We arrived at one in the afternoon.
The masked men make way for the solemn cavalcade of the Christian and Moorish “armies” heading to the newly built Cavalhódromo de Pirenópolis.
The benches are crowded. The almost divine voice of the producer and presenter Sôr Pompeu echoes, in full announcement of the inauguration parade. Comprised of musicians and majorettes, the parade goes around the pitch and greets the audience.
A hot girl from the land, adorned with sashes, leads her.
Once the tour is complete, the high point of the embassies and battles event has the green light.
Finally, we understand the reason for so much prior testing. The choreographies are complex and tedious. They are made of twists and turns, also of sudden confrontations, withdrawals and endless dialogues delivered in a playback thundering that requires the gestural accompaniment of kings and ambassadors.
The Wild Revelry of the Masked Curucucus
To lighten the show, the doors are opened to the madness of the masked people. These invade at a gallop and, whenever their time runs out, they resist being expelled from the pitch as if they were a third army.
“These Masked Ones are going to have to leave anyway. You can't keep delaying any longer!” resounds from the loudspeakers the increasingly impatient Ser Pompey.
The 20 minutes of mad riding around the enclosure that he granted him has long since passed. Exaggerations have been repeated since the beginning of the event. Nothing that disturbs the collective unconsciousness of the so-called curucucus.
Abuse delights viewers. After all, the Feast of the Divine and the Cavalhadas are made of the delivery and devotion, both religious and profane, of its participants. Everyone tolerates Moorish and Christian knights shining too brightly.
Apart from the battles fought, in defiance of the predominance of banners greeting, vassalage and self-promotion of the most important families and regional politicians, the masked ones still take advantage of their anonymity to display posters of political contestation: “People do not change when they arrive to power, they reveal themselves” verses one of the most exuberant.
The traditional irreverence of the curucucus derives from their presence, as bastard as it is late, in Cavalhadas.
For many years, as they did not take part in the battles fought as a medieval tournament, the people they represent were mere spectators at ceremonies performed by the wealthy and powerful.
Once their participation was legitimized, protected by caricatured and colorful disguises (man and bull heads, unicorns, jaguars, etc.) and by almost imperceptible whispers, the Masked Ones proved difficult to control.
The Battle in Cavalhadas Medieval Tournament Mode
The Crusades return to Cavalhódromo. It soon turns out that the embassies of truce and mutual intimidation are fruitless. The conflict remains. The people rejoice more than ever.
Heads of dolls were placed to be blown off and thus test the mastery of the knights in the use of the spear and … the pistol, an anachronism that was not detected or that nobody cared about.
There is also the ring test, a medieval classic that raises the suspense every time the galloping knights raise their spears.
Points are noted. In the end, as a matter of historical fidelity, Christians always win. Consuming the triumph of the faithful, the Moors surrender and submit, kneeling, to the swords of the Crusaders. This is followed by an alignment, on foot, of the riders who receive greetings from friends and family.
When the Cavalhadas Festival Returns to Pirenópolis
In this, the tours of the city center fill up with the return of the Cavalhódromo crowd. Most outsiders come from Brasilia, Goiânia and other surrounding villages. Some arrive from much further afield.
From São Paulo, Rio, even abroad. Everyone shows up in Pirenópolis, attracted by the increasingly popular beauty of the party. During the event, cars are prohibited in the historic center.
This boon allows the masked to take over the wide streets.
Ride through them senselessly. They only stop to pose for photos by the public and ask for small contributions to buy their fuel: a cold beer.
Refusal is rare. We are in the dry season of the Brazilian Midwest region. The heat tightens. Especially when you spend hours inside a fiber suit with the head in a cardboard mask.
When night falls, the knights regained the spotlight. By that time, together, Moors and Christians ride and discharge their pistols into the air.
The last ritual – by far the loudest – establishes the official closure of the Cavalhadas and returns Pirenópolis to the peace of God.
