After a five year wait, Cádiz has finally opened a museum dedicated to one of the city’s most deep-rooted traditions – puppeteering.
Inside are 350 models, up to 150 years old and ranging from as far afield as Java, Ghana, Russia and Mexico. They also range from five foot high “giant” marionettes from Spain to an Asian puppet made out of buffalo skin and whose degree of moral goodness varies on the size of its nose.
All of these puppets were bought in 2008 from Ismael Peña, a local musician who began collecting them in France in the 1960s. Over the last half century, he visited and purchased examples from more than 20 countries worldwide. One of the most intriguing sets of puppets comes from a relatively local theatre storeroom, the Tivoli in Barcelona – where, in the 19th century, they were left behind by a bankrupt group of Austrian actors in lieu of outstanding debts. An entire floor of the museum is set to be dedicated to Cádiz’s very own puppet tradition, known as the Tía Norica, and dating back to at least 1790. The inauguration of the grandiloquently named “Ibero-American Museum of the Puppet” took place late last week and was timed to coincide with Cádiz “Festival of The Puppet”. Now in its 30th year and with 12 different puppet companies and 25 official performances, during its four days dozens more “fringe” shows took place in streets and squares across the whole of the coastal city. Now, when the festival closed its doors, thanks to Cadiz new museum, the puppets no longer had to leave with it.