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CARNIVAL IN OURENSE

The Carnival in the Province of Ourense is, with no doubt, one of the most important ones
in Spain, together with that of the Canary Islands and the Cadiz ones.

I am going to focus on three of the places which have the most touristic interest of the
province: Xinzo da Limia, Laza and Viana do Bolo.

Xinzo - The “pantallas”

The Symbol of the Xinzo Carnival is what we call the


pantalla.
The name pantalla is for the actual mask, but it is
extended to the whole costume.
The mask itself is made of a mix of cardboard,
newspaper, felt, flowers, water and when all this is dried,
it is painted. It has a devil’s face with horns and a
sarcastic expression. The top part of the mask is
decorated with astral motives or totemic animal motifs.

They wear a white shirt and long white underwear, red or black cape, a scarf which is often
red, black leggings and boots. They wear as well a red corset around their waist with little
bells attached to it. The function of that corset is to protect the hips from the rubbing of the
bells.

We can distinguish the pantallas immediately because of the dried, inflated cow bladders
they hold in their hands. Their function in the carnival is to make sure that no one is
walking on the street without a costume. The person found without disguise has to pay a
round of wine for everybody. The one who tries to escape will be pursued and taken to the
nearest bar so that he pays wine for all the pantallas. In front of women and foreigners, the
pantallas produce a sound simulating an animal trying to scare people; they jump and
pretend to harass people.
Laza - The “peliqueiros”
The peliqueiro is the traditional mask of the Carnival of Laza. In this case the name is
only for the mask, not for the full costume.

The costume - Normally their disguise has several


parts: the mask, a jacket, trousers and a cape. They
have as well some decorations and accessories.
The mask is made of birch wood and the mitre of tin
plate so that it is easier to wear. It has two pompons
hanging down from each side, and the motifs of the
paintings represent most of the times animals.
Their shirt is white and they wear a red tie.
As you can see on the photograph, they wear a corset
on top of the short underwear, red stockings with
garters and black shoes. And, of course, several
ornamented decorations.
They are called that way because they have a pelica,
which is the skin of either a dog or a sheep hanging as
a mane.

The peliqueiro is “sacred”, no one can touch him. But the audience can insult him or try to
upset him. The peliqueiros throw flour and ants at whoever steps on their way, and they
can even give them lashings.

They hold a so-called “zamarra”, a type of riding whip only used if people do not respect
them or step on their way.
The six chocos, which are similar to cowbells, tell us when they are nearby. Each cowbell
weighs a kilo and they are made of iron and bronze and are hold by a very strong leather
belt.
Every Sunday of Carnival about a hundred and fifty peliqueiros go out in Laza. The origins
of the peliqueiros are uncertain, but the mighty say this tradition comes from the 16th
century when the Counts were in power, and they were considered collectors.
Verín – The “cigarróns”
In Verín there is a disguise very similar to that of Laza, called “Cigarróns”.

The mask has a very distinctive painting which represents face: With big thick eyebrows,
red cheeks and a big moustache they hold a sarcastic big, false smile with a fake beard.
The mask is attached to a big screen painted with bright colours and nature or animal
motives, being very common the representation of the sun and the moon.

The back of the mitre is closed by a piece of


skin, which in the old days used to be of fox or
wild cat; but nowadays we see it more often
closed by synthetic fibres.

In former times those skins used to cover the


back of the cigarróns and ended in one or two
tails. Now, the skin sometimes has a piece of
horse hair.

The mask is made of wood and the mitre of tin plate so that it isn’t as heavily. It has two
pompons hanging down from each side, and the motifs of the paintings represent most of
the times of animals.

They wear almost the same disguise as the peliqueiros of Laza: white a shirt with a red tie,
pants on top, and a short silk jacket with golden decorations on it. They have military
shoulder pads covered with a colourful scarf with female brooches. The jacket is not
closed with bottoms or a zipper, but hold together by stapes of several colours.

They have a red corset around their waist with a


leather belt with six big cowbells at the back.
These cow bells are made of copper and they are
placed alternating the female bells (with high
pitches) and the male ones (with low pitches).
One of the main characteristics of the cigarrón is
the way they make the cowbells sound, which
goes together with the movement of their body.
Underneath, they wear white underwear with
twisted wool and green and red fringes. The rest
of the leg is covered with white ties held by
garters and plain black shoes. They hold a whip
with a piece of skin at the end.

The cigarrón always moves a lot to make the bells sound and hits anyone that steps on
their way. They don´t speak and should never take their mask off. Young people run after
them and call them, but they cannot pronounce the name of the person hiding behind the
mask. They can only be touched to gain their attention, but they are almost sacred.

In the old days, the cigarróns from Verin used to ask for money, saying "Cigarrón lapón
mete os cartos no bolsón" (Cigarrón, glutton, put the money in the bag) which the young
people used to tell them. A couple of cigarróns many times surround a person and take
him to the nearest bar to get a round of wine on his money. Also the people of the village
many times invite them for drinks at their places.
Viana - The “boteiros”

The Boteiro is really unique. One of its most striking characteristics is the colourful shirt
they wear, which is full of needlework creating geometric figures. It is said that two women
take 25 days to make one of these shirts.
The trousers are normally red with colour fringes on the side, and are made of silk. They
have a corset and a belt with little bells, black leggings and they hold a pole which is called
monca which has a little ball on top.
The mask, known as Mask of Pradoalvar, weighs a few kilos and it is made of wood with a
very open smile painted on it. The top of the mask is a one square metre geometric figure
made of cardboard with very bright colourful and varied shapes.

By María Carmen Ogando Riande