Quadrilles of San Martin

Quadrilles of San Martin

November 11
Every year on San Martin's Day ( see Martinmas), the Quadrilles of St. Martin—often described as an "equestrian ballet"—have been held in the old Colombian town named after the saint. Forty-eight expert riders, all male and mounted on Creole horses, divide into four groups and take their places at the four corners of the town's large square.
Each group of riders is dressed to represent a different ethnic group that has played a part in Colombia's past: The Moors (Arabs) wear turbans and white, Oriental-looking robes and carry scimitars; the Spaniards wear black riding jackets, white breeches, tall boots, and cowboy hats and carry sabers; the Blacks wear exotic African headgear and animal skins and carry long machetes; and the Indians wear feather headdresses, breastplates, and elaborate necklaces and are armed with bows and arrows.
The performances reenact various events in Colombia's history, including the battles between the Spanish and the Moors and the wars of independence waged against Spain. Although the acts themselves are carefully staged, they often involve improvisation requiring fast riding and split-second timing.
After the Quadrilles are over, residents and visitors gather in the square's open-air cafes to drink aguardiente, the local anise-flavored liquor, to eat ternara a la llanera, or barbecued baby beef, and to watch the fireworks displays that are set off over the city. Participation in the Quadrilles is an honor that is handed down from one generation to the next among the city's oldest families.
See also Moors and Christians Fiesta
CONTACTS:
Embassy of Colombia
2118 Leroy Pl. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-387-8338; fax: 202-232-8643
www.colombiaemb.org
SOURCES:
GdWrldFest-1985, p. 65