A French Magi in Carmona in 2017
Spain and a few other countries worldwide maintain with fervour the tradition of giving presents to children twelve days after Christmas. According to Christian texts, it took the Three Wise Men, “Magi” or Kings, a twelve day journey to cross the desert by horse, camel, and elephant guided by the North Star to reach Bethlehem. Children today feverishly await the night of January 5 (Epiphany Eve, also known as Twelfth Night) or the morning of January 6 when the Three Kings come and deliver gifts the children have requested two months earlier in letters handed to the “Royal Postmen” who are waiting for them in some of Carmona’s squares. The Three Kings’ Night Parade (“Cabalgata de los Reyes”), is symbolizing the arrival of the Kings themselves, usually starts at dusk on January 5. That same night, tradition also demands that children fall asleep before midnight, but not before taking care to prepare for their Majesties cakes, made – if possible – by the children; sweet wine or liquor to warm the Kings as well as a bowl of water for the camels.
King Melchior with a white beard, traditionally the oldest King, is said to have come from Persia. The fair haired King Gaspar would have been a native of India, and finally, King Balthazar, came from the Kingdom of Sheba. They brought Gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, Frankincense (an aromatic resin) symbolizing deity and the sacrifice he would have to make for humanity and Myrrh (embalming oil) predicting Jesus’ fate and symbolizing human frailty.
Granada proudly boasts to be the oldest Three Kings’ Parade which began in 1855. This was a new initiative held during Epiphany celebrations that considerably enriched the tradition by adding a local horse parade (promoted by wealthy local citizens), and by offering sweets and toys to the children. Later on they also began to distribute gifts to poor children and disabled and elderly people in Granada thereby adding a charitable aspect to the parade. Then this new tradition spread throughout Andalusia and in Spain.
The first “Cabalgata” in Carmona dates back to 1956, thanks to the initiative of the “Peña (association) de la Giraldilla de Carmona” that convinced the Town Hall to provide a small budget which they have maintained up to this day. In addition, the Peña is in charge of collecting throughout the year the necessary funds. The first Three Kings in Carmona were Antonio Rodriguez Pérez as King Melchior, Antonio Becerra Mayoral as King Gaspar and Francisco Ríos García as King Balthazar.Left, in the upper photo, you can see the first King Gaspar. On the right, 50 years later, in 2005, King Melchior was portrayed by one of his sons: Enrique Becerra Manuel Gayoso.
Over the years, thanks to the imagination, inventiveness, creativity, cooperation and goodwill of all, this humble original Carmona horse riding parade (“Cabalgata” in Spanish means horse riding) of three members of Peña la Giraldilla has become one of the most majestic, superb, magical, popular and genuine Three Kings’ parades of all the other nearby villages and posssibly of all Andalusia. According to tradition, in early November 2016, a large delegation from Carmona’s “Peña de la Giraldilla” visits the homes of next year’s Three Kings, Star and Queen to announce their election. From then onwards, the entire village will treat them with respect calling them all “Your Majesty” until November 2017.
This year, for the first time in 61 years, a Frenchman has been elected King Melchior by the members of the “Peña de la Giraldilla”: Leopold Benoit Pastor, a compatriot and friend, was born in Aïn Témouchent Province (Oran, Algeria). This was a way for the people of Carmona to reward his total integration into the community. For 30 years Leopold has continually participated in numerous local activities and events both as a member of the “Peña de la Giraldilla” and also as a member of the “Hermandad del Rocio de Carmona” (Carmona’s Rocio pilgrimage brotherhood) where he occupies an important position. King Gaspar was Alberto San Román Montero; King Balthazar was Juan José García Roldan. Together with the Three Kings in the picture above, we salute Rafael Alcalá Ruiz; the President of the “Peña de la Giraldilla” dressed as a Page.
Two days prior to the event, my friendship with Leopold had allowed me to satisfy my curiosity and accomplish my wish to go through the mirror and enter the “palace of wonders” i.e. the hangar workshop where the magic is created (the parade’s carriages). It was the beginning of a friendly voyage that you can follow via the photos.
In my feature article http://livingincarmonaseville.com/blog/2016/06/10/horses-mules-and-falcons/, I had already mentioned those important members of this “Peña”, who work as waiters or cashiers to raise funds for the occasion. The same happened in this hangar workshop where I saw well-known people of Carmona working together, brushes in hand, wearing white work protection coveralls. I could happily share with them the joyous, collaborative, busy and friendly ambience filled with excitement and noise. Former and new Kings plus young people were decorating together. I could sense the atmosphere of real harmony and magical interactivity that reigned in the hangar.
The volcano of the newest carriage impressed me. It gives me the opportunity to congratulate Fernando Fernández Goncer, the Artistic Director of the “Peña de la Giraldilla”, nicknamed “The Artist”.
The photo shows one of the two cats that live in the hangar in the arms of Blas Villa Caballo, King in 2013.
Here he is, the last on the right in the back, as the humble and reassuring Page to his 17 year old daughter, this year’s Star of the parade, Laura López Caballo, dressed in white. By her side, dressed in pastel pink is the Queen, Sara González Rodríguez.
For two months, every evening after school or office, these volunteer workers have built or restored these carriages, with skill, ability and love.
