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Santa Tecla diary 2013 – day seven


Forgive the blur and this hastily written entry. We are now entering the weekend epicenter of Santa Tecla in Tarragona, one in which  the saintly and the sacrilege head in to full collision.

Move back 24 four hours and go to Plaça de la Font where a gigantic roll filled with chocolate and vanilla cream is cut in to portion for the thousand waiting to have a taste of the Pastìs de Barç de Santa Tecla. The cake is freely distributed and there is a bit of cheating going on with people walking off with far more than their allocated portion.

But the real focal point is on the Rambla where hundreds of little devils are waiting for take off. It´s the Correfoc Petit, a faithful reenactment of the adult Correfoc where everything is petit:  we have the Ball de Diables Petit, the Drac (dragon) Petit, the Bou (bull) Petit, La Vibrieta and invited guest, also petis, from Sant Pere de Ribes , the Pobla de Mafumet and Altafulla.

For those not accustomed to the  real Correfoc, this is a gentle introduction where the hand held fireworks are much tamer, yet still quite spectacular. Hundreds of  kids scuttle about, hiding under their straw hats and print ahead for the next shower of fire. It ends at the Balcó del Mediterranei where children crane their neck to get a last glimpse of the spectacular petit parade.

Back on to holy ground inside the Cathedral of Tarragona where the Retaule de Santa Tecla is just about to take place. It´s an airy, idiosyncratic representation of the life and glorification of Santa Tecla, the patroness of Tarragona. Choreographed by Jaume Guash with the music of Francesc Cassú, the Retaule the Retaule has a Romanesque visual flatness reminiscent of ancient relief sculpture panels.  It transcends time and concludes with the glorification of the saint in an almost abstract manner.

Not one hour has passed and just outside, on the foot of the staircase leading to the cathedral an unspecified large number of flares are being stashed up for the mother of all Ball de Diables. This is the Caretillada extraordinària del Ball de Diables, a gigantic and unique flare display the like of which will not be repeated for sometime.  The steps are full of diables worshipers,  and die hard straw hut wearing revelers are ready to jump in to the fire. And so it starts.

I can honestly attest that I have never seen anything like this, this human explosion which almost seems eternal and seems to have set alight the whole city. Round and round again the diables run, turning around like some demonic mystics. There is so much heat and sparks and ash that the large crowd retreats, the embers burning holes in to anything they can get. Welcome to the gateway to hell, something that has escaped form  a painting from Hieronymus Bosch and has come to reap our souls.  For this is the Ball de Diables de Tarragona and nothing will ever be the same again.

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