After being inspired by the Cadiz Carnival to write novels such as Carnival meat or The girls of Cádiz, David Monthiel (Cádiz, 1976) has decided to tell, in his own way, the evolution of a phenomenon that today transcends its original borders. The result is General history of the Cádiz Carnival (El Paseo), a journey from the first news of the festival in the 16th century to its current peak.
The Carnival of Cádiz, the “cultural emergence” of the working class in the Republic that Franco banned
“It was commissioned by the publisher, which has taken me about a couple of years,” says Monthiel. “My intention was to make a rigorous book, but at the same time informative and that had my style. Although in reality I told my editor that what I wanted was to make a libretto, with its paso doble presentation, its spicy coupons and its medley That it convinces people of the Carnival and is in turn a tool for those who come to the party “.
Mission that the author has culminated relying on the vast existing bibliography, “more and more, especially with the latest contributions from Santiago Moreno or the minutes of the Carnival congress,” he says, and that has brought him many surprises. “Studying the history of the contest, you see that everything has been invented since ancient times. Even Juan de El Selu because already El Tío de la Tiza took out a group that sang to a doll,” he says.
From the old rich women to heaven
There are many milestones that mark, according to Monthiel, the history of February in Cadiz, but among them Las Viejas Ricas, a group from 1884 that came to travel to Montevideo, stand out; the contributions of Tío de la Tiza himself, “with those tangos that were embedded in zarzuelas, and no one knew whose they were, and that Pío Baroja remembered having heard people sing in Pamplona!”, he evokes. There is also the dark night of Francoism, the arrival of democracy and the media explosion of the Gran Teatro Falla contest, the generational change that occurs with the emergence of the Martínez Ares troupe and the external projection of the groups.
“With the big picture Carnival, as the English say, it is clear that most of the carnival people have been workers, and that is where the critical spirit of the lyrics is implicit, “the author emphasizes.” It is true that since 1861 the City Council controls what is sung in the street, which has allowed us to have many letters and types since that time. In any case, if you dive into them you discover that there are super cool lyrics, there has always been that breath of denunciation and also a lot of irony. In recent years, the media character of the contest has generated the idea that local lyrics are not attractive. But the certain thing is that of always, even during the Franco regime, the groups have said more than what could be said “.
The idea that the street is the space where letters are freest also always gravitates. Monthiel admits it, and adds that “the street has been endowed with a certain intellectual touch, it has a more sophisticated humor, while the theater is the most popular. Contrary to what happened before, when the theater was the private party and the street is vulgar. In any case, I like to emphasize that carnival goes beyond the theater. On the street you say what you want, where you want, when you want. And it is a territory of experimentation, where you can see a joke of two components, a ballads with cuplés… It is not that the theater is more accommodating but rather that it is more confined by the rules and general themes “.
Women are missing
Another noteworthy issue is the role of women in Carnival. A participation that Monthiel describes as “a bit bleak”, at least in the creative aspect. “In the first news of the Carnival there is talk of gangs of men and women, from minute one. Then, as a result of the contest, there is an aestheticization process that reaches the súmun with Paco Alba, and the presence of the woman passes to to be an exorno, or someone who dedicates herself to caring, to be behind. And with Francoism she is relegated to the role of nymph or goddess of festivals “.
Luckily, the writer adds, this trend changed in democracy thanks to figures such as Adela del Moral – creator of the mixed choir and socialist councilor in the Cádiz City Council – and La Coqui, and in the last stage with the López Segovia sisters and the Ginesta. “They talk about the same things, but with a feminine treatment,” he says. “But there are still authors missing. Carnival will change a lot, and for the better, when more are incorporated.”
More controversies: is the Carnival only of Cádiz, of Cadi-Cadi, as the recalcitrant say, even if its expansion seems unstoppable? “I am one of those who thinks that Carnival is from Cádiz, it is an expression from here. This debate began in the 80s, when the division between local and provincial groups was eliminated, and has spread with the strength of Seville. Carnival essences they may vary, but what the chirigota of El Canijo, a Sevillian with a group of people from Cadiz, does is the Cádiz Carnival. Someday Cádiz will surrender to a chirigota from Seville or Córdoba, and nothing will happen. ”
“On the other hand”, Monthiel continues, “this is a very crazy party, which demands a lot of level in the repertoire if you want to reach the final strong. There are those who think that the pandemic break has been good for the authors, as a break from creativity, because it has never stopped “.
A lost talent
General history of the Cádiz Carnival it reaches the phenomenon of Juan Carlos Aragón, the ill-fated talent of the chirigota and the comparsa. “His death has been a tragedy cured with the carnival, because the group has continued to sing its legacy. It is a figure that grows with age and the rapid way of dying. For the Carnival it has been a blow, but it will become a milestone for the literary, intellectual and poetic point of view that he imprinted on his proposals “.
And the future, the pages to be written of this History? “Carnival is going to move towards professionalization because it is an economic engine for many things”, bets David Monthiel. “The long-awaited Carnival Museum will be a form of carnival tourism and the groups will gradually become small companies. Now there is no patronage and we cannot know what the future of the contest will be like, but the street will continue with its tendency to overcrowding. And Carnival in general will continue to be, as I always say, more than a party, a way of life “.