Many Spanish festivals
A festival or gala is an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centers on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community and the Festival....
include costumed figures known as gigantes y cabezudos
, roughly, “Giants and Big-Heads”, or, in Catalan
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...
, gegants i capgrossos
. The main feature of these figures is typically their papier maché head
A mask is an article normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance or entertainment. Masks have been used since antiquity for both ceremonial and practical purposes...
; bodies are covered in clothing matching the costume's theme.
These figures are particularly omnipresent in festivals of Catalonia
Catalonia is an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, with the official status of a "nationality" of Spain. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an...
, where many cities and towns have their own gegants i capgrossos
, used in the cercavila
and in conjunction with other local dances.
The mythology and legends of many different cultures include monsters of human appearance but prodigious size and strength. "Giant" is the English word commonly used for such beings, derived from one of the most famed examples: the gigantes of Greek mythology.In various Indo-European mythologies,...
are usually hollow figures several meters tall, with a painted papier maché head and arms, the rest of the body being covered in cloth and other clothing. Their frame is usually made of wood or aluminum, with carton-pierre—a mixture of papier maché and plaster of paris— used to make the head and hands. The frame of the body is hidden by cloth, and arms typically have no structural element to allow them to swing in the air when the giant is turned.
Within the frame is an individual controlling the giant. He carries a harness on his shoulder that is linked to the internal structure, and will move and shake the giant in a dance
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting....
, usually accompanied by a local marching band
Marching band is a physical activity in which a group of instrumental musicians generally perform outdoors and incorporate some type of marching with their musical performance. Instrumentation typically includes brass, woodwinds, and percussion instruments...
. Typically, these dances will include at least two giants, the male gigante
and the female giantess, or giganta
, though some towns have multiple couples.
The figures usually depict archetype
An archetype is a universally understood symbol or term or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated...
s of the town, such as the bourgeois and the peasant
A peasant is an agricultural worker who generally tend to be poor and homeless-Etymology:The word is derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, or countryside, ultimately from the Latin pagus, or outlying administrative district.- Position in society :Peasants typically...
woman, or historical figures of local relevance, such as a founding king
- Centers of population :* King, Ontario, CanadaIn USA:* King, Indiana* King, North Carolina* King, Lincoln County, Wisconsin* King, Waupaca County, Wisconsin* King County, Washington- Moving-image works :Television:...
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...
, or pairs of Moorish
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...
and Christian nobles.
are smaller figures, usually to the human scale, that feature an oversized, carton-pierre head. The heads are worn with a matching costume. The person dressed as cabezudo will use one hand to hold his head, while the other hand carries a whip or pig bladder
Pig bladder is the bladder of a domestic pig, similar to the human urinary bladder. Today, this hollow organ has various applications in medicine, and in traditional cuisines and customs...
, used to frighten children or young women. Seeing through the “mouth” of the head, he will chase after these people, though he might pause to calm a frightened child.
As with the giants, the cabezudos typically represent archetypes of their town.
Other fiesta figures
- Bonecos gigantes of Olinda
Olinda is a historic city in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, located on the country's northeastern Atlantic Ocean coast, just north of Recife and south of Paulista...
Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...
- Mari-Jaia, gigante of modern fiestas of Bilbao
Olentzero is a Basque Christmas tradition. According to Basque traditions Olentzero comes to town late at night on the 24th of December to drop off presents for children...
- Paliqueiro, a kind of Galician cabezudo
- Toro de fuego
A toro de fuego is a festive activity in which a bull-resembling metal frame, with fireworks attached to it, is set alight, and then a person carrying the frame runs around town at night as if chasing people in the streets...
"Gigantes y cabezudos" is also the title of a zarzuela
Zarzuela is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular song, as well as dance...
, set during the festival of El Pilar
El Pilar is an ancient Maya city center located on the Belize-Guatemala border. It can be accessed from the Cayo District in Belize, north-west of the town of San Ignacio, or from the department of El Petén in Guatemala, north of Melchor de Mencos....
Zaragoza , also called Saragossa in English, is the capital city of the Zaragoza Province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain...
. The zarzuela focuses on the stereotypical character of the Aragon
Aragon is a modern autonomous community in Spain, coextensive with the medieval Kingdom of Aragon. Located in northeastern Spain, the Aragonese autonomous community comprises three provinces : Huesca, Zaragoza, and Teruel. Its capital is Zaragoza...
ese, strong and stubborn.