If on so many occasions we have alluded to the fact that the initiation in the sanjuanera pyromania rite took place in that nice and endearing bonfire that the children of Rubine and Avda. de Buenos Aires It burned in front of the old Riazor Bath House, it is no less true that the revalidation in this initiation rite was overcome in those magical bonfires that the children of Fernando Macías planted, every night of San Juan, on the esplanade of Paseo de Ronda, opposite to the graceful building of Torre Coruña, pompously titled as a “skyscraper” in a Coruña that struggled to enter the stream of modern cities.
The first of those bonfires, which in some way constitute the origins of the current Noite da Queima, we burned on the night of June 23-24, 1962. The night of that Saturday of High June, a group of children from A Coruña began, without knowing it, to write one of the most beautiful pages of the playful-festive history of our beloved Marineda.
However, all that had a few prolegomena. I remember that the previous year had burned what would be the last bonfire of Rubine’s chiquillería; shortly after that June 1961 we saw, with great despair, how the picket ended with the Dorrego Bath House and in its place, including the previous esplanade, the unsightly mass began to rise that even today gives the final number to even numbers of Rubine street just before looking out onto Riazor beach.
With such a perspective we soon realized that, in the absence of another site that did not exist, the continuity of Rubine’s bonfire was completely unfeasible and that that bonfire of 1961 It would be the one that put an end to the San Juan tradition of that street.
Perhaps because of having ignited in me the spark of the beautiful hogueril tradition or because I already noticed, something quite unlikely, that the night of San Juan was going to mark a good part of me life, the fact is that from that moment I started a personal campaign, as a crusade, to get the gang of Fernando Macías and its surroundings to support the idea of burning a bonfire on the following night in San Juan.
My connection with Fernando Macías street was given by the fact that I was born there and lived there with my parents and therefore constituted, in a natural way, my environment. gangs and games; However, the link that linked me to Avda. de Rubine was because it was the street where my maternal grandmother resided and therefore a daily visitation place for my mother whom I accompanied.
Although Fernando Macías as such did not burn any bonfire on the night of the lumerated, mainly because he did not have a place to plant it, if it is true that the surrounding streets celebrated for everything stop the night of San Juan planting bonfires at the confluence of Rey Abdullah with C Street, today Pérez Cepeda; lower area of the Plaza del Maestro Mateo; wide street of Paseo de Ronda and Calvo Sotelo, in front of the Colegio de la Compañía de María. An offer more than enough to satisfy adults and children, especially these, residents in the set of streets that surrounded Fernando Macías.
However, all that, as well as the fact that the San Juan tradition was perfectly consolidated in the area, were sufficient reasons to dissuade me from wanting to include a new bonfire in the homely panoply of those streets.
After the first attempts at the end of May, the traditional date of the beginning of gathering wood for the bonfire, all of them frustrated by the reluctance of my friends to join the project, I did not give up in the effort and thus one sunny afternoon in the second decade of June I decided to give the final assault.
The school holidays had already started. Most of us had successfully passed the entrance exams in the Baccalaureate and this allowed us to go every morning and every afternoon, with the permission of the weather, to our particular corner of Riazor beach to immerse ourselves in games and first-rate baths. summer.
That afternoon I had previously visited my grandmother’s house and after the visit, perhaps to reward my approval, that wonderful woman dressed in black had given me a not inconsiderable amount of five dollars, 25 pesetas of the time, in order to satisfy some of my many childhood whims. With that 25 pesetas bill in my pocket, I ran to the beach to meet my fellow gang members.
There they were, as every afternoon, Ovidio García, Carlitos Vallo, José Mª Barcala, Luis Moreno, the Manolin brothers and Luisín and Pepe Tomé, to whom I once again proposed my expensive project the next San Juan. As in some of them I continued to notice notable reluctance I had no choice but to try to “buy” their wills and thus, taking advantage of the 25 pesetas gift from my grandmother, I offered to treat each one of those who supported my idea to an ice cream. . That offer acted as a magical key that opens the treasure chest and a “if we do the bonfire” was the clamorous response to my invitation that had as its epilogue the obligatory visit to the “La Jijonenca” Ice Cream Parlor, which opened its doors in one of the the last houses of Avda. de Rubine, where everyone tasted an ice cream, no doubt to the health of my grandmother, who in the end turned out to be the sponsor of the initiative.
Once the reluctance had expired and with the green light for the project, there was nothing left but to look for the ideal site for the location of the bonfire and that emerged that same afternoon when we decided that the site more Appropriate could be in the wide street of Paseo de Ronda in front of the Torre Coruña building, sharing space with another bonfire, of very few pretensions, that planted the kids from that street.
Another serious logistical problem that arose almost immediately was deciding where to hide the collected wood, safe from possible “hand blows” by a neighboring bonfire. The thing generated serious problems and for a few days it brought us headlong.
He remembered that Rubine’s kids kept the wood, both the one they collected through donations, and the one they obtained after risky raids for nearby construction works, in the corralón no. 13-15 from the street; There, the wood and junk obtained awaited the arrival of the night of June 23, carefully watched by the inquisitive gaze of one of the organizers who lived in the buildings that overlooked that corralón. However, such a place was immediately ruled out as it did not have the assistance of any of those children, so it occurred to me to turn to my grandmother again and ask her permission to use, as a possible storage, an old coal bunker that she owned in the attic of his house. With the pertinent permission granted, the collection of firewood for the burning began soon, which began to be deposited in the old coal bunker, safe from the greed of the kids from other bonfires.
