While studying abroad in Vigo, Spain, Erasmus was the international student exchange group active on the university’s campus. While as American students we weren’t studying through the organization Erasmus, which is for European students, we were still welcomed to join the group for international student outreach, outings, parties, and events. One event they hosted was to celebrate Carnival in the small town Xinzo, which is near Ourense. My friends and I each found costumes, making it feel like I was celebrating Halloween during the opposite time of the year.
The day to celebrate, we hopped on the bus and headed to the town. The town was packed with live music, and endless food and drink options with people streaming in and out of all the bars. I wasn’t sure what was occurring with all the cultural practice. In the United States, Carnival is only rooted in New Orleans with Mardi Gras, so I don’t know if some of the practices I observed are common to Spain or the region we were in, Galicia, or more worldwide. One of the biggest practices I noticed was a stuffed scarecrow-like man hanging from the ceiling of the pavilion, and I have not been able to find any information on the practice.
Through research I have learned that there are four or five regions of Spain in particular known for their Carnival celebrations. Galicia’s is less flashy, and can differ even town to town. Xinzo hosts Europe’s longest Carnival celebration, spreading over 5 weeks. Here, you’ll encounter the pantallas, dressed in masks and capes, carrying vejigas hinchadas (inflated bladders) from cows.
The experience was an interesting one, and not fully positive. We ended up staying in Xinzo for 12 hours, 4pm to 4am, but Galicia in the winter is wet, chilly, and nearly constantly raining. We hopped from bar to bar, where they passed out numerous free shots of cafe liquor, their regional drink. If we hadn’t been there for as long as we were, and if it wasn’t as cold as it was, we would have enjoyed ourselves much better. One of the bars had padded bench seats, and for the last few hours of the evening we attempted sleeping on them as the rest of the partygoers filtered in and out, staring at us. The day/night ended with us returning to Vigo and walking to our apartments after the sun had risen, ready for bed.