It’s funny how you can get so accustomed to seeing something that it no longer seems blog-worthy. All around Catalonia I have seen giants in the streets or freakish people with enormous heads. Every time a barrio has a fiesta these creatures come out and liven up the streets. It has taken a large collection of them together in Badalona, the last major coastal town before Barcelona as we travel in from Mataró, to get me writing about them again.
The Spanish call them gigantes y cabezudos but I am more used to hearing the Catalan version: gegants i capgrossos. Either language sounds better than the English translation though. In this part of Spain, many people use the nickname Capgrosso to describe somebady from Mataró. A friend told me that once, during the run up to a fiesta, they created a head so big that it wouldn’t fit through the door. Is it an urban myth? Who knows, but it’s not a bad story to tell!
Anyway, Badalona was holding a festival paying homeage to these wondrous creations. We took the train down and had a wander round the streets before making our way to La Rambla to see various stalls where children could see how the heads are made and have a go at designing one themselves. Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun. We left them to it and took a stroll along the promenade in the roasting late summer sun. What a great day for a festival.
On our return we saw a storyteller entertaining a large group of children sat around a couple of gegants. When that was over there was suddenly a lot of activity around the stalls as everyone got ready for the “Dance of the Big Heads”. We found a good spot to watch from and saw several dances. It was interesting to see just how young some of the capgrossos are. They start to perform at about five years old and the heads and costumes get gradually bigger as the performers get older.
Adults do this too. The devil and the clown made sure they were particularly active around the kids. They went down a storm. Most of the adult figures represent local historical figures and they dance with a poise and elegance that show many years of practice. They are usually accompanied by their own small bands of drummers and something akin to a clarinet. The sound they produce is an acquired taste but it somehow fits perfectly with the spectacle.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable day. It’s just a shame that it was so hot that most people didn’t hang around all day. We headed back home for a siesta well before the Giants came out to play, but left with very fond memories of the Big Heads!
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