Guadix and Baza are two Andalusian towns in the Province of Granada in Spain. It is said that, long ago while working on the site of a church in Baza, Cascamorras, a worker from Guadix, found a secret image of Virgen de la Piedad (Our Lady of Mercy), buried in the ground. Encouraged by his friends and countrymen, Cascammoras attempted to take the image to his town, but the people of Baza snatched it back from him. As a result, the disappointed people of Guadix lambasted poor Cascammoras and continued to pray to their own Virgin, who is unfortunately in the other town. Afterwards, in a mutual tribunal, Baza declared that on the Saint’s Day, if a nominated person from Guadix can reach the Virgin in a clean dress, he will be permitted to take it back with him. Since then, the two neghbouring towns celebrate the anecdote by having an annual festival in which they battle it out with paint to gain control of the statue. This is the background of the Cascamorras festival.
There are two parts of the Cascamorras festival – one in Baza, traditionally on 6th September, and the other in Guadix on 9th September. Each year the nominated Cascamorras try to fulfill the pledge, but till this day has never succeeded in the mission, since smeared with black oil and chased away along the streets by the opponents. Every year on 6th September, a new Cascamorras, a clown dressed in special clean clothes, makes his way from Guadix to Baza, aiming to get the statue of the Virgen de la Piedad in clean dress. In the meantime the people of Baza go up onto a nearby hill to cover themselves with black oil. When the Cascamorras makes his run down the hill and through the streets of Baza, they are well prepared to make the Cascamarras ‘dirty’, by simply rubbing their dirty bodies against him. The Cascamorras has a porra (a rubber ball tied to a wooden stick by a leather cord) to defend himself, while his team also tries in vain to keep him clean through the Baza streets.
Having failed in his mission, the Cascamorras, on 9th September, heads back to Guadix without the highly-prized statue. The thousands of people from Baza, in the meantime, smear themselves in black paint and move towards the field near the railway station, armed with coloured paint in plastic bottles. A rocket marks the start of the Cascomorras run, and the run begins at 18.30. Between one run and the next, the Cascamorras makes various stops to take a rest, and often lifts the flag of the Virgin de la Piedad above the heads of the people around him, who immediately get down on their knees. The local fire brigade helps the supporters to keep their cool by spraying water with a hose. Along the route, the villagers also hurl buckets of water from balconies as a part of the tradition. When they pass through the town hall square they are sprayed with foam. They then move on to the church and the run finishes at about 21.00.
In 2006, the festival was declared a Fiesta of National Tourist Interest of Spain.