2 January 1492. After a long period of bitter warfare and a lengthy siege, Muslim Granada finally fell into the hands of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel. Muslim it had been for three quarters of a millennium. Now it had fallen, been ‘taken’ in battle, ‘re-conquered’ and ‘returned’ to Christianity. The day has been celebrated in Granada for centuries. For centuries it was an innocuous popular celebration of what it meant to be ‘granadino’, – from Granada.

But as we have observed (http://blog.granadalabella.eu/#post0) views on the Moorish-Moslem past of Granada are rarely free of a particular ideological slant and that innocuous popular fiesta of the nineteenth century has become, at least since 1992, the subject of familiar controversially opposing interpretations from the left and the right of the political spectrum. 1992 was the 500th anniversary of the Fall of Granada – and of Columbus’s discovery of America, of course. And it gave rise to serious considerations of what exactly is being celebrated when commemorating such events. This has led numerous celebrity writers, artists and intellectuals – Antonio Gala, Carlos Cano, Amín Maalouf, Roger Garaudy, Juan Goytisolo, Luis García Montero, Miguel Ríos, Yehudi Menuhin and José Saramago among them – to express their opposition to the Granada fiesta in its contemporary form.

The celebration of the Fall of Granada in its present form is an apology for racism they claim and promotes cultural confrontation and conflict. Those who want to see the fiesta continue unchanged, including the local city council, insist on its political innocence, – this in spite of the vociferous presence of extreme right groups. These agitate openly against the new Moslem ‘invasion’ – by which they mean immigration from North Africa and the Middle East – and celebrate the Fall of Granada as the first step towards the ethnic cleansing that took place throughout much of the sixteenth century – and by insinuation needs to be repeated in the twenty-first. (See http://blog.granadalabella.eu/#post11)

The ceremonial proceedings on the 2 January begin with a Catholic mass being held at the Royal Chapel – site of Ferdinand and Isabel’s tomb – followed by a civilian-religious-military (big society?) parade through the city streets behind the royal banner of Castile – the banner that had led the Ferdinand and Isabel’s armies to victory in their battles against the Moors (Moslem inhabitants) of Granada. The climax of the fiesta is at the end of the parade when the banner is taken up to the main balcony of the City Hall and waved three times – for Spain, Castile, and Granada. The local councillors may be thinking more of Granada, but the extreme right definitely have Spain and Castile uppermost in their minds.

[Indeed, the fiesta was blatantly politicised during the Franco period, when celebration of the reconquista of Granada by Ferdinand and Isabel served ideologically to consolidate the legitimacy of the militantly nationalistic regime. For the locals, though, the fiesta was always more about Granada than about Spain.]

As sort of a compromise, the traditional ceremony is followed up these days by a Fiesta de las Culturas in which the supposedly peaceful co-existence of the Moslem, Christian and Jewish communities in Moorish Granada is celebrated. Here the International ‘Granadillo’ Prize bestows a sort of honorary citizenship on an appropriate celebrity. Last year it was awarded to the Pakistani Trotskyite Tariq Ali (read his 1992 reconquista novel In the Shade of the Pomegranate Tree if you get the chance). Ali unequivocally condemned the Fall of Granada fiesta calling it a hangover from the past which is dying a natural death. [Hm. Looks pretty much alive to me!] This year, we are hoping award-winner, left-leaning Spanish journalist and TV personality, Jesús Quintero will make a similar outspoken pronouncement.

Antifascists, meanwhile, have signed a manifesto asking for the Fall of Granada fiesta to be abolished and replaced by one in honour of the city’s liberal heroine Mariana Pineda who was garrotted on 26 May 1831 because of her resistance to King Ferdinand VII’s oppression.

Now there’s a proposal to set the cat among the pigeons.

[Source for much of this blog is an article by ELENA LLOMPART in GRANADA HOY 27.12.2010]