Meet Spain’s proud baby-jumper
THE Spanish are renowned for some very peculiar festivals and rituals. I thought I knew of most of them, like like the running of the bulls in Pamplona, the tomato-throwing fest in Buno and the hilarious Funeral of the Sardine in Benidorm, to name but a few.
But a new one has been sprung on me: a centuries-old festival at Castrillo de Murcia, where yesterday a man wearing a yellow mask, yellow jacket, tight pants and carrying a whip in one hand and oversized castanets in the other ran around the village jumping over an obstacle course of babies aged one or younger.
The ritual – El Colacho – is celebrated during the Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi, and the man who leaped over the infants yesterday was Jose Duenas, who was following a family tradition; his father and grandfather were both baby-jumpers.
Duenas, a financial advisor, has been leaping over dozens of babies to the cheers of thousands of spectators for the last three years.
In the early 20th century Castrillo de Murcia, near Burgos in Northern Spain, had almost 1,000 inhabitants, five religious orders and five bars. Today it has one religious order, one bar and fewer than 200 people living in its picturesque stone houses. There are virtually no youths left and locals are continuing to move to the cities.
It’s a predicament shared by many small towns and villages in rural Spain, which has experienced radical rural flight.
Lamented Angel Manzo, an organiser of the event:
Modernism is breaking down the way of life that leads to traditions like El Colacho.
The festival dates back to 1620, the year it was first documented, and is believed to have pagan origins.
Reminisced 74-year-old Amadeo Santamana:
When I was a kid the entire village would bend on its knees during the ceremony and it would take place in complete silence.
Other villagers agree much of the religious fervour that once surrounded the ritual is gone, but its key components are intact.
The sight of a grown man dressed as a fiend leaping over the infant might strike panic in the heart of some parents. But locals say the only injuries sustained in its history have been to jumpers who pulled hamstrings. Visitors like the ritual so much, the villagers said, that nowadays all the 70 or so baby participants each year are their own.
Some are only a few days old and parents bring them right from hospital so they can be welcomed in this tradition.
Galloping over the toddlers demands a degree of physical ability. Jose Duenas practiced a few times by jumping over mattresses strewn with children of friends, but on the big day he found the high-flying act easier than expected.
It was simple. The anxiety you feel has more to do with respecting the rituals and the liturgy rhythm than with the jumping itself.
If you think this caper is bizarre, if not downright crazy, consider a “good luck” religious” ritual that takes place in India, where infants are thrown off the roof of a mosque, and caught in a sheet or blanket!
This takes place at Baba Umer Durga, a Muslim shrine in Sholapur, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Mumbai.