|Don Giovanni D'Austria|
On October 7, 1571 off the coast of Greece, near the Gulf of Lepanto, the greatest sea battle in history took place between the fleets of the Holy League and the Ottoman Empire. With the blessing of Pope Pius V the Christian armada under the command of Don John of Austria dealt a terrible blow to the massive Ottoman flotilla preparing to invade the Italian peninsula. The Christian armada consisted of ships from Spain (which, at the time included the viceroyalty of Naples and Sicily), the Papal States, Venice, Genoa, and the Knights of Malta.
|Stemma di Tropea|
The tradition of the “Camjuzzu ì focu” is part of the surviving ritual which protects against negative influences by means of the exorcism of the Turkish invading enemy. In fact, the dance “U Camjuzzzu i Focu” (the Burning Camel) symbolises the expulsion of the Moslems who, for a period ruled Tropea and its hamlets and travelled around on their camels collecting tributes. But, more generally speaking, it symbolises resistance to arrogance and exploitation. The dance is “performed” by a rudimentary camel made of hollow canes with gunpowder and explosives placed inside at regular intervals. Towards the end of the evening the camel is hoisted onto the shoulders of a man who begins a dance to the deafening sound of tambourines; he goes backwards and forwards along the path chosen for the dance, while the lighted gunpowder spreads smoke and flames which alternate with the bangs. The dance continues until the last spark of gunpowder sets off the explosion of the Catherine-wheel in the camel’s tail.