Unbeknownst to many is the plucky province of Badajoz that sits snuggly next to Portugal inside the south-west border of Spain. Its eponymous capital is steeped in a rich history of conquest, culture and creativity, the latter of which goes on full display during the Badajoz Carnival in February.
Originally incepted as a celebration of Lent, Badajoz Carnival has since become renowned as one of the most exotic street festivals in the world. Over the course of this five-day period, the population of Badajoz triples to around 600,000 people as locals and visitors flock to the city. The Carnival prides itself on its spirit of inclusivity and openness, which is reflected by the overwhelming number of adults and children that participate in the festivities. As ‘comparsas’ or music troupes fill the streets garbed in outfits ranging from the flamboyant to the ridiculous (a dozen rotund Donald Trumps featured last year), everyone is welcome to dance and sing along as they please. But for Brits who may struggle with the notion of singing, dancing, and general frivolity, do not despair: fine Spanish wine and food is available at virtually every street corner.
In 2012, Badajoz Carnival proved so popular that it was recognised as a ‘Festivity of National Tourist Interest’ in Spain. Now, six years on, organisers have been travelling around Europe and other parts of the world as part of a wider effort to gain international recognition for Badajoz Carnival. On the final leg of their whistle-stop tour, organisers arrived in Notting Hill to deliver a presentation to councillors from the Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust. Here, Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster Today was granted an interview with one of Badajoz Carnival’s chief architects, Miguel Angel de la Calle, the Cultural Affairs Council of the City of Badajoz.
Good morning, Miguel. How long have you been working with the council?
Good morning. I joined the council in 2003 and my position is devoted to all of the facilities, celebrations and sports in Badajoz’s cultural affairs.
What brings you to London?
The main reason for our visit is to present Badajoz Carnival as a national tourism festivity and get it recognised as an international festivity. We have also travelled to Amsterdam, Cologne, Bucharest, China and Australia.
Why have you chosen to bring Badajoz to international attention this year?
Six years ago, we were recognised as a national tourism festivity and we had to wait five years to apply for international recognition. Since then, we have been working very hard and for the past two years, we have been going around the world to promote our carnival. Notting Hill is our last stop and we really hope that after this touring that we can be recognised.
What, in your eyes, makes Badajoz Carnival so special?
Everyone engages in the street carnival, everybody is welcome and nobody feels excluded. This is a very welcoming street carnival where everybody in the city will welcome you.
And is that what drew you to Notting Hill?
We feel our Carnival identifies closely with Notting Hill Carnival in particular, which is why we made it the final leg of our tour. Notting Hill carnival has always been our point of reference because it is so participative. Everyone gets involved!
What plans do you have for the remainder of the year?
The 2018 carnival took place in February but now we are already getting ready for 2019. Next year, we are hoping to celebrate it as an international event. We will begin filing the recommendation and getting ready to apply for international recognition. The preparations never end!