Carthaginians and Romans - Grand Parade
The ‘Carthaginians’ and ‘Romans’ would definitely be in Cartagena that evening, we were assured by the very helpful woman in the tourist office. Unfortunately flooding had stopped Friday’s mock battle and subsequent ‘Victory’ Parade; both are events within the annual fiesta which re-enacts the storming of the city of Quart Hadest (now Cartagena) in 210BC by Roman forces. Saturday was the penultimate day of the Fiesta and, with Friday’s bad weather now clear of the region, the evening’s programme had been given the green light. The Grand Parade would start at 7p.m as scheduled. Now, having done my research, principally thanks to the excellent Murcia Today site and with tourist office map and programme in hand, I set off with the family on our very own mini-march through Cartagena. I was aiming for a point close to the Plaza de España so that we could then move on easily to the ‘encampment’ afterward. In case this sounds like I knew what I was doing, I should mention I hadn’t a clue: I was making it up as I went along. As we got closer to the route we could hear the banging of drums, something we found was to continue pretty much unabated for quite a while!
View Route of the Fiesta of the Romans and Carthaginians Grand Parade 2012 in a larger map
By 7.15 we were in position on the Paseo de Alfonso Xlll just in time to see a banner held aloft with ‘Hannibal’ embroidered across it. I fumbled with my camera but I was too late: ‘Hannibal’ had passed us by. We were in a relatively quiet position perched on a traffic island (the road was closed to traffic) which gave me a few inches of extra height, very useful for the vertically challenged; rather than chase after ‘him’ in a needy way, I decided we should hold our ground to see who else would cross our path.
Incredibly, the procession continued for around 2 hours or more with swathe after swathe of marching ‘Romans’ and’ Carthaginians’. Surely the cast of Ben Hur could not match the size of this procession: there had to be literally thousands of people involved.
The inhabitants of modern-day Cartagena must put almost as much effort into the logistics, the equipment and costumes of this re-enactment as their forebears had into the real thing. The costumes were especially impressive.
There were stilt-walkers, dancing trees (I have no idea of their significance), decorated floats, riders on horseback, pipers, drummers, drummers and more drummers. I think they were all playing the same tune but it might just have been the echo in my head.
When I thought the procession might be nearing the end, I led my own task force along, behind the crowds lining the street, to the large open area in front of the Cartaganova Sports Stadium where the ‘encampment’ had been recreated. As we crossed over the bridge to the stadium we were greeted by a cacophony of sound and neon, a Fun Fair. The type of fun fair I remember as a kid, jam-packed with people, food stalls, bumper cars, shys – the whole works.
And next door to the fun fair, the ‘encampments’ of the opposing forces, one for the Romans and one for the Carthaginians. These large areas comprised small compounds of what I assume were meeting points for the different groups or clubs who were participating in the procession. Many were impressively decorated with columns and statues. It was relatively quiet (aside from the drums) when we arrived at about 9.30 p.m. but since there was food and drink available I guessed it would liven up later.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching this Grand Parade and was in no way disappointed that I had missed yesterday’s procession. I would definitely visit Cartagena again for this fiesta and another year I would like to catch the mock battle and Victory parade.
The Carthaginian and Roman Festival (Fiestas de Carthagineses y Romanos) is held every year at the end of September. The programme does change so you will need to do some current research if you decide to visit. I find Murcia Today a good source of information for what’s on in the region.
Cartagena is an easy drive of around 90 minutes from Alicante Airport. For car hire rates please use the Drivalia quotation tool.