Features » Culture
JUNE PARADES AND BEAUTY QUEENS
By Andy Ormiston / 2010-06-11 13:44:51
Every fiesta has its queen and most towns will have a separate one for each fiesta responsible for representing the women of the town and their beauty. Almost every day during the mid-June fiestas dedicated to San Juan (Baptist) there is some form of parade in some part of Alicante. The fiestas may be in honour of San Juan, but the traditional Flower Offering is made to Nuestra Señora Virgen del Remedio; a procession that also brings in an element of competition as each of the hoguera committees of the various districts vie as to who has the biggest and best flower arrangement.
Thousands of the city’s beauties parade in their colourful costumes carrying flowers to the plaza del Ayuntamiento, where they are built up into a common floral picture in honor of the Virgen. During the San Juan week there are many parades and these would not be fun without the music of local marching bands and one of these accompanies the “Bigheads”, the traditional representatives of Aragon, Castille and the Moors among other personages. These are heavy effigies carried on the shoulders of strong men who work in groups, taking turns under the clothes of the Bigheads. Also the beauty Queens of the Fires take part in the folklore parade sitting on huge floats of imaginative designs such as a brightly coloured peacock. Something to look out for this month is the small hard pears that look a waste of time buying, but are excellent and are called St. John Baptist pears and tied in nicely with the Hogueras.
An important figure in any of the June fiestas is that of the Beauty Queen. The Queen of the Hogueras of Alicante is known as la Bellea del Foc. This title was instituted in 1932 at the suggestion of a Segovian journalist, Mario Guillén, that the town should have a figure to represent the women of the city. In 1961 the brocaded dresses used by the queens and their entourage were introduced by Torrevejense Don Tomas Valcarcel, who was in charge of the steering committee in Alicante for several years. This is not merely a figure of beauty because the Bellea has to be an ambassador for the city, travelling and speaking at other events in Spain and nowadays at an international level. Therefore, it is not just beauty that is required but some brains and ability to speak in public. In 2002 one of the streets of Alicante city was named la Bellea del Foc in honour of this position. The 76th queen has been elected, as there was a break in most fiestas at the time of the 1936-39 civil war. Nowadays the election of these queens is accompanied by a large spectacular concert, usually held in May where the candidates’ parade, wearing not only the traditional colourful Alicante fiesta dress, but also in beautiful gala evening dresses. Aspirant queens are grilled by judges to ensure that they fit the tough requirements that include not only beauty, but intelligence, the ability to express themselves and talk in public, general knowledge, future career aspirations and are taken to another town where judges will interview each one before deciding on the final Beauty Queen and her Dames of Honour.
Each hoguera has its own queen and dames of honour elected, including many for children. These local beauties are important figures in the life of each of the districts and they dress in the beautiful traditional dress of the Alicante ladies of the past. But it is not only the Queens who dress up, a fiesta is an occasion for all the ladies to bring out lovely classic costumes and the men also use the occasion to put on their traditional glad rags. As from 2008, the regulations in choosing a Bellea were altered so that women of any age above 18 could be picked, as well as permitting a transvestite to be chosen in line with the national Law of Equality.
Almost every traditional fiesta has its own type of music and the Alicante Hogueras Queen has music dedicated to her. This is the “Himno a la Bellea del Foc” written by Luis Torregrosa with words by José Ferrándiz Torremocha, first heard in the Plaza de Toros, Alicante on 22nd June 1933. Although it is considered a great honour to be the Fire Queen one of the saddest functions is to press the button that sets off the final computerized fireworks that ignites the hoguera and tearfully see something so beautiful destroyed in the flames.
It may be that in the present financial crunch there will be less crackers around, firecrackers that is, the political ones are with you always.
Tags: Fiesta, San Juan