A pompous name that we gave, back in the early 60s, to a small space, between tall bushes, on the still undeveloped road to Los Puentes, where we would go many afternoons of good weather to make a sharing of the tribulations of our child gang.
It was a small space that was hidden behind the vegetation and that allowed us a certain privacy, oblivious to the gaze of curious, in our long evening deliberations in the light, almost always, of a small fire that illuminated our faces.
I suppose that we “took possession” of that space around 1962 after celebrating our communal first night of San Juan, which served as a unifying element for the entire gang; That bonfire planted on the night of June 23 of that year was the best stimulus to become a true group of friends where any project, no matter how daring it seemed, had a place.
Obviously we were waiting for the arrival of May or even June to attend, many evenings, to this place that soon became a kind of particular “sancta sanctorum”. With the arrival of good weather, when the rains and the winter cold were just a memory, we made a pilgrimage to this small redoubt just at dusk when the material lack of light forced us to end our endless soccer match that began at least a couple of hours before.
Our camp, that’s what we liked to call it, was a small space that we frequented during vacation time or on those weekends when school obligations allowed us to have a few hours off to be able to enjoy them together with our friends.
It was a place full of magic and a special mystique. Sitting on a kind of terrace that extended briefly between tall bushes, we gathered any type of material that would serve to plant a small fire and around it, with the flames illuminating our childish faces, we debated everything divine and human.
The seven or eight regulars of our gang of friends attended to talk both about our love dreams, those whose only protagonist was our particular lady with a blue cape and white hard neck, as well as about our next Bonfire of San Juan that, by a stranger reason, we always guessed next.
There, hostilities broke out many times with any of the gangs in our neighboring streets, which used to lead to a “war” that, in most cases, we ended up losing, not for lack of aggressiveness and courage, but for being, almost always less in number.
We even worked on large projects such as that one, which did not come to fruition, to build a kind of wooden “war chariot” with embrasures, fitted with bearings and with a very peculiar driving system, with which to be able to attack the enemy gangs with less risk for us. Their plans were presented there, although finally its construction was not viable.
The camp was, without a doubt, our private agora where any debate had a place. We all had our opinions and in the end, reaching a conclusion or not, we returned home convinced that we had contributed our grain of sand for the best march of our gang of friends.
There, around that endearing and friendly fire, for example, the great rocket was forged, which hardly cost us a serious displeasure, with which to improve our San Juan staging. For days we talked about the matter convinced that if the first experiment carried out on a small scale had generated great expectations, a much larger one would lead us to glory as accomplished pyrotechnics. In the end it was not like that and thanks to the always permanent presence of the Holy Guardian Angel, my Patron, a full-blown misfortune was avoided.
It is very possible that it was in our camp that we spoke, for the first time, of our beloved “Lepanto”, that newsletter of the gang that saw the light on two or three occasions and left such good memories between us. Certainly “Lepanto” was an autumn project for months in which inclement weather prevented us from playing on the street; However, like any good project, it must have been born from our “high-flying” debates during the summer season and those always had our camp as the setting.
What is certain is that there, in the light of those camp fires, many of our San Juan nights were forged. There we review what has been done each year, making a kind of “critical judgment” on each of the completed editions and sketching ideas and projects for future editions.
Our camp lasted what our childhood, becoming another important milestone in our socialization. Surrounded by tall bushes, with the shadows of the stone openings of the eighteenth aqueduct as a magical backdrop, ideas and projects were presented, which were then debated and finally voted on. Some crystallized into a positive thing, others stayed only in that, in projects.
The girls of the Company of Mary, our eternal mantra for those years of awakening to youth; the soccer team from our street that dressed, of course, in the colors of our beloved Deportivo; the great worries and transcendental concerns that brought us headlong by those calends and, of course, our Bonfire of San Juan, were some of the topics debated with the greatest assiduity in the heat of those small camp fires in our sacred enclosure.
One fine day, as we did every evening, we returned home, but this time it was never to return to our camp where a good part of our innocence remained. We had grown up, we had stopped being children, and this forced us to look for other spaces where we could tell the lady of our dreams those secrets so jealously guarded or simply gather our gang of friends to concoct the following night of San Juan.
Today, our camp is just a memory. The area has become urbanized and nothing remains of that bucolic space that made us dream so many times in our childhood, dreams of glory that in some cases came true. Our camp is gone, but we have an indelible memory of it linked to our unforgettable and wonderful childhood.
José Eugenio Fernández Barallobre.