La Cremá

photo from Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

The culmination of the long Fallas celebration, and of the long year of preparations, is La Cremá, the burning of the torches, or fallas. This began with the setting alight of the infantíls at 10 pm on the night of March 19th (my mom’s birthday–she was interested to hear that millions of people were celebrating on such a large scale for her happy day). Holes were broken into the base of the structure and fireworks placed inside; fireworks on long fuses were wrapped around the ninots. In our neighborhood, papers soaked with gasoline were shoved into crevices. The young fallera and fallero were on hand for the lighting of the fuse that set off another deafening round of explosions, fireworks were lit, operatic music played over loud speakers, and we and our new compañeros settled in to watch the whole thing go up.

A couple of hours later we wandered back to see the main event. The huge Moses falla was set to burn last, in the main plaza, but almost a million people would be trying to get a good spot to watch it, and we’re not crowd people, so we decided to hang out with our barrio. There was a repeat of the same sequence from earlier: banging holes, stuffing in fireworks, unreeling coils of fuse (this stage seemed to go on for a long time). For this one there was also a fireworks show, directly above our heads. I’ve never been so close to fireworks, and after getting a little bit of ash in my eyes, I’m not likely to be that close again. I could feel the thunderings jolting my chest. They say you mustn’t plug your ears, but instead open your mouth–something about the pressure. I’d ask the locals for details, but they might not be able to hear me–I’m sure hearing loss is an occupational hazard in these parts.

While the hymn of Valencia (I think) played on, we watched the three-story structure burn. At this point, I’m not going to be able to conjure the images for you. I’ll just say that the waves of heat coming off her backed us up a few paces even behind the barricades, until near the end.  Neither my description nor el Guapo’s fine pictures can really bring you into the experience, but here is a glimpse.

Up in flames

Up in flames

 

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