Today is the night of June, the night of Vespers of San Juan, on the eve of bonfires; Maybe that’s why I wanted to recreate my walk in those places, today some very far away even in time, that saw the origins of what, with the inexorable passage of the years, has become the most beautiful traditions from the city. Go back to those intimate and personal spaces in which it can be said, paraphrasing others, that everything began.
I walked one by one, evoking many of those unforgettable moments that forged my particular San Juan spirit. I stopped, for a time impossible to measure, before each of them trying to recover, by the magic of imagination, some of those memories that are now part of history, at least mine.
How to forget the intimate and evocative bonfires of the old beach platform at the doors of the forgotten Casa de Baños? The first Nights of San Juan I lived intensely in that Corunna corner, looking at the face of the sea of Riazor and feeling watched and also wrapped by the eye of the great stone cyclops. They were nights of the hand of my parents, savoring one by one all the peculiar aromas of my first street nocturnes; nights of great wheels around the fire, singing the old songs inherited from the tradition bequeathed by the elders; nights of poorly disguised nervousness, of great epics, dreams unattainable just when summer knocked on the door.
Then, due to the imperatives of urban development, that fire ceased to burn and we scattered ourselves, looking for another corner where we could pay tribute to the purifying fire in the most magical night of the year.
Suddenly, as if from nowhere, that knowing corner of a thousand unspeakable secrets where we burned, at the moment of beginning to finish our childhood, the first of the fires of our particular history. The course had concluded with full success-perhaps that was the only one that concluded like this-and what better way to use the prize in cash, obtained by such a great feat, than by buying two paper balloons with which to enhance our awakening in the art of organize nights of San Juan.
An old cannon and a wicker cross – which in the end the fire or who knows what, did not want to consume – were the auctions of that original Sanjuanera bonfire. Then, again, the great wheel around that warm and promising pyre burned in holocaust to the summer solstice. In the end, with the sadness of something that goes away, but with the satisfaction of the duty fulfilled, we return to our homes convinced that that night something big was born with a projection in the future.
It’s funny but I keep perfectly stored in my personal trunk of memories the feeling of returning home at the end of our first big night of bonfires. Perhaps there, in that moment of intimate reflection in my nostalgic silence, I realized that that was not going to end that night, the other way around, that that magical first night was going to serve as a portico of many others full of illusion and dreams.
And so, after that toy cannon and that wicker cross that did not know, could not or did not want to burn, other bonfires came and other unforgettable nights of San Juan lived with intensity, shoulder to shoulder with my friends of always.
Over the years, the incipient organization created around our bonfire or who knows what, made us think about the convenience of moving our sanjuanera pyre to a space more in keeping with the pretensions of glory and greatness that we longed for and therefore decided find another enclave, less demure, we found a few meters from the old corner knowing all our secrets and where the fire left forever its indelible mark.
That figure of “the Saint”, a television character in fashion at that time, served as the finishing touch of the first bonfire of our second epoch-the third for me, if I may. Around it all a jubilant explosion of fireworks and wheels of fire that accompanied, of course, the slow and majestic ascent of our now traditional paper balloon to celebrate the awakening of a new hogueril stage.
They were years in which we began timidly to look, almost out of the corner of our eyes, at the imposing fairytale castle that rose defiantly before our naive children’s eyes, with incipient hairs on the legs. Something made us suspect that the time of the ladies in the blue cape and the white hard collar was about to bend the old corner of our secrets, filling all our experiences and becoming characters permanently protagonists of our personal plot.
Time of marbles, plates, bujainas, football, street wars … Everything was chronologically ordered in our particular world of adventures and escapades in the awakening of the first youth. The year was divided-better we divided it-in these periods marked by our more or less bellicose games and, of course, in it, the time of the fires stood out, with impetuous force, over all the others.
The first hairs on the legs gave way to the long trousers and with it, the time of the ladies muffled in blue layers, broke through resolutely and definitively. Maybe that’s why it became necessary his immediate incorporation to the San Juan plot because our lives had been incorporated by the magic of romantic declarations of love, at the beginning of an incipient youthful idyll, before the scrutinizing gaze of a distant Venus.
