Sunday, May 4, 2014

My, What a Big Head You Have!

Capgrosso (Note the carrier's eyes)

“Only mystery makes us live. Only mystery.” 
Federico García Lorca

I'm telling this story out of order, but I guess you won't mind too much since, until I mentioned it, you probably had no idea it was out of order.  ;-)

Mariner gegants
At any rate, on the Saturday afternoon that we were in Barcelona, we went to the Boquería (the most wonderful market) for a bit before heading back to our hotel to rest.  Mike walked up a few steps and looked through an archway and found a large courtyard.  On the sidewalk surrounding the courtyard were gigantic figures.  Some were at least twice Mike's size (photo below), while others were more his size with over-sized heads (above).  We thought we'd stumbled on some type of museum of giants as I'd never read anything about giants.

No one was around, so we just walked around and took photos. (Side note: I used to take NewsHound, mascot of the TV staion where Mike worked at the time, with us on trips. He was quite taken with the smaller giants in Barcelona.) 

NewsHound and a caprosso

 Later that evening, we had dinner somewhere in the Barri Gòtic and headed back to the hotel.  As we got closer to Las Ramblas, we heard drums, music, and excitement. When we got to Ramblas, we found ourselves in the middle of a parade of the giants and the big-headed people. Being as the giants were so huge, we were quite amazed at how deftly the men carrying them danced down the street. It was quite a spectacle.

A pair of gegants (Note the carrier's face)

  "¡Vimos los gigantes! (We saw the giants!)" I told Alejandro, the night clerk as we walked past him to the elevators once back at our hotel.

"Gegants," he replied.

"¿Qué? (What?)" I asked.

"EEt ees no gigantes," he explained. "Een Català, ees gegants." Alejandro was helping me navigate the bridge between Spanish and Catalan. Considering he was Brazilian and that Portuguese was his first language, he was sometimes confused himself.  I wasn't going to attempt to tell him the big heads were in the parade, too.

Wild Boar Capgrosso
Interestingly, the origin of the gegants goes back to the Middle Ages.  In an attempt to teach the illiterate masses about God, the Catholic Church used them in theatrical presentations of the Bible and other church teachings.  The church also used capgrossos (big heads) in similar ways.  The original gegants represented the apostles, good (lions, eagles) and evil (devils, dragons).

The first mention of gegants in Barcelona is in a document written in the 15th century.  Today, there are 4,000 gegants in Catalunya and 7,000 more in Spain.  There are more than 85 other countries that have giants in their cultures.

In Catalunya, the gegants usually appear in pairs — one male and one female.  If you look at the photo of Mike with the two gegants, you'll see that the gegants are a fisherman and his wife who is holding a fish.  The gegants are quite expensive, costing upwards of €6000 ($7800) for one.

The gegants and capgrossos are an important part of the culture of Catalunya, and each village, town, even neighborhood has its own pair.  They make their appearance during major festivals, holidays, and celebrations. 

Next time: Towering Over Us...

No comments:

Post a Comment