Tonight’s the night . . in Santiago de Compostela! Ten interesting facts you didn’t know about Camino de Santiago and St James
On the evening of 24th July, in the Plaza del Obradoiro (the main square of Santiago de Compostela old town, to the west of the Cathedral), there is a mass display of fireworks (Fuegos del Apóstol) to mark the start of the main part of the fiesta dedicated to Saint James in, Galicia, Spain.
Santiago or Saint James, is the Patron Saint of all Spain. The annual Feast of Saint James (Día de Santiago) takes places in Santiago de Compostela on 25th July and is a public holiday in Galicia. The city is one of the most symbolic in Spain and, whenever you visit, you can be sure to see many pilgrims – religious ones as well as those who simply enjoy the scenic journey along the Camino de Santiago (mostly across northern Spain).
Many of the walkers or journeymen (or women) will carry the traditional walking staff and/or one of the three main symbols of “El Camino” – the St James Cross (Cruz de Santiago), the Scallop Shell (la Concha de Vieira) or the yellow Waymarker symbol).
Each year, some 200,000 people travel the Camino from all over the world: Some walk, others travel by bike. Many travellers choose to do the Camino for personal, rather than any spiritual or religious reasons – taking time out from their busy modern lives and perhaps finding inspiration along the way, whilst reflecting on their life in a supportive environment. Everyone experiences the journey in a different way.
Souvenir of Camino Santiago and Jewellery with meaning
At the journey’s end, when they arrive in the capital city of Santiago de Compostela (and more especially, at the Cathedral) most will hope receive their “Compostela” – the official recognition from the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago that they have successfully completed the Camino.
Many visitors will try to arrive in Santiago in the days leading up to 25th July, which is both the Día de Santiago and the Día de Galica, Galicia’s regional day.
Saint James is believed to have visited Spain to preach Christianity and, when he was martyred in the Middle East, his body was thought to have been transported by boat to the Galician coast. His remains were discovered around 800AD, by a hermit following the path of star into a field – thereby giving us the name ‘Compostela’ (literally, the field of the star).
So, if you are lucky enough to be in Santiago today or some time soon, don’t forget to look out for the “Botafumeiro” – a huge incense burner that is swung back and forth down the Cathedral aisle during official masses like the one today which is usually attended by members of the Spanish Royal family and the Galician government. It weighs around 80kg and it takes eight people to swing it!
Souvenir of Spain
If you are unable to bring back a souvenir of this great experience (both a souvenir of Spain as well as a souvenir of Camino de Santiago), or perhaps you would like to give a little memento of Camino de Santiago to a friend or loved-one, we have many such gifts in our shop online: See some CAMINO de SANTIAGO GIFTS in our store.
Travel to Mojacar: 3 feverish days of fiesta to experience southern Spain at its best, and witness the lucky Indalo souvenir
Mojácar’s Festival of Moors and Christians is one of the year’s most anticipated parties in the province of Almería, southeast Spain. People in the surrounding area (and from miles around too) live all year round in expectation of this spectacular event. It’s not that there aren’t other “fiestas de Moros y Cristianos” in the region (for example down the coast at Carboneras – or across the “border” into Murcia, at the famous town of Caravaca de la Cruz. It’s just that the Mojácar fiesta is – well, special.
The people of the town live all year round in anticipation of the event, with much planning, making of costumes, and organisation of the groups and associations called kábilas and barracks. And the many foreigners of the area join in with gusto. But . .
Where is Mojacar? What is the the point of the Fiesta of Moors and Christians? Which part of Spain is Mojacar?
Mojácar is a small town on the coast of Almería in the south east corner of Spain. It is called a “hilltop” town because the large old quarter that sits atop a hill. But nowadays there is a substantial beachside area too with many bars and restaurants, and discos – as well a shops selling souvenirs, jewellery, and ceramics of Andalucía . . as can be seen also in our online Good Luck Gift Shop store .
By day, Mojacár is a quiet Andalusian village on the Mediterranean coast, with narrow cobbled streets, and the beach-side resort that stretches for some 7 miles with beautiful sand and warm waters. But at night in the late spring and summer . . the town comes alive with fun and frivolity . . and no more so than during the Fiesta de los Moros y Cristianos in June. People dress up (and the Spanish love “las disfraces” – costumes), either as Arab/Moors or as “Christians”. The reason is that, for around 600 years, Spain was more or less under Muslim control as the Moors moved north through the country. But they never quite succeeded in a complete takeover, being finally thwarted in the north, with areas of Galicia, Asturias and Navarra holding on with their Christian beliefs, and the The Catholic Monarchs (Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon) finally beginning the re-establishment of Christian influence that the great El Cid (Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar) had begun 400 years earlier. By then, the country was a melting pot of races and religions (including a large population of Jews) and many lived in complete harmony. But there were endless scirmishes between Moors and Christians as the Moors were pushed back south – and many ‘border’ towns’ like Caravaca and Mojácar had constant battles.
Mojacar fiesta of Moors and Christians
So, the fiesta of Moors and Christians re-enacts these battles with half the people dressing up as Moors – and the other half as Christians – in a delightful display of colour. All is friendly: But it wasn’t always so: And many residents still see themselves as “Moors” despite the country having been “re-united” a long time ago (from the 15th Century under Los Reyes Catolicos) and some still feel very strongly about their history:“I am as Spanish as you”, says one dressed-up ‘Moor’, “but my race has been living in Spain for more than 600 years. I have never raised arms against the Christians. I therefore believe it is fair that you treat me like a brother, not like an enemy, and that you allow us to continue to work our land.” He added: “Before handing myself over like a coward, I will die like a Spaniard” (a reference perhaps to the final exit of the Moors from Spain, after defeat outside Granada, when Boabdil (Abu `Abdallah Muhammad XII (1460 – 1533), the last Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada in Iberia) looked back at the great walled city with its Alhambra . . as he left for the last time – with the words of his mother Aisha ringing in his ears: “‘Weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man.” This re-capture by the Spanish of the Granada Emirate in 1492 resulted in the final expulsion of “Los Moriscos” from España. It was over . . but not forgotten.
