Almost every major city in Catalonia celebrates a “Festa Major”, a “Great Folk Festival”, in the Month of August. These festivals are quite crazy. Whole inner cities get flooded with water, fire devils dance through the streets, people pay homage to wild boars with a special dance, and huge papier-mâché figures go parading. During a side trip to Manresa not far from Barcelona we got quite wet at “Correaigua”, the “water run”… 😉
The history of the Correaiguas is closely connected to the Correfocs, the traditional Catalan “fire runs”. During a Correfoc, groups disguised as devils roam the streets at night while letting go huge amounts of fireworks. In the small town of L’Arboç, for example, the central village square even gets transformed into a “hell” every year.
In the 1980s, the Correaiguas were added as a counterpart to the Correfocs. In Manresa the tradition is said to go back to the first Correfoc organized in 1982, when the participants in the streets could no longer stand the heat of the fireworks and asked the spectators on the balconies to pour water down on them. Pyrotechnics and water do not get along, of course, but the general idea of a “water run” stuck. It is very hot in Catalonia in August, after all, even without fireworks. Everybody will like a good cool down!
In the more than 35 years since its invention, the Correaigua of Manresa has developed into a sophisticated spectacle. The Fire brigade and workers from the public utility companies provide trucks with large water tanks to make sure there’s sufficient water to get all participants soaking wet. The route through the city has hardly changed over the years, but the various stops along the way are different every year. Water mixed with colours and fragrances shoots out of pipes and nozzles, pools with mud are being built and bags of flour and confetti are carried to the site.
If you come to a Correaiguas, make sure you don’t wear nice clothes and are carrying something valuable 😉
The Correaigua de Manresa 2019 took place on Saturday, August 24th. A strange man in some kind of “grape costume” (?) gave the starting signal. The route went from Plaça Europa via Carrer del Carme and Carrer Pedregar to Plaça Pedregar, from there via Carrer Sant Miquel to Plaça Major and then back to Plaça Europa. The following map shows the route:
According to the plan the Correaigua should have started at 16:00 o’clock, but it was more like 16:30. The whole spectacle lasted about one hour. On the day of the Correaigua the affected streets in the city centre are closed. In Manresa this doesn’t matter because most of them are part of the pedestrian zone anyway. In other villages in Catalonia the week during Festa Major can cause quite some traffic chaos.
The Plaça d’Europa is one of the larger squares in the old town of Manresa. After the starting signal things got wild immediately. From all sides firemen and other volunteers attacked the crowd with colored water and foam.
Within a very short amount of time the square was under water and the participants were soaking wet. At a temperature of 33 degrees in the shade that was very easy to ignore, though… 😉
Plaça del Carme
The crowd set off for the next station, headed by a marching band. On the big Plaça d’Europa one could have still tried to avoid the water somehow, but in the narrow alleys this was no longer possible. Everyone had to go through there – come what may.
The different dyes in the water were of course a nice detail for us photographers. In combination with fast shutter speeds it was very easy to get spectacular pictures. I basically just had to keep the shutter pressed like at a sports event 😉
Of course the dyes are not permanent and can be washed off easily. Otherwise not just the clothes of almost 2,000 people would be ruined, but it would be impossible to ever clean up the city again. At first sight the whole mess looked quite bad, though.
Carrer del Pedregar
At the next station so much green coloured water rained down on the participants that the road simply turned into a small stream. A rather evil trick, because the crowd was only able to move very slowly over the slippery cobblestones. The more experienced participants had at least broucht safety glasses with them. The rest was exposed to the water from all sides.
Plaça del Pedregar
The pink soup at Plaça del Pedregar not just came with a chewing-gum-like smell, the dye was also by far the most persistent and visible of all. Walls, street, people – all a single pink nightmare like in a TV commercial for a Barbie dollhouse.
Obviously I took some of the most beautiful pictures at this corner. But I also paid for it with a direct hit on my trousers and one of the cameras from the water hose!
By now you’re probably thinking, “Are they crazy? Why would any sane person participate in such a mess?” Well, in that case I have bad news for you. The actuall mess was just getting started 🙂
Several basins filled with mud had been built up on the big main square, the Plaça Major. Of course water was sprayed on the participates from all sides again, often on command from the evil members of the organizing committee…
One didn’t have to jump into the pools. It would have been possible to walk around them. But people had already endured everything else on the way, and then ambition probably also came into play. We photographers of course didn’t mind about a lot of nice splashes… 😉
“The mud is not bad enough yet”, the organizers must have thought one day. “There has to be something worse”.
Said, done. Simply take two scaffolds, some shower heads, four willing helpers and throw white flour from big packs on people. The result was just as sticky and disgusting as one would imagine… 😯
Mud and flour are a good start, but in Manresa they obviously value a good mess. Nobody on the street was to stay clean or even dry. To be on the safe side they additionally throw a few tons of confetti on the whole thing.
And what does the photographer himself look like after this event? Actually it was still quite acceptable 🙂 Although I had been hit by a water hose in Plaça del Pedregar, I was able to keep myself and the cameras out of the reach of the guys with the water pipes most of the time. Fortunately, the paint was really easy to wash off and left no residue on the pants or the T-shirt.
Conclusion: We had a lot of fun in Manresa 🙂 Integrating some festivals into your holiday plans is always a good idea. If you want to take it a little easier, look at my posts about the Parade of the 1000 Samurai in Nikkō in Japan, the Mask Mestival of Andong in South Korea or the Warsteiner Montgolfiade in Germany. To all others I can recommend the posts on the Night of the Museum at the Minsk War Museum, the Yokogawa Zombie Night and the Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival in Japan as well as the Korjushka Fish Festival in Saint Petersburg 😉