The Caretos of Podence

In the village of Podence, close to Macedo de Cavaleiros and 40 km from Bragança, Carnival is one of the most important events in the annual calendar. It’s when the famous Caretos of Podence appear in the streets, diabolical figures that at this time of the year are authorised to show themselves.

On Fat Sunday and Shrove Tuesday, the boys in the village appear as mysterious characters dressed in colourful clothes, made from bedspreads with fringes, and covering their faces with masks made from wood or leather, with a pointed nose. They carry bells and cowbells around their waist, and energetically run round the village, jumping and shouting, disturbing the daily calm. One of the main reasons for these races is to find girls in order to dance with them and “chocalhar” (jingle their cow-bells). They amuse themselves in this manner, protected under the disguise of anonymity. The youngest boys, who follow and imitate the Caretos are called Facanitos (litte knives) and guarantee continuity of the tradition.

During the evening of Fat Sunday, fictitious weddings are held between unmarried young men and women, in a farcical ceremony. It’s a moment of humour, in which the chosen bride and bridegroom have no chance to complain. The following morning, according to tradition the boy must visit the girl that he was allocated by means of a lucky draw, and will receive sweets and fine wine in a gesture of thanks.

In 1985, the Caretos of Podence organized themselves and transformed the group into a Cultural Association, whose main objective was to preserve these traditional events. As a symbol of culture in the North-East Tras-os-Montes region, the Mascarados have been invited to participate in various cultural and recreational events throughout the country, above all those involving street entertainment.

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