Until the month of May next year.
Origin of Cavalhadas: from the Kingdom of the Franks to Heart of Goiás
Cavalhadas de Pirenópolis are a reconstitution of Charlemagne's attacks against the Moors who, by the XNUMXth century, occupied the Iberian Peninsula.
Throughout the Middle Ages, through the crusaders and troubadours, their deeds became popular in Christian Europe. They gave rise to well-received representations also in Portugal.
The Jesuits took these stagings to Brazil, still in their heyday and with the authorization of the Crown, which saw in them an effective instrument for the evangelization of indigenous peoples and African slaves.
The Popular Staging of Father Manuel Amâncio da Luz
They arrived in Pirenópolis and the surrounding region of the present state of Goiás, in 1826, when Father Manuel Amâncio da Luz integrated an exhibition called “Charlemagne's Battalion" at Feast of the Holy Spirit, also previously brought from Portugal.
The novelty had a miraculous acceptance. Pirenópolis was then a city of miners, mostly from the north of the metropolis where the long resistance to the Moorish invasions and subsequent attacks and conquests came to forge the Portuguese nation.
On the other hand, the show from early on attributed powerful characters (kings and knights) to the most prominent citizens of the city. They were assembled characters.
The Controversial Promotion to the New Cavalhódromo de Pirenópolis
This reality went against the widespread passion of the local population for horses and horseback riding. This passion becomes very evident during the Feast of the Divine, when the sound of hooves against the cobblestones of Pirenópolis becomes ambient.
In the beginning, the Cavalhadas were staged on a field marked with whitewash. The participants wore period military uniforms instead of the current medieval period costumes.
The commitment that the Pirenopolinos dedicated to them – as they dedicated to the Feast of the Divine, in general – led to the creation of “medieval” clothes for knights and horses, including weapons and armour.
In 2012, the bare field gave way to a large Cavalhódromo, lawn, with a Christian portico and a Moorish one, with large cement benches and family cabins, these made of wood. Several sectors of the Pirepoline community accused those responsible of having kept the people away from the party.
When we spoke with the wife of Toninho – an emblematic former Moorish king – we also found out that the party was not always confined to the city or even the Brazilian state of Goiás.
The Embassy of the Knights of the Divine to France Grafina de Chantilly
Dª Telma tells us that, in 2005, the year of Brazil was celebrated in France. On that occasion, the Gallic organization invited a delegation of 30 Pirenopolinos, – to the chagrin of the wives of the city, all men – to Whipped Cream (a grand historic village a short distance from Paris).
The idea was to present the Cavalhadas de Pirenópolis to the French and the final exhibition went perfectly. The preparations included hilarious adventures.
Several of the riders had never left the state of Goiás, let alone traveled by plane and changed continents to face the delicate french etiquette.
For obvious logistical reasons, the Pirenopolis horses stayed at home. And Cavalhadas knights had to teach French mounts the twists and turns of battles between Moors and Christians.
The challenge proved anything but peaceful. In the lands of “Piri”, the horses were treated by force, with whips and spurs.
In Chantilly, the Brazilian knights, accustomed to the superiority of their role as kings and nobles, found themselves reprimanded for the slightest touch they gave to French animals and became indignant whenever the local handlers, as a prize, kissed their mounts in the mouth.
“But that wasn't the worst…”, Dª Telma continues to tell us: “As if that wasn't enough, the French tried to impose this refined method on the knights of Pirenópolis to whom they also gave lumps of sugar so that, in addition to the kisses, the offered to the horses when the animals passed tests…”
The Pirenopolinos continued to resist. And the French nearly collapsed when they found that they not only persisted in their cruel dealings with horses but devoured the lumps of sugar.
On their return home, the “effeminate” treatment of the Europeans towards animals remained the subject of conversation and laughter until the following Cavalhadas, when Charlemagne's powerful and pirepolino army defeated the infidels again.