The Tarasca is the name for draconic creatures found in the legends and folklore of Spain and Latin America. [2] It is also the name for gigantic mechanical representations of a serpent or dragon used in public festivities. [4] In some areas, the dragon is large enough to have children concealed in its belly as part of the procession; [2] in other places, the dragon is flexible enough to be able to "attack" people as part of the festival. [6] Considerable efforts have been put into the creation Tarascas in many places, especially when the dragon has special functions, like spewing fire or smoke. [4]

Some traditions have the Tarasca carrying a figure on its back. [4] The figure could represent a siren, a femme fatale, [6] an historical enemy, or even Lucifer. [4] In the city of Granada, the figure is similar to a department-store mannequin, dressed in the latest fashions. [6]

The Tarasca itself varies greatly depending on location, but usually the dragon contains some serpent features along with a combination of mammalian and avian features. [6] The festivities surrounding the Tarasca also have a blend of thematic elements: monstrosity, infamy, and aggression with craftsmanship and dancing. [6]

Origin and History

Jacopo da Varagine's The Golden Legend tells the story of a dragon half-animal, half-fish. It was larger than an ox with very sharp teeth and long wings. [1] Thus, the Tarasca was originally related to the Tarasque of France. [2] The dragon wrecked havoc, and the people petitioned aid, and Santa Marta came to tame the beast. [1]

In memorandum, since 1474, the inhabitants of Tarascona have paraded the streets of the town in the last week of June. [1] Today, the Tarasca is an effigy vanquished by the local population on the feast day of Corpus Christi, [2] the February Carnival, [6] or other days of public festival. Once widely practiced throughout Europe and Latin America, in many places the Tarasca and its related festivities died out after being banned. [6]

In the later centuries, the Tarasca transformed into a carnival-esque phenomenon. Thus a public festival that once represented society overcoming evil became a humorous and festive spectacle for popular appeal. [5] However, in many places, the Tarasca still embodies danger or evil. In Cuba, where the tradition of the Tarasca was revived after two hundred years, the giant puppet-dragon was carried through the streets, giving people the opportunity to tell it (or write on its body) their most malevolent memories, thoughts, etc. In this way, the dragon provides a catharsis and purges the negative influences of the society. Many wrote messages on the dragon's tail condemning ignorance and prejudice of every variety. [7]

Symbolism nad Etymology

The Tarasca, or the Coca in Galicia, is a symbol of demonic forces overcome by society. Coca is derived from the Latin cocatrix, or crocodile. The name Tarasca is probably drawn from Tarascon, the French town where the Tarasque was defeated. [3]

The Tarasca has a ritual context in some of its manifestations. Many stories attribute it with a malevolent, even man-eating, spirit. Some places associate Tarascas with the Pentecostal dragon, the dragon of Revelations, or even the Biblical Leviathan. [6]

Related Articles


  1. Big areas: Provence
  2. Rose [Dragons] 353
  3. La Coca
  4. Ruiz 280
  5. Ruiz 282
  6. Gilmore, Tarasca: Ritual Monster of Spain
  7. Cuba Revives Tarasca Tradition After 200 Years

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.