We have just raised the curtain of the year 2019, a year full of magic and of special significance for all those who someday work to magnify the San Juan Coruña since in this year we will choose the L Meiga Mayor; fifty years, five decades, have passed since that distant June 23, 1970 in which Estrella Pardo Castiñeiras, unfortunately already disappeared, was proclaimed I Meiga Mayor of the Bonfires of San Juan de La Coruña.
During these years many things have happened, so many that it would be impossible to make a quick balance even of the most important ones; However, what remains with freshness in our memory are the reasons, the motives that led us to give life to this figure around which the whole plot of a party has been woven, which, starting as a youth game, has arrived to become, although some soulless sectarians are obstinate in denying it, even to arrogate a protagonism that neither have nor deserve because they did nothing for the party except take advantage of the work well done by others, in one of the best parties in Spain.
When in 1962 we began, timidly, our San Juan adventure by planting that first bonfire in front of the Telephone Center of Riazor, located in Paseo de Ronda, there were still many places in the city where the rite of the ignition of solstitial fire was kept alive, even with Some strength, although nothing was as in previous years. There is no more to resort to the newspaper archives of the time to verify that the San Juan Coruña went totally unnoticed except for some who remembered it with nostalgia.
Among all the bonfires that, at that time, were burned in La Coruña, the one that burned in front of the School of the Company of María that took the palm in originality, pyrotechnic waste and good work, stood out. For the rest, the rest of those who burned in streets and squares, where the asphalting allowed it, were limited to give fulfillment, with greater or lesser fortune, to an old tradition, inherited from their elders, being the young and the chiquillería the In charge of taking forward, without any organizational scheme, the organization and burning of their respective bonfires on the night of San Juan.
In this way, different reasons affected negatively throughout the central years of the so-called “prodigious decade” so that a good part of these bonfires began to disappear. On the one hand, the asphalting of many of the streets that was eliminating the traditional locations of the lumeradas; on the other hand, certain pressure exerted by the municipal authorities due to the risk involved in their burning and, finally, that many of those who headed the initiative, and who were responsible for pulling each year from the others, tired of assuming that role not finding the necessary generational change.
In our case, we saw how, between 1963 and 1966, most of the fires that burned in our area, Fernando Macías and adjacent, had become only a memory. In these years, those that were burned in front of the School of the Company of María, in Pérez Cepeda and in the Plaza del Maestro Mateo, among others, became history, just as it had happened a couple of years before with which I organized the chiquillería of the Avda. de Rubine, Plaza de Pontevedra and Avda. de Buenos Aires, which were burning in front of the Casa de Baños de los Dorrego.
We, for our part, continue with our bet, even improving it to the best of our ability, although we were all aware that, sooner rather than later, it would have an expiration date, especially since, in 1966, before San Juan , we proceeded to the asphalting of the wide street of Paseo de Ronda which left us without the possibility, at least in appearance, of planting our bonfire there.
Although that contingency was not an obstacle to prevent us from continuing with our San Juan dream, we had to overcome many inconveniences, including the presence of the Municipal Guard on more than one occasion, in order to celebrate our San Juan in the last years of the decade. of the 60.
And so we came to 1969, the year in which we burned, as was customary, our bonfire that counted each step with more influx of the public to surround it with a series of pyrotechnic devices and be the only one that burned in our area. However, at the end of that night in San Juan, we realized that something was beginning to change in a good part of us. I guess it would be the age since all the members of the gang were approaching the mythical eighteen years and that meant a change, both qualitative and quantitative, important; without discarding other factors that had a direct relationship with the glorious and magical fact of accompanying one of those wonderful little girls we were beginning to fall in love with.
Was for one reason or another, the fact is that when we approached the first days of May 1970, the date on which we traditionally began to design the next San Juan, we observed how a good part of the members of our gang opted for for not going ahead with the hogueril tradition, arguing the age, the fatigue and other obligations, most of them derived from those contracted with the girl they were accompanying.
I think that, at any time, we value the possibility of natural generational relief and that the children who, because of age, were behind us were responsible for continuing the tradition and we did not, perhaps because of the fear of not finding in them the same will that we had when we started the journey. Therefore, a group of us, we begin to value other options.
I can not say at what moment it occurred to us, not even those of us who were on that memorable day in which we shaped the idea. I guess it was last half of May when we made the decision to drastically change the direction of all that and we began to consider the possible incorporation of the girls to our project.
I remember that, for days, we gave it many laps. It was not just a question of inviting them to join our sanjuaneras wanderings, it was necessary to find the right framing because we did not imagine them, neither did they, running, with a plank in hand, in front of a work guard or stirring in forgotten storage rooms to rescue a lot of old and moth-eaten furniture, susceptible to burn in the next San Juan.
I am sure that the first time we talked about the figure of the “Meiga” was in front of my home portal; I even remember the names of some of those present, however, I will omit them because I would not like to leave anyone in the pipeline, something reasonably possible in view of the fifty years since that memorable date. The truth is that there, at that time, came the idea of choosing a girl as “queen” of our San Juan, knowing that, to crystallize the project positively, the party would acquire a new dimension that would contribute to its strengthening and promotion , in addition to eliminating all the resquemores that had nested in some of our friends.
After deciding that the incorporation of the girls would be done in this format, the need arose to find the right name that we should give to that new figure. Immediately, we discarded to use the nickname of “queen”, since, at that time, the City Council appointed, each year, the Queen of the Holidays and we did not consider that competition for such designation would produce the desired effects.