Each year, on the first day (Friday) of La Fiesta de Los Moros y Cristianos there is a gathering of “trabuqueros” outside Mojácar’s Town Hall, followed by an assembly of ‘troops’ at La Fuente (the town water fountain), and subsequent delivery of the keys to the ‘city’ by the “King” of the Moors, to the Christian King.
As this is Spain, where any excuse for a party is heeded, the whole process is re-enacted in the evening, and several times – often late into the night, over the next couple of days (and nights). The participants (and attendant crowd) climb to the top of the town and announce the presence of hostile troops in the vicinity of the city, accompanied by bands of music, fireworks and rifle salvoes. The troops then enter the town and attend a bonfire, with the inevitable party until dawn.
On Saturday – everyone heads to the beach – why not?! for a repeat performance and mock battles (with lots of alcohol consumed – as the night before) Why? Because Moorish reinforcements have arrived of course! So they march to the Chiringuitos on the beach, dance and there is another battle and show of fireworks before they return to the hilltop village for more partying “hasta que salga el sol” (until sunrise).
On Sunday (hangover or not) it all starts again – with more riflemen with blunderbusses on the beach and finally an impressive evening parade of Moors and Christians, in full regalia and with weapons drawn, accompanied by numerous bands and fanfares.
There are no victors nor losers, and the essence of these Muslim, Christian and Jewish believers is one of mutual respect, and to live in peace together for another year in Mojácar.
Mojacar souvenirs, and what is the Indalo man of Mojacar?
In our SHOP , we have a range of souvenirs from Mojácar – in particular featuring the local symbol: Indalo Man , which is said to offer protection and good luck, and be a great gift from Spain. This Mojacar souvenir features on jewellery, ceramics and other giftware.
You can see Indalo gifts and souvenirs from Mojácar in our central store.
Some of the Indalo jewellery pendants and necklaces in our shop were developed as a souvenir of a great time enjoyed in the clubs of Mojácar. But because Mojacar is a bit of a party town (although by day, a quiet Andalusian village on the Mediterranean coast in the south east corner of Spain), these Indalo gifts can also act as a souvenir of a great time partying . . anywhere! And, because this little lucky charm – the Indalo, can be gifted as a good luck present . . a charm necklace to bring your friend good luck, it is now recognised in many parts of the world for this reason.
For centuries, the so-called “muñeco mojaquero” or Mojácar doll symbol (which later was to be called Indalo Man) was daubed in red clay paint on dwellings in the area as an act of faith to help protect houses from misfortune. The origin of this symbol has been linked to the Neolithic period in the province (and the local cave paintings in Vélez Blanco), although the eventual name “Indalo” comes from a combination of Christian and Latin roots and Almería’s cultural movement during the 1950s. (Indalecio was the local Saint and ‘Patrón’ in Almería, and ‘Indal Eccius’ means Messenger of the Gods in ancient Iberian.) But, in particular, during Almería’s cultural movement during the 1950s, a local archaeologist and painter Juan Cuadrado, (colleague of another artist, and the group leader, Perceval) learnt of the 5,000 year-old paintings in the cave of Los Letreros in nearby Vélez Blanco. The parietal art (or petroglyphs) had been discovered nearly 100 years earlier by a fellow archeologist Antonio Gongorra Martinez, and subsequently daubed on the walls of properties in Vélez as a sort of good luck totem, because they thought the symbols in the cave represented some sort of ancient God of protection. As it turned out, they appeared right in this assumption! because a subsequent series of earthquakes wreaked havoc on the coastal towns, but the villagers of Vélez (a bit to the north) seemed ‘protected’ and suffered little damage.
Cuadrado offered his artistic representation of one of the paintings in the cave (Indalo-shaped) to Perceval, to be the logo of the artistic group to which they belonged. The name Indalo too was the inspiration of Cuadrado (since Indalecio was a common local name – after the patron Saint of the area, San Indalecio, a 1st Century missionary and Apostle). Cuadrado then suggested that their group of artists be named ‘Los Indalianos’.
So the Indalo Man symbol itself is pre-historic in origin but in its modern form (and there are various designs) it is now recognised as a lucky symbol of the whole region of Almería in Andalucía – and it is said to offer protection from misfortune. But its adopted home is really Mojácar and you see the symbol everywhere. Over many years, it has offered its residents the prospect of good luck and even today, it is strongly believed that a lucky Indalo will bring good fortune to the owner. To anyone who visits Mojácar, it is the only souvenir to have – or to send to a friend as good luck gift.
Many of our Indalo necklaces, pendants and bracelets have been fashioned and hand-crafted in Andalucía. The Indalo makes a great little gift – both as a celebration of nightlife, like that of Mojacar (and the surrounding areas of Vera Playa and Garrucha), and as a souvenir or memoir of Almería and other such places along this coast.
If you can remember that special party or fiesta – especially if you enjoyed it on the warm beaches of the Mediterranean sea – partying until the early hours, and would like a more permanent reminder of the fun time, you could order one of our little Indalo charms. It could be a souvenir of a great time had by all.