The popularity of the annual carnival held in Gijón just before Lent, known locally as Antroxu, is two-fold.
First, the roots of this Christian festivity, in which the faithful are allowed to eat and drink and celebrate without any reserve before the solemn period of fasting and meditation that Lent entails, go back to the dawn of this religion, serving as a relief valve for society as a whole.
Second, the fact that fancy dress carnivals were banned during Franco’s time in order to stop the criminal and “anti-social elements” of that society ruled by an iron fist and the mores and morals of National Catholicism from using the cover of a mask to carry out their crimes, transgressions or misdeeds meant that, with the re-establishment of democracy in Spain, especially those who did not share the ideals of that regime could rejoice both light-heartedly and politically during these few days of festivity and celebration.
With the passing of time, the light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek aspect now probably outweighs the political feelings of the 80s and 90s, although carnival continues to provide a fantastic opportunity to criticize the powers that be in word and deed. This is most evident in the charangas, groups of friends all sporting the same fancy dress, armed with kazoos, percussion and homemade instruments –in addition to their highly-honed wit– who compete for the title of best charanga in each year’s carnival, often preparing their costumes and rehearsing over the entire year.
The official judging system takes into account the music, lyrics (risqué or barbed aimed at public figures and institutions), fancy dress, staging and performance of the group. The stage competition is held in the Jovellanos Theatre, although the charangas are also scored for how they parade in the streets.
Those who visit Gijón during Antroxu, can also enjoy (or even participate in) the fancy dress competition for children and the competition for carnival floats. The parade of floats and charangas is one of the most popular elements on the carnival programme.
So get out your glad rags or break open grandma’s chest in the attic and head for fun, fiesta and a great show in Gijón’s carnival…
Antroxu rules, OK!