Friday, March 10, 2006

An annual festival of satire in Valencia has fallen foul of censorship after more than four centuries following the furore over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

In the Fallas festival, giant sculptures of the high and mighty are placed in the streets for the public to mock before being destroyed in an orgy of gunpowder and flames. It has survived attacks by the Roman Catholic church, various puritanical rulers and the Franco dictatorship.

This year's figures will include President George W Bush, several of the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and the Prince of Wales dancing, in Highland dress, with the Duchess of Cornwall. But self-censorship has seen Muslim and Arab figures modified to avoid offence.

[...] In the countryside near Valencia, many villages have their own festivals, involving mock battles between "Moors and Christians", in an ancient recreation of the Catholic reconquest of Spain from Arab rule.

There have been subtle changes this year, which no locals would discuss, the Spanish newspaper ABC recently reported. In Bocairent, villagers refrained from burning life-size mannequins of the "Mahoma", a traditional figure presumed to be based on Mohammed.

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