The Procession of Sant Magi is a curios spectacle for the uninitiated. Walk around Placa de la Font during the Saturday of the celebration, and you are bound to bump in to one of the many big headed dwarves which turn up to join the parade.
Historically there are two “families” of dwaves, the old ones (nanos vells) and the ones with a more recent past, all of which are allegoric representations of some of Tarragona’s best know characters.
I took some note at the Casa de la Festa, home to all the local festive creatures when they are not on duty, and here are some facts: “..The Harlequins, the black men, the Andalusian, the peasants, the doctor and his wife and the nobles, all directed by the captain, participate in the Seguici Popular and are always behind the gegants (giants). The are the nanos vells (old dwarves) and are caricatures of the Tarragonese society of the middle of the 19th century. With the passage of time they have lost their satirical and critical function and have become purely festive elements…”
But the procession is not just about dwarves; look around and you’ll see the imagery of the hermit Sant Magi ready to be carried up the hill; there are also giants, horsemen, musicians, and carts drawn by horses, filled with children throwing traditional bunches of basil in to the crowd (there is so much of it whole square carries its beautiful, pungent scent). Hoisted on the main cart is a large barrel filled with water taken from the spring of Brufaganya, said to have been blessed by the patron saint. This water (to which locals attribute miraculous properties) is decanted in small terracotta vessels for people to drink and take back to their homes. This also the connection to what is essentially a celebration of water all through out the festival.
Once the introduction in Placa de la Font are over, the procession sets march up the cobbled street of the old city among pomp and fanfare, until it reaches the church of Sant Magi, behind the cathedral. On the carts, sweets and confetti have replaced the basil and handful are thrown to the children waiting along the pavements. Two human towers raise at the feet of the church to the delight of all onlookers and then it’s over and everyone including dwarves and giants retires until the start of the remullada, the giant water bash, in the eveing.