The Saint John Bonfires in Alicante
The Saint John Bonfires of Alicante are often taken as the “little sisters” of the Fallas of Valencia. In fact, many people declare that, if you can’t see Valencia’s feast, you’ll always have Alicante’s.
A quick information search can make us believe that the Bonfires’ celebration is something like a summer version of the Fallas: there is also a “plantá” during which the statues that will burn are displayed on the streets, every day there’s a fireworks show, also called “mascletá”, and there also is a floral offering to the Virgin, and on the “cremá” night all the statues burn as well.
Nonetheless, the celebration taking place on June 24th deserves a bit more of our attention to examine the details that make it unique and completely different. In general terms -and may those who feel offended be able to forgive us- we could say that while the Fallas have a satiric intention, the Alicante Bonfires represent the “art for the sake of it”.
We aren’t exaggerating: the first Bonfires were burnt back in 1928, the time when modernism or “art nouveau” was at its peak. This artistic school wanted to take beauty to the everyday life, and democratize art (we all remember Alfons Mucha’s work). The Bonfires took elements of this art, from its elegant and sinuous lines to the philosophy that the aesthetic was more important than the significance. When we see the statues that will burn in the fire we can confirm its purely artistic sensuality.
The artists that devote themselves to the Bonfires insist on that their job is freer than the “fallero” artist’s: they can let loose their creativity and challenge themselves with complicated and baroque forms. Their sculptures don’t need to deal with certain topics, and the intention of mockery stays in the background: what’s important is the challenge of building something beautiful, or even excessive. We insist: the art for the sake of the art.
Another funny detail is colour: the Bonfires are more discreet in this aspect. If we compare them with the Fallas we’ll see that the latter present more vibrant colours, while the former are coloured in a softer way. Could it be an unconscious distinguishing feature? The answer is much simpler: the light is stronger in the summer, so the same colourist effect can be obtained with less intense tones.
Lastly, we want to remark an aspect which, even though it’s in direct relation with the celebration, is sometimes unnoticed: the importance of the “ninot”. While in the Fallas of Valencia the character is the main element, in the Bonfires they’re not so significant. We can even find some without any figures in it, just a nicely decorated stage.
There are many more subtle differences that the visitor will discover as soon as he arrives to Alicante on Saint John’s night. Of course, we recommend assisting to both the Fallas and the Bonfires. But remember we are in June now… and it’s time for enjoyment and -why not- suffering a bit with the burning of the monuments. This time we can say that, even they happen every year, the Bonfires are a unique spectacle.