“Living like Queens”
Gender Conflict and Female Counter-Hegemony in Contemporary Cádiz Carnival
Keywords:Carnival, Cádiz, Spain, gender, equality, dictatorship, democracy, feminism, counter-hegemony
This article focuses on the feminist mobilization that has characterized Cádiz Carnival since 2011, leading to the elimination of the Ninfas y Diosas (Nymphs and Goddesses) custom, a variant of the Reina de las Fiestas (Queen of Traditional Fiestas) ceremony introduced under Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1939–75). By calling into question the representation of women in Carnival celebrations, female festive organizations have challenged the old, male-dominated festival traditions and transformed Cádiz Carnival. Their activism has carried over into everyday life, as female Carnival groups have created their own community and translated the artistic manifestations of their desire for equality into public policy. Using oral testimonies and archival material gathered during ethnographic fieldwork in the city, I trace the history of the reina and ninfas customs and analyze a variety of material related to their birth, evolution, and recent discontinuation. The ultimate purpose of this article is to map the tensions embedded in both the festival and contemporary Spanish society and to show how the Carnival stage can become a space where embodied feminist counter-hegemony is performed, thus contributing to the slow democratization of Spanish society.