jumping over babies in spain

Taken from the latest issue of Buffalo Zine, photographer Joyce NG explores the ritual of el colacho -- the Spanish tradition of baby jumping.

by Liam Hess; photos by Joyce NG
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25 May 2018, 7:45am

It’s a baking hot June day, and the bells begin ringing in a small medieval town. Right on cue, a flurry of red and yellow-masked ‘devils’ emerge from the church and charge through the narrow streets, cracking whips and clacking castanets, to the whoops and cheers of a growing crowd. As they approach the village’s main thoroughfare, mattress have been laid down in a long row. The devils rear back, ready for their moment in the spotlight.

No, this isn’t a scene from a lost Luis Buñuel film -- it’s 2018, and it’s taking place in the village of Castrillo de Murcia, located in the Burgos province of northern Spain. One by one, the women of the village with infants under a year old (and many others who have travelled from the furthest-flung corners of the Iberian peninsula) lay out their babies across the mattresses, side by side.

To those outside the fiercely superstitious village, the ritual of el colacho -- better known internationally as ‘baby jumping’ -- may seem bizarre. Dating back to the early 17th century, once a year on the Sunday following the Feast of Corpus Christi, the inhabitants of the village gather in the streets, and those with newborns lay them out on mattresses to undergo this purging procedure, loosely echoing the process of the Christian baptism.

The devils dressed in black -- known as the atabalero -- come as pious men to drive away the devils and absorb the original sin of the infants, while the red and yellow colachos begin their hair-raising leaps across the incredulous infants. It’s said that in the process, the children are further cleansed as the festival concludes with the colachos being driven from the streets of the village to the jeers and insults of its inhabitants.

To date there have been, thankfully, no injuries, but in recent years the festival has been subject to somewhat of a crackdown. Criticism has come from none other than the Pope himself, who is said to dislike the ritual’s pagan undertones, long predating its modern reconfiguration as a Christian ritual. In the age of health and safety, the colachos have also taken to jumping over the mattresses widthways rather than lengthways. It’s only fun and games until somebody gets hurt, after all.

Credits


Photography JOYCE NG
Fashion AKEEM SMITH at Management+Artists
Hair JAWARA at Bryant Artists
Make Up ANA CANO at White Paper Club
Talent LILLY and AINA at Francina Models, KAYA at Blow Models, LAURA BOADA
Baby ARAN ANGLARILL ARASANZ
1st Photo Asst PABLO DE PASTORS
2nd Photo Assts VÍCTOR PARÉ RAKOSNIK and ANNA MELÉNDEZ
Fashion Asst ANDREA GOLDFINGER
Dolls MIREIA FERRATÉ
With thanks to Víctor Paré Rakosnik, Jorge Paré, Macarena Flo, Cristina Rakosnik, Nora Cascante, Lidia Arasanz, Andrea Lazarov