‘The Corda’ has for many years been the way people from the Valencian region of Spain have enjoyed their gunpowder, but above all, it is the way to honor someone else. Its practice has been in existence since about 1814 and is usually attributed to the population of its creation the ‘Bétera’ ritual fire.
The device that is used in ‘The Corda’ can really only be described as a rudderless rocket, a rocket without a stick if you like. During the devices performance, its path will always be erratic and unpredictable. There are many differing sized devices used in a ‘Corda,’ the main difference is the amount of ‘stops’ or ‘breaks’ they perform in their flight time. Typically there are four ‘stops’ larger ones have six stops. These devices are called a ‘Coetot.’
The rockets were often given to a person, a family member, or a friend, taking it is a matter of honor, to have received it a special gesture and an offering to manhood.
The event known as ‘Corda,’ has had very big developments in recent times, although gradually and increasingly, there are many people that are trying to get back to basics.
In the beginning, there were less rockets fired in a ‘Corda,’ although most now agree the increase in the amount used has been a clear sign of economic prosperity. The rockets in the street are arranged differently depending on the population, in ‘Bétera,’ for example all the rockets hang on a rope, running the entire street, with performance similar to a traditional Spanish fireworks display, it started slowly increasingly dropping more and more devices, the pace then quickens until fire completely fills the street in the last minute. The method used most consisted of a kind of car running down a rope in which rockets were placed with a retention to each other, this created a delay between the fall of one rocket and the next, this is called a ‘Freckle,’ with ‘the car’ what was achieved was the fire spread throughout the path of the rope, leaving no corner of the street the possibility of not enjoying the flight of a rocket. Finally, the method used in the town of ‘Bocairent’ and remains in use to this day today is the ‘Cane’ which is nothing more than a great bar carried by four people and which holds no less than 600 erratic rockets, these people walk the streets of the historic center of the town during the ‘Corda’ carrying the ‘Cane’ bringing fire to every street corner or square, it is completely frantic.
Slowly as Spanish society has progressed, and with industrialisation came big business and thus the economic power of some families has increased greatly, this wealth has revealed itself in the size of the festivities, nearly all people are now out on the street, the best known case of this increase size of festivities is in ‘Paterna,’ the best known of all the ‘Cordas.’
Wanting to have many rockets available during the shooting of ‘Corda,’ began to be very dangerous, people were carrying bags or sacks of rockets, which often resulted in a mass ignition. Because of the amount of sparks created a device was invented which is now known as ‘drawer corda,’ a wooden box with a sliding lid. Used with great skill by the rocketeers it is opened and closed quickly so not to get filled with fire, the box is strategically placed in a particular part of a street to provide most coverage, this method is now the most widespread since the latter part of the Twentieth Century, but as was mentioned earlier, there is a growing number of people trying to recover part of if not all of the use of ‘the car,’ in ‘the Corda.’
Today there are many regions that perform ‘The Corda,’ those already named are Bétera, Paternal or Bocairent, but you can also add to this list Burjassot, Montserrat, Swedish, Picanya, Museros, Pedreguer, Villar Archbishop, XERACO, Xeresa, Riola, Alaquas, Aldaia, Benicarló, and a number of others.
This is the case with the population of Xirivella, which in October 2012 created the ‘Coeters’ association Xirivella, of which I am a founding member. This was set up with an idea to restore ‘the corda’ to the town which had not celebrated the festival for more than 20 years due to the unwarranted fear and suspicion of many people about this kind of show.
In September 2013 we achieved our goal and on the night of the 8th September recovered our ‘Corda,’ rocket carrying being the offering to our elders and returning this tradition our people.