Expat Life

Carnaval in Mundaka

There’s one simple reason why I haven’t updated this blog in almost two months: there’s not much to talk about. After Christmas break, Julen and I started working a lot more than before, introducing phase 1 of our small business Inglés en Mundaka – home-based English tutoring that we’re hoping to expand to a brick-and-mortar location by next year.

Two weeks ago while driving to work before the sun was up, I looked at Julen very matter of factly and said, “I need a f*cking vacation.” And it hit me – the vacation stage is finally over. Just last Friday while out for a few drinks, a friend’s mother told me I’d passed the winter test and was officially una Mundakesa. There’s no denying that everyday that goes by, I’m becoming more and more comfortable in my own (expat) skin.

But just because our days aren’t filled with exciting trips and passport stamps doesn’t mean life is anything like it was in Miami.

Case in point: Carnaval in Mundaka, or Aratuste.

cartel2017On Sunday morning, the small signs of spring were overshadowed by over 200 hooded men singing, dancing and playing instruments in the streets of Mundaka, their stark white clothes contrasting yet harmonizing with the unseasonably bright and warm day.

The story of this tradition is one of my favorites – an old Count named Anton Erreka came home one night in typical Mundaka fashion drunk. To avoid his angry wife’s assault with a deadly broom, he dressed in the first thing he could find and ran out the door, not realizing he’d thrown on his wife’s skirt and a pillow case over his head. When the townspeople saw this, they decided this genius man’s escape should be celebrated, and so the all-white-with-a-pillow-case-over-your-head attorak costume came to be the typical men’s costume for Aratuste.

In the afternoon it was the lamiak’s turn. In Basque mythology, lamiak are witch/fairy-type (depends on who you ask, right?) female spirits. Dressed in long black dresses, a long blonde wig and slightly off putting make up, the women kept the party going, parading around Mundaka with more songs, music and dances; a sea of beautiful colorful scarves. The night culminated in the meeting of the attorak and the lamiak on Mundaka’s Calle Mayor.

I’ve never experienced a festival steeped in so much tradition and pure joy. Looking around you couldn’t help be in a happy mood, everyone in town dressed in costume, drinking, laughing, singing and genuinely enjoying Mundaka’s day. Some people had urged me to dress up and be part of the processional and I can understand the argument for assimilation through participation (it was one of the drunk topics of choice at around 4am) but I wanted to take this year to watch, learn and enjoy it from afar. Next year, I think I’ll be ready to make this tradition my own.

Oh, and that vacation I needed? We head to Rome tomorrow!



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