“We don’t support celebrating the festivals and believe there should be no room for them in modern Spain, but we all know that the Catholic Church still holds sway in our country and it is very difficult to change tradition.”
- Ahmed Bermejo, Imam
"Although less well-known abroad than other folk festivals in Spain, like the bull-running in Pamplona, far more people flock to see dozens of picturesque towns and villages re-enact the eight-centuries-long struggle for control of the country, between followers of Christianity and Islam.
To the revellers thronging swaths of Spain every summer, the Moors and Christians events are simply an annual highlight, a way to have fun while taking pride in the country’s rich history. The Muslim community is resigned to what they see as an uncomfortable reminder of how non-Christians were once persecuted.
In Petrer, 40km inland from the Mediterranean port of Alicante, elaborate period costumes costing thousands of euros are already on display in shop windows, ready for the 400th anniversary edition of the festivities which will take place between May 15 and 19.
A tenth of Petrer’s population of 35,000 belong to 10 groups known as comparsas, half of whom dress up as Moors, the other half as Christians, for two parades which last four hours each and for which the rest of the town turns out in force. In the first parade, the Moors symbolically come out on top, in the second, the Christians win."