How one Spanish village pelts the 'devil' with turnips

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How one Spanish village pelts the 'devil' with turnips
Legend has it that Jarramplas was a cattle thief who villagers got their revenge on by hurling vegetables at. (All photos by GERARD JULIEN / AFP)

Every January, residents of a small town in western Spain pelt a devil-like character portrayed by a young man with thousands of rock-hard turnips, a tradition that aims to drive away evil.


"Jarramplas" may not be the only bizarre festival taking place in Spain in January (horses running through fire or people dressed up as eerie trees, for those of you wondering) but it is certainly a candidate to Spain's weirdest fiesta.

That's because every January, residents of the small Spanish town of Piornal pelt a devil-like character portrayed by a young man with thousands of rock-hard turnips in a tradition that aims to drive away evil.

The centuries-old festival of Jarramplas is celebrated every January 19th and 20th in this village in Spain's Extremadura region, home to around 1,500 people.

Portraying the "Jarramplas" - especially on the second day of the festival -  is considered such an honour that there is a waiting list of 21 years.

Each year, several young men are selected to take turns to dress up as the devil-like character by wearing a costume made from colourful strips of fabric with body armour underneath, and a mask with great horns.


As they walk the streets and beat a drum, hundreds of villagers repeatedly hurl turnips at them from close range.   

The exact origin of the festival is not known, although various theories exist.

One widely accepted one is that the "Jarramplas" represents a cattle thief who was once punished by local residents.   

The tradition has come to symbolise the expulsion of everything bad.    

Last year's celebrations had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic but 2022's edition is going ahead, and 23,000 kilos of turnips have been prepared for the occasion. 

Former Piornal mayor Ernesto Agudiez has said the purpose of the festival is to "drive away bad spirits, so that we have a good year and a good cherry harvest".

About 70 percent of Piornal's residents earn a living from cherry farming.


'Hit him hard'

David Amado is one of 23 men, aged 18-30, who portrayed the "Jarramplas" in previous editions and wore the costume which weighs over 40 kilos (88 pounds).    

"If I can do it again, I will," he said delighted, recalling when it was his turn playing the "Jarramplas" for about 20 minutes.  

"It does not hurt. The armour is well prepared, so you don't feel the impact much. It is more the fatigue of wearing so many kilos," said Sergio Calle Alonso, who portrayed the character shortly after Amado.

Piornal's two tonnes of turnips are left at strategic places across the village to be hurled at the "Jarramplas".    

Portraying the creature on January 20th, the second day of the festival, is considered a great honour, for it is the day of Saint Sebastián, whom the village honours.

As such, only one or two men get to be pelted by turnips on January 20th, instead of the 20-or-so on the first day.  

"One of the most important things in life is dressing as 'Jarramplas'," said Ismael Vicente, who donned the costume in 2017 and faced the wrath of his turnip-throwing neighbours.

Sergio Díaz Prieto, an insurance salesman who portrayed the character in 2004 after an 11-year wait, said there was an art to being a good "Jarramplas".  

It "means playing the drum a lot, and walking with a swagger, not like a statue," he said.

"But above all, a good Jarramplas is one who exposes himself and gives the opportunity for people to hit him hard."


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