Fogueres of John the Baptist
Today, I'll tell you about one more tradition of Alicante.
Do you know what Les Fogueres are? If not, have you ever heard about Les Falles of Valencia? They are quite similar from their beginnings till now......
Originally primitive people worship fire. Later, Christianity spread itself and the fire worship was dedicated to John the Baptist. Throughout centuries, Spanish people and especially those in the Mediterranean coast, lit purifying bonfires to celebrate the arrival of summer solstice.
In Valencia and Alicante, that fire ritual survived throughout centuries. This was a farming ritual in which farmers celebrated the longest day of the year and prayed over the crop harvest. Later, this tradition was taken to the city, since Alicante and its region were always suffering from bad harvests. The first primitive bonfires date back to 1822.
On the other hand, authorities forbid bonfires year after year, but people went on lighting them. In 1881 was published a law that didn’t forbid to light bonfires due to a city hall mistake. For that reason, neighbours grouped on the streets to celebrate the “festes de carrer” (street festivals), with popular games, music of “dulzaina” and “tabalet” (popular instruments in this area) and the performance of the ancestors of “ninots” (some kind of dolls), shaped in grotesque figures imitating any person criticized by the neighbourhood.
It wasn’t till 1928 when an association was created to promote the city tourism, because in that time Cantabrian beaches were more popular. This group was authorized to organize the first “Fogueres of Alicante” (Alicante Bonfires) allowed by the city hall.
Later, this celebration was made official with the idea of attracting tourists.
In a few years more than thirty bonfires appeared with the complement of a “Barraca”, which is a limited place set up in the street and decorated with an allegorical door to access in. That place, the “Barraca”, is set up next to the bonfire it belongs to. There are also "Barracas" that were set up as neighbours’ associations. These Barracas contain the night festivals and it is possible to enjoy the wonderful Alicante gastronomy in there.
Besides, there is a maximum representation of the Fogueres, who is “La Bellesa del Foc” (Fire Beauty), who is elected every year among all the Beauties that represent each bonfire.
Years later, the number of bonfires has gone up to roughly ninety, distributed across all the city neighbourhoods, the same has happened with "Barracas", nowadays with more than seventy, and being more than ten thousand the people participating in this celebration. This festivity lasts a week, from the "Plantą" (the day in which the bonfires are placed) to the "Cremą" (the night in which the bonfires are burnt).
You can choose among living "Fogueres" during the day or at night. Every morning there is a “mascletą” (a Mascletą is a mascletą. There’s no good translation. It isn’t just firecrackers, because of its high power. It's more like a symphony of noise). “Mascletąs” are very significant, and it’s seen as a competition in which takes part the best pyrotechnics companies. Before, during and after any “mascletą” you can go from one “barraca” after another to have a cool beer or something to eat. Some of these “Barracas” serve drinks and meal for free!.
In the evening you can see different kind of parades, from a carnival parade to a more serious one, in which “festeros” (people who take part in the festivity) bring the patron saint of Alicante a bunch of flowers as an offering.
During that week Alicante also doesn’t sleep because there are daily concerts, music on the streets, and party out (it is summer time, and all the pubs pour out onto the streets with their bars and music).
The burning of bonfires takes place on the night of June 23rd, or The John the Baptist Eve. This burning is controlled by firemen due to the dimensions of the bonfires, the materials they are made of (Bonfires are made basically of wood and cardboard), and the crowd that is around every bonfire. Frequently these firemen give out water to the crowd, who is always asking for more water. It’s too hot in there. On the other hand, it’s a kind of tradition to kid firemen while asking for more water.
But remember that if you hang out all night long, you won’t be able to live neither morning acts nor beaches. You'll have to choose whether being dead during the day, or alive at night..... My advice is to taste a little bit of everything.
Now, a couple of pictures of Fogueres.
A general view with some details of Fogueres.
The Foguera on the Harbour is traditional.
This is one the Fogueres labelled as special category.
This is the flower offering parade. The girls are wearing the traditional dress.
The cremą of a Foguere in a neighbourhood.
After Fogueres come a week of fireworks in the Postiguet beach.
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