HOGUERA (oh-gueh-rah): Large fire that lifts a lot of flame and is made of easily combusible material, usually outdoors.
June is one of the most important months for people in Alicante. Not only because summer begins, (even if, in practice, summer started a looong ago), and students finish classes, but also because it is Hogueras season! If you live in Costa Blanca, you have probably heard from them; locals prepare with a year in advance and look forward to them all year round. But, have you ever wondered why are these bonfires so important in Alicante and what’s their history?
First, you should know that people in Alicante and Valencia are known for their passion for fireworks and fire. According to the story, this tradition of burning old things to give space to new things was originated among farmers in the city surroundings and was gradually extended to the city center. It was in 1822 when the mayor of Alicante, upset at this situation, published a list of of people that lit up bonfires on the street, declaring them disobedient citizens. This list stated that people who light bonfires in the street or fire rockets on the night of San Juan would be sanctioned with a fine of 20 to 100 reales. However, the major didn’t expect that this prohibition would do nothing but increasing the curiosity of citizens for this celebration, which happened year after year even if it was illegal (you know Spanish people may be stubborn sometimes).
The subsequent years in the history of the Hogueras are marked by a strong confrontation between civilians and authorities, as well as confrontation between the wealthy classes and the poorer ones. All of these disputes finished in 1928, when José María Py (strong defender of the tradition of Hogueras) declared before the authorities that the traditional character of the bonfires should have as much importance Valencian Fallas. He argued that this type of party could attract tourism to the city and that therefore there was no reason to prohibit them. This same year the first legal bonfires were held and the success was remarkable, since more than a hundred thousand people witnessed them. From that year, Hogueras were established as a local festival and in 1932 the figure of the Bellea del Foc (Beauty of Fire) emerged as the official representative of the parties that was chosen among the girls from the city.
As you can see, we take celebrations seriously in Alicante. Now days, Hogueras are celebrated during 19-24 of June every year and locals build figures called “ninots”. These plastic figures denounce a reality of the current socio-political context, for example, unemployment, feminism, corruption or even monarchy. The tradition indicates that ninots should be placed in the city during the first days (this day is called “La plantá”, and then burned the last day ( this day is called: “La Cremá”). Even if for locals this is quite normal, it is a bit sad that this figures are burned, given the fact that it takes a whole year to design them. However, there is always a lucky one, the “Ninot Indultat”, which is saved from burning and has a especial place in the cities Museum of Hogueras.
Every day from June 15th to June 24th the “Macletá” takes place in Plaza Luceros in the city center of Alicante. The Mascletá is a series of fireworks that last for about 20 minutes every day. Each day, a different firework specialist is in charge of delighting the public with their fireworks and all of them compete for the best Mascletá of the year. Things like the time, rhythm and the sensations transmitted to the public are given a grade and the winner is decided at the end of the holidays.
In order for you to enjoy Hogueras in the Spanish way, Home Genie has come up with a list of insider tips:
- Try to do as much as you can in the morning before 14:00, given that after the Mascletá, many shops will likely be closed.
- Before the Mascletá starts, everyone should scream “Senyor pirotècnic, pot començar la mascletà‘. (“Mister pyrotechinician, the mascletá can start!”)
- If you want to see the Mascletá, try to get there early, as it gets very busy right around 13:00 hrs.
- If you want to live the experience to the fullest, you can also bring a couple of snacks and drinks while you wait for the fireworks.
- Bring a hat since the sun is the strongest at 14:00.
- Avoid the Mascletá if you have heart problems, as fireworks my increase your cardiac rhythm.
- We recommend you to get some earplugs while you get used to all the fire and noise.
- Enjoy Spanish way of celebrating!
More information about the Hogueras program here: https://hogueras.com/fogueres/mascleta/
If you want to check the Museum of Hogueras, here is the address: Rambla Méndez Núñez, 29, 03002 Alicante (Alicante), Alicante.
The Home Genie Team