defending himself from the people who tried to stain him with bladders tied to a stick.

Atrapando la bandera. Photo: Ricardo Cañabate Egea

El Cascamorras con la vestimenta oficial. Photo: Ana Belén García Muñoz. © Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico

IAPH image under the conditions established under license cc-by 3.0 de Creative Common.

Carrera de El Cascamorras. Photo: Ricardo Cañabate Egea

El Cascamorras, Fiesta de Interés Turístico. Photo: Ricardo Cañabate Egea

Juan Pedernal. (2015). CASCAMORRAS FUERZA Y ESTÉTICA de Alberto Tauste. [Video File].

Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico. Ana Belén GARCÍA MUÑOZ, Atlas del Patrimonio Inmaterial de Andalucía. Fase 2. Zona 4. Fiesta de la Virgen de la Piedad, 2010.