Every September 8th, the Spanish towns of Baza and Guadix host the Festival of Cascamorras, an event unique to the Granada region of Spain.
According to legend, the origin of “La Fiesta del Cascamorras” can be traced back to 1490, when Don Luis de Acuña Herrera decided to built the Church of Mercy in the town of Baza, where a Moazarabic mosque had previously been erected. While chiseling a block of plaster, Juan Pedernal, a worker from the nearby town of Guadix, heard a soft, soothing voice coming from inside a cavern, which said “Have mercy!”. Upon examining the cavity he stumbled upon a statue of the Virgin Mary, that came to be known as “Our Lady of Mercy”.
You would think finding a miraculous statue was a joyful event for everyone, but in reality, its discovery caused turmoil between the towns of Baza and Guadix. After the two towns argued about the ownership of Our Lady of Mercy, courts of the time decided the statue would remain in Baza, while rights to host celebrations on every September 8th be given to the people of Guadix. It was also agreed that if ever a commissioner from Guadix would enter the town of Baza and reach the Church of Mercy without getting stained by locals, he would be allowed to take the holy statue to his home town.
And that takes us to the modern Festival of Cascamorras. The first Cascamorras was builder Juan Pedernal, and every year since his first attempt to recover the statue he discovered, his place has been taken by other locals from Guadix. Every September 8th, the people of Guadix journey to Baza to hold the religious festivities that were awarded to them, 500 years ago. Every time, their chosen Cascamorras tries to reach Baza church unstained, but as all the young people of Baza await him covered in black paint, it’s no wonder in five centuries time no Cascamorras has ever reached his goal.
As soon as the Guadix pilgrims approach Guadix, their Cascamorras is assaulted by hundreds of youngsters covered in black paint, and gets smeared with the oily substance. What’s even worse, the Cascamorras gets the same kind treatment from his own people, upon returning to Guadix. As punishment for not being able to retrieve Our Lady of Mercy, the Cascamorras cover him in different kinds of paint.