Their enthusiasm and their desire is to inspire and make children – and parents – of Carmona dream, their dedication being their guaranteed reward. Late in the evening, around 11pm, the 30 volunteer “workers” will enjoy delicious “seafood in Florentine sauce” cooked onsite by the cheerful members of the “Sociedad Gastronomica de Carmona”.
Here I am, a bit blurry – as it should be – between the President and my friend Leopold with his King’s beard. On this occasion, the President of the “Peña”, Rafael Ruiz Alcal, shared with me his concern about the weather. Any rain would have cancelled the parade.
Bertrand Pastor, one of Leopold’s sons, dressed as one of the King’s two Pages, had just arrived from France, escorted by his two grandsons (one of whom is smiling in the photo below), accompanied by an impressive French delegation, wearing Bedouins’ outfits.
Thanks to the contribution of Bertrand Pastor’s A-Team photographers, you can admire the richness of the details of the costumes. To underline the authenticity and harmony of the parade in Carmona, the same costumes are offered by each King to every member of their court, to family escorts, colleagues, friends, and to the many children who will throw sweets and gifts from the carriages as they cross the city taking almost five hours to do so.
Above, the beautiful photo shows the other two Kings: Gaspar and Balthazar, with their respective family entourages. I had a list of the ten retirement homes, schools and churches of Carmona that the Kings had to visit on the same morning as the parade. I was able to visit only two retirement homes where I could sense the relaxed, pleasant, moving and magical atmosphere.
Later, I could follow the visits by the Kings to the eight remaining homes thanks to the many broadcasts from our local television, TV Carmona, widely watched by the inhabitants of Carmona who, like me, could not attend all of the events.
Whilst waiting for the arrival of their Majesties, I couldn’t restrain my fascination with the Andalusian girls’ long braided hair.
To listen to the heavenly voices of the Kenyan nuns of the convent of Santa Clara of Carmona and to attend the performances and the distribution of the presents by the Kings, Queen and the Star gave me goose bumps.
I could now better understand the scope of this truly popular tradition, followed one way or another by all the people of Carmona. I better understood the democratic essence of this custom. Over the years, 182 of Carmona’s inhabitants were elected Kings, plus 61 Stars and 61 Queens. All of them had this incredible, unique and strong experience.
At dusk that day, I stood on the balcony of one of my adorable neighbours to photograph the Calbalgata from above, the same balcony where I had stood four years previously to illustrate my very first article for this Blog. The sound of the first fanfare announced the arrival of the Star carriage and her court. The whimsical aspect of the setting increased with the arrival of each carriage separating the Kings and their respective flow of Bedouins and followers. The arrival of the band accompanying the Queen’s float closed the parade.
In addition, thanks to the rich contribution of Bertrand Pastor’s A-Team of photographers, I have been able to illustrate this article with photos from different angles and locations.
Fathers who have enjoyed the parade in their own childhood and now have become parents, strategically position their children and by holding plastic bags and sometimes even an upside-down umbrella, collect more sweets and toys that are thrown onto the street. Adults jump and scream loudly to gain the attention of the Kings and their entourage in the hope that they throw toys to their kids.
My neighbours from the balcony had prepared a buffet for the whole family including their cousin Pages who formed part of the impressive float of the Queen.
The next day, on January 6th, over two hundred members of the Peña met at the large caseta de la “Peña” to honour their Majesties who made their speeches. All of them had the opportunity to thank the association for the time, money, experience and the dedication of each of the participants in Carmona’s Three Kings’ Day parade of 2017.
The President spoke, and then each of their Majesties delivered a speech. They received a medal as honorary members of the “Peña”. It is with pride that I noticed behind the head table, the French flag next to the Andalusia flag while I spotted the Spanish and European flags on the other side.
María Gracia Guisado Belloso, who introduced each speaker, was kind enough to offer me her seat at the table during her presentations.
My emotion was highest when Leopold, without a beard, made a speech that moved me to tears. Also, according to “street comments”, it moved many other people who were watching the gathering on TV Carmona.
Regional television Canal Sur widely covered several Andalusian Cabalgatas held in Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Jaen, Malaga, etc. It appeared to me that compared to Carmona’s Parade, their carriages looked more industrial; live bands were replaced by loudspeakers and the courts and escorts were not genuinely dressed for the occasion. The parade of the Three Kings and Bedouins broadcast by TV Carmona featured five different costumed bands each with joyous rhythms and a chorus singing “Jingle Bells” in Spanish. It was pure joy, pure magic.
I could admire the dreamlike vision of these carriages seen previously in the hangar. A real dream! … For instance, the carriage with the volcano with its illuminated lava and actual smoke added an even more whimsical ambience to it all (top photo).
The Star threw me a cute teddy bear and I decided to offer it to four year old Zoe (one of a neighbour’s grand-daughters). And so I ended the evening surrounded by another neighbours’ family, the same family that I wrote about when one of their grandson’s celebrated his first communion: Browse: http: // livingincarmonaseville.com/blog/2016/06/10 / May-in-carmona-and-the-first-communion.
I will always remember Carmona’s Cabalgata of 2017, especially seeing my friend Leopold elected as King Melchior.
For me Living in Carmona definitely has the taste of honey … Gold, myrrh and incense!