In this way, each one contributed his idea. I can not say who the name of “Meiga” came from, I could even have been the sponsor of the idea myself, however, because of the fear of making mistakes, I prefer to ignore this detail, although I would like to give a small homage of admiration to whoever contributed that name, without a doubt the most successful, whoever was its promoter.
As always, the night of San Juan has been associated, at least in the popular Galician imaginary, with the ambivalent figure of the “meiga”; Meiga good, maker of happy charms, filters of love, quasi-miraculous cures, in contrast to the meiga mala, which uses black magic and concurs to witches sabbaths to sow evil, being one of the most important, precisely, which is celebrated on the night of San Juan. Consequently, the name chosen, corresponded fully with the most inveterate tradition related to the night of high June and therefore it seemed to us as the most appropriate.
Once I decided on the name we were going to give to our female figure and after adding the name “major”, influenced, no doubt, by the Levantine festivals, we had to decide who we would propose to accept the appointment. That caused us more headaches than expected, since we did not want to get a response from the girl to whom we would have to raise, before the fear of having to resort to a plan “b”, never desirable.
After a long debate in which several names came to light, we value different options. If there was one thing we were sure of at that moment, it was of two fundamental questions; on the one hand, that the proposed girl should be from our area and, on the other hand, that she should have a very direct relationship with us.
At that time, our gang was related to another, formed by girls students of the School of the Company of Mary, all of them aged between fifteen and sixteen, with whom we used to see almost daily. Therefore, very soon we turn our gaze towards them.
I think it was me who proposed the name of Estrella Pardo Castiñeiras as the possible recipient of the appointment. Happy, nice, cheerful, friendly, good conversationalist, I thought it was the most suitable to be designated as the “queen” of that first high-flying San Juan that we wanted to move forward.
In Estrella there were two circumstances that we considered necessary. On the one hand, I lived on the Paseo de los Puentes, therefore, in our area of influence, and on the other, was part of our gang and, consequently, it was much easier to access it.
It was me or someone else who proposed the name of that girl, the truth is that it was me who was responsible for transferring the proposal and so I did.
One afternoon I accompanied her to her house and, climbing the slope of the Franciscans, I explained to her, a little bit above, what the San Juan had intended; she, who listened with great attention to what I was telling her, showed great interest and quickly became enthusiastic about the idea of creating a figure that embodied the representation of the night of great events. So, after overcoming the fear of a possible lack of initial interest, when I reached the portal of her house and before she said goodbye, I proposed that she be the First Meiga.
I do not know if she was surprised or just excited. I remember that she smiled at me and said that she would be delighted, although first she would have to discuss it at home so that they would give her approval, although she supposed that there would be no problem.
And so it was, the next day he expressed his acceptance without reservations to what I replied that he should name his four Megas de Honor, a management he did in the following days, naming Maka González, Puri Arias, Lourdes Castiñeiras and Angeles Astray , all of them classmates and gangs, as the members of their court of honor.
The rest was shot, well, not so much, but everything went as planned and after overcoming the pitfalls that were presented to us, which were not few, and after airing it in the press, we prepare to name our first Meigas in history.
I will not recount, as I have done on other occasions, the vicissitudes of that first Noite da Queima and the endless anecdotes that arose in the wake of it, suffice it to say that, on the afternoon of June 22, we organized a parade of models on the grill of the Hotel Embajador, which served as a framework for the presentation of the First Meiga Mayor and its Megas de Honor and, finally, on the night of June 23, Estrella and her Meigas, after arriving by vehicle at Paseo de Ronda , they were proclaimed the first of our particular history, which opened the way to another forty-eight, with their respective Mees de Honor, which have followed them since that distant 1970.
However, there were two facts that I do not want to ignore. One of them simply served to make us understand, as we already knew since we found the cross that did not burn in our Bonfire of 1962, that we had just created something big that necessarily had to have continuity in time. The following day, June 24, the day of San Juan, the three o’clock television news of the First TVE Network, the only one at least in La Coruña, closed with a review of our Bonfire and the proclamation of the I Meiga Mayor That for us was exciting because all of Spain knew what we had started the night before.
The other, much more intimate and emotional, at least for the Major Meiga, I also learned the following day from the mouth of Estrella Pardo. During the days leading up to his proclamation, we talked a lot about the desire he should ask of the Saint when he set fire to the bonfire and threw seven unburden thistles into it, a custom that we started at that date that has now disappeared. Well, she told me of her desire that, like everything that is asked of the Holy One, if it is done with fervor, it is fulfilled.
Estrella’s father lived, for those years in Venezuela, although he had already planned his definitive return to Spain, although she did not know the exact date of his arrival in La Coruña even though he knew it would be throughout that month of June. According to what he told me, he asked the Saint that his father was there that night and what things are, the father arrived in La Coruña late in the afternoon of that June 23, when his daughter was already immersed in the acts of his proclamation. Knowing where he could find her, he moved to Paseo de Ronda and there he saw her and, at the end of the night, he joined her in a hug after congratulating her on his appointment. An emotional story that deserves to be told.
So it was, told in great strokes, the story of our First Meiga Mayor. Obviously, this fact deserves to devote more space and about him, as has been said, could write a long series of anecdotes, some very nice, that surrounded him; However, these lines serve to record a fact that, viewed from the perspective of past time, and despising, as they deserve, the views of all those sectarians who try to distort, maliciously and intentionally, this endearing figure, It served to revitalize the celebration of the BONFIRES, allowing it to arrive with full force until our days, something that would have been unfeasible if the figure of the Major Meiga did not exist.
Eugenio Fernández Barallobre.