The second Saturday of Santa Tecla starts at a gentle pace in Plaça del Rei where thousand queue up for the magic combo of one coffee, a shot of Chartreuse and a cigar, a yearly habit which is known as Cafè, copa i puro per un duro.
The Orquestra Tràffic plays 80’s from the stand and all around them are people, cigars and chartreuse. Had it not been for the fact that the production of Chartreuse was located in Tarragona from 1903 to 1989, this intrinsic local devotion to this drink would have never taken root. But it has, and during Santa Tecla, the liquor flows through the arteries of the old town like a magic yellow river. This blogger was rescued from queue going down all the way to the Baixata de la Peixateria by the affable patron of El Cortijo who appeared like a magic genie with a plastic cup which he promptly filled with “the real” Chartreuse, “the best stuff” he whispered before vanishing back in to the crowd.
But there was barely time to put ones feet up as the Toc de Pregó in Plaça de la Font was about to start. After the presentation by Dr. Joan Martí i Castells blasted though loudspeakers the daylight firework began bombarding the sky of Tarragona once again with a barrage of rockets and flares for a good ten minutes.
Once this was over the Arrencada dels Gegant got in to motion to the delight of thousand of children. The joy is contagious because this is not one stiff parade but one in which the giants interact with their little public breaking out in little dances, shaking their hands, showering them with jets of water. It includes giant of all shape and sizes, old classic giants with every detail and hair strand in place, and new casual giants with a more hurried and casual look!
As the last giant made it back to Plaça de la Font we headed to the stairs of the Cathedral, an area which would be swallowed by tens of thousand of people in two hours time for what is known as La Baixada de l’Âliga (the decent of the eagle), the most anarchic, gigantic crowd gathering event of the whole of Santa Tecla. (cont. below)
La Baixada del Àliga
Midnight rings and from the top of the stairs of the Cathedral the Àliga is perched, ready to be lowered in to the enormous raving crowd. It is a heart stopping moment, one which would give an instant heart attach to any safety officer which is something that, thankfully, does not seem to exist here. The Tradi Band, the kind of brass band which would have definitely kept the Titanic afloat, launches in to the immortal tunes of Amparito Roca and down we go, step by step, the crowd parting in biblical style.
We arrive at the bottom and there is an immense push from the revelers surging forward only held back by a cordon of of men and girls from the Ball de Diables and the team of the Àliga. Bodies are pushing everywhere like a gigantic organic force, it pushes back, it pushes forward, it exhales the breath of thousands, happy, inebriated, excited, people wanting to see and touch the Àliga, wanting to get close. The bouncers keep their feet firmly rooted to the ground as we move forwards inch by inch. It´s the most dangerous event of Santa Tecla but also one of the most exhilarating. The Àliga, is followed by the two old giants, the Lion, the mule and the Moorish Giants. all adorned in satirical, political messages.
Every so often the chant for independence breaks out “In… Inde… Independència!!” and the Tradi Band plays on, swaying from step to step till we reach the far end of Plaça del Rei. It´s an enormous, exhausting relief of having made it all in one piece although one of the female bouncers has fainted and is getting medical attention.
Eventually the anarchic procession sets forward again arriving at full to burst Plaça de la Font at 02:30. The Àliga has finally landed.