His presence prompted new airs full of freshness and desire for success. That caused the third period of our bonfires to begin-the fourth in my case, if I am allowed again. And it was precisely at the foot of the old children’s fairytale castle that the first great bonfire of that new stage was burned, as if wanting, with its crackling flames, to illuminate that old mansion, no doubt with the pretense of being able to discover, with our eyes, those that they seemed like great secrets hidden behind their imposing walls.
Many times I wondered if this was the real reason for so much approaching that huge house and maybe the answer is not there, but precisely in that eagerness to make history, in that desire to impress one another and especially to them, that at that time were the most direct responsible for our long nights of sailing and restlessness.
The fact is that, one after the other, the successive bonfires that so many instants of satisfaction produced us, were burned before the attentive gaze of thousands and thousands of people from A Coruña that every San Juan night they met at the foot of the great lumerada, fulfill the annual rite of his encounter with the purifying fire.
Perhaps here, the inherited tradition of the corro that, as a prima dance, interlaced our hands around the bonfire, began to be blurred by demands of respect that we deserved the great pyre. Perhaps this wonderful reunion with each other, with the fire reflected in our faces, began to become history lived in the heat of those impressive bonfires that laid the foundations of the current great night of San Juan.
They were years of nocturnal horseback riding on country cars pulled by couples of blond oxen; of verbenas sanjuaneras with the aroma of saltpeter soaking the faces; of luminous cascades of fireworks reflected on the calm Atlantic waters; of summer dawns in front of the riazoreño sandy area; of serene declarations of love against the background of the smell of burning wood; of beautiful faces of beautiful girls adorned with the grimace of the excited illusion. Unforgettable nights that have been recorded forever in our memories.
How many names of friends; of endearing places; of lived situations; of projects that never saw the light fabrics, with patience, throughout the year on tables of old lost cafes and quiet streets.
How to forget that “camp”, point of obligatory reference of the particular history of our gang, at the foot of the vain pebbles of the shelter of the ghosts. Each evening, with the first shadows of the night, we would go to that place of mystical recollection to chat around a small bonfire of fortune – again the communal fire – of everything human and divine and, of course, of the projects of the next night de San Juan.
It was the moment in which we decided that our time, our particular annual calendar, should be divided only three seasons: that of before bonfires, that of bonfires and that of after bonfires. A chronological conception that still survives in our days and for which we are still governed by those that make possible the night of San Juan de A Coruña.
There were many things that had their origin in those first years of our third hogueril epoch – the fourth of mine, if I am allowed to leave again; the names with which we baptize the most important acts; projects made reality; dreams that remained in the inkwell; so many things, some of which still exist and are an intrinsic part of the San Juan festive fabric.
The years were running slow or fast depending on how you look, the truth is that with them the tradition of bonfire night was consolidated in the city and what, in the mid-60s-the prodigious decade, seemed the epilogue of an old tradition inherited from our elders, became the awakening of the most deeply rooted and endearing of all the festive traditions of A Coruña.
Today, in the fourth epoch of our particular history-my fifth, if I am allowed again-with the bonfire facing the sea of Riazor, like the first one that burned before the old Bath House, observed and sheltered by the bright eye of the great cyclops, the tradition has been recovered and so thousands and thousands of people overflow, every June 23 – that magical echoes simply produces the ennumeration of this date – that wonderful Atlantic balcony that forms our promenade as it passes through the inlet of the Orzán Sea, that magical silver mirror where the whole golden glow of the thousand fires is reflected that rekindles the reveries of the soul and the heart, as our “Meiga Mayor” reads.
The night of San Juan is next again. Today is warm June night, night of bonfire eve, night of magical charm to the wide door illusion. Once again the great sanjuanera night can be guessed by turning the corner, the one that knows so much about our secrets. Again we feel – I feel it at least – as the last-minute nerves grip us; little by little, everything is finalized for that great event in which La Coruna whole intones, in a loud voice, a magical symphony in greater fire, leaning out to its beaches.
Today, more than ever, he has recited, shouting at night, those verses of uncertain origin:
After being stopped em> p>
in your temporary prison, em> p>
come back alive, dressed, em> p>
on dates already known, em> p>
the bonfires of San Juan em> p>
José Eugenio Fernández Barallobre strong>