The days went by and I soon noticed in each and every one of my friends that the illusion that they had not shown at the beginning now appeared in spurts just by looking at their faces; In the end, we had committed ourselves to a company that produced a special attraction for all of us.
Having approved the entrance to the Baccalaureate, a milestone in our ten years, logically brought with it the corresponding paternal gift for such a scholastic feat. It was not a more or less ostentatious gift like any of the ones we received for Reyes or on our Saint’s day, it was simply a small gift to remind us that any effort has its reward. In this sense, some asked their parents for the money they needed to spend an afternoon at the “Electronic Brain”, a game room with arcade machines that was on Calle de los Olmos; others for the purchase of a book or a vinyl record of the fashionable singers and I, however, asked him to buy me two paper balloons, worth 50 pts., to launch the night of San Juan as a complement to our bonfire.
So it was, my father gladly gave me the money needed to buy the two aerostats that I verified in a long-time A Coruña store, now defunct, “Noah’s Ark ”, Located in the wide street of San Andrés. I was accompanied by my friend Ovidio García who, emulating my request and for the same reason, got his father to also contribute the money necessary for the purchase of a third balloon.
Little by little the preparations were finalized and the days slid by dizzyingly until we reached the always longed-for June 23, a date that, from that moment, we have highlighted in red on our calendars personal. Nerves were making an appearance as the day of cars drew closer and closer to us.
The morning of that day dawned radiant, the sun of the newly released summer was shining brightly, which presaged a magnificent night. I had not slept all night, the desire for dawn as soon as possible, comparable only to what I felt on Twelfth Night, allowed me to listen, one by one, all the hours and a half marked punctually and with repetition by the chime from the living room of my parents’ house. As soon as I could, I got up, stirred up by the noise of the firecrackers that the kids exploded, and after the obligatory personal hygiene I went out into the street in search of my friends. There were not too many hours left until nightfall, and the work we still had to do was a lot.
Immediately after looking for the exact place where we were going to plant our bonfire, as if it were a parade of ants, the racking of wood, old junk and all kinds of junk began that we had been piling up in my grandmother’s coal bunker. We do not forget to stop by Don Juan’s carpentry factory, in Carrer de Rubine, where both he and his son Xanete allowed us to collect a good amount of wood cuttings and sawdust that were used to place as the base of the pyre for their better cremation.
Don Juan has been one of those generous men who in a loving and selfless way was always willing to collaborate with us at the beginning of our San Juan adventures. One of those men to remember and to whom the Bonfires Promoting Commission owes a debt of gratitude.
After completing the transfer of the wood we begin to prepare the pyre. The first thing was to drive the main or central pole into the ground, the axis of the whole bonfire, and once this was done we distributed the firewood and old junk around it until we presented our first San Juan lumerada before the excited gaze of all the that we had taken part in her gestation.
One last detail remained. We had to finish off the bonfire in some way and in the absence of a doll or doll to place, José Mª Barcala thought about the possibility of burning an old wooden cannon that he had in his house. He ran to look for it and immediately secured it to the top of the main mast, being placed obliquely with it. In spite of everything, there was still something missing with which to really finish the pyre. I cannot specify who, but someone came up with the idea of placing the cross that joined the legs of an old wicker chair that was going to be burned at the stake. In this way, the resulting image evoked a cannon that defended or protected a cross. The final result seemed very aesthetic and in this way the bonfire was ready to be burned.
Throughout the afternoon and night we distributed shifts of guard to watch over the bonfire to avoid any kind of surprise and thus we waited for the night to take over the city that was already preparing to live a new night of San Juan.
At the scheduled time, twelve o’clock on the day of San Juan, accompanied by our parents and some neighbors and onlookers, we raised the three paper balloons to the sky before the expectation of the audience that applauded the good work of our entire gang. Finally we lit the bonfire and after dancing around it, bound by our hands, we waited for the flames to lose intensity to start the ritual jumps that we culminated with success. Then, after the usual hugs to congratulate us on the mission accomplished, we returned home hand in hand with our parents dreaming of new nights of bonfires that were already coming soon.
I remember that I went along with my parents and my brother Calín, a five-year-old boy, with José Mª Barcala and his parents. During the short journey to my front door, we kept making plans for the next edition that, for some strange reason, we already wanted to start preparing.
The bed welcomed us benevolent and restorative and the dream surprised us immediately, moving us to a universe of projects in which new nights of San Juan shone with their own light.
The next morning José Mª Barcala, Carlitos Vallo and I returned to the wide street of Paseo de Ronda to reflect around the embers of our first bonfire and there the inexplicable arose, In the middle of the ashes, practically intact, was the wicker cross that had refused to burn. We looked at each other in surprise without knowing very well what to say or what to do and that indecision prevented us from saving for posterity that wicker cross that, for some reason that we do not know and that is beyond all logic, did not want to be burned. p>
Thus began our San Juan epic that lasted over time, finally achieving that San Juan Coruñés was declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest.
Eugenio Fernández Barallobre.