When one talks about Valencia one has to talk about Pyrotechnics. No event or festival of any kind takes place in Valencia that does not in some way involve fireworks. A religious or pagan festival, a sporting event, or wedding, whatever it is, it always ends up with a display of fireworks.
The month of March heralds the arrival of the ‘Fallas’ in the City of Valencia and this simply cannot be held without fireworks being involved, the ‘Mascletas,’, ‘Despertas,’ and the ‘Cordas,’ the ‘Castles of Fireworks.’
Wherever you go in the world of people ask you where you are from and when I say: ‘I am from Valencia’ everybody I meet associates the City with its ‘Paella’ and the pyrotechnics.
I will not talk about the stories and accounts others have written, I would like to share with you some of my own reminiscences.
When I was young, I would often be taken to the ‘Mestalla Stadium’ to see Valencia CF play. They were always received with a Valencian Paso Doble and with great Valencian fireworks, and there were fireworks every time they scored.
In every neighborhood party I attended, the pyrotecnicians would always get out their mortars and ‘salvoes.’ They would also shoot their firecrackers, some quite long and powerful. Noon always seemed to reverberate to the sounds of the ‘Mascletas’ being fired in the city, that well harmonized musical composition of noises that vibrate every molecule in your body and which we had to resist with an open mouth. Through the night we would often fire what we call ‘Artifical Fireworks’ such as ‘Fuegos Fijos,’ ‘Palos,’ ‘Ruedas,’ ‘Cohetes Voladores’ and ‘Carcasas.’ Another tradition that is more than 100 years old, perhaps almost 200 years old, when the ‘Traqueros’ prepared the devices to make noise with gunpowder to announce the festival. A chief characteristic of Valencian fireworks are the daytime displays. Very similar to those fired in southern Italy and Sicily where the sound and the cadence of the shots dominates the display. Although there are similar events in southern Italy the Valencian ‘Mascleta’ is an almost unique type of display, the object is to get a rhythm that builds in both speed and volume with a crescendo that holds the emotion of the audience until its finale.
Today many thousands of people go to the main square of the city to watch this spectacle, but we will talk about more this type of pyrotechnic demonstration in the next chapter.
There is another type of firework that is very identifiable with Valencia that is the ‘Traca Valenciana.’ This is made out of many medium sized firecrackers with some occasional larger ‘thunders’ all joined by a ‘Quick Match’ cord, with a final thunder of major power at the end, the ‘Final de Traca.’ Be it a baptism, marriage, communion, family celebration, sport celebration; there is always an
excuse to fire a ‘Traca Valenciana’. During ‘Fallas’ whenever you burn a ‘Falla’, or fire the ‘Mascleta’ there is always a ‘Traca Valenciana’ that precedes it. When the outsiders hear and ‘smell’ it, they identify it with Valencia. The special smell of ‘Traca’ does not pass anybody by.
Other demonstrations are the ‘Cordas’ or rocket fired in one or more streets. But lately the laws make these type of demonstrations have become very complicated.
And finally the Castles of Fireworks.
There is no celebration after sunset, that does not shoot some fireworks, and in this respect, the Valencian pyrotechnicians have an almost unique style. There are very distinct forms of display seen all over the world, very distinct styles such as the Japanese, the Italian and the Portuguese, the Valencian displays also have a very ‘distinct’ way of being fired.
So here in Valencia we have fire good fireworks, but if you want to talk about the most perfect and most viewed spectacle of Valencia, then you have to talk about ‘Nit del Foc’, this has been fired now for more than 70 years during the ‘Fallas week’. Nobody should go to Valencia during the ‘Fallas’ without seeing the ‘Nit del Foc!’
A significant cultural aspect of Valencian pyrotechnics is the family connections. Family is an important aspect of Valencian life, and firework families such as the ‘Caballar’ have played an important part in the social fabric of city life for many years. The business of fireworks permeates all aspects of live as I have already mentioned, it provides employment with most families producing their fireworks in thel factories that have sprung up around the city.
For more than 30 years now in October, we also celebrate another pyrotechnical festival where pyrotechnicians from all over the world come to Valencia to shoot fireworks, the ‘Festival Internacional de Pirotecnia.’
Talking about Valencia is talking about pyrotechnics. There are of course many books and articles that reviewed the history of pyrotechnics in more depth, but what I really want to express in this brief reminiscence is the ‘fusion’ of Valencia and pyrotechnics. We will look at all aspects in more detail in future editions. All readers of this magazine, lovers of fireworks and pyrotechnicians, hopefully now realise that they have to come to Valencia at least once in life to enjoy the fireworks and all the other good things we have in Valencia.