VALENCIA, Spain – The foundations of Valencia’s Plaza del Ayuntamiento shook and reverberated on Saturday as a massive, rhythmic, barrage of sound deafened the ears of untold thousands of revelers during the so-called Mascleta, (a masclet is a very loud Valencian firecracker) tied and fuzed with thousands of others firecrackers to create a long, explosive and noisy daytime pyrotechnic extravaganza.
The Mascleta of this Saturday’s “Dia Grande” (Big Day) heralds Sunday night’s incredible “Nit del Foc” (Night of Fire) which will bring together firecrackers, fireworks, fire castles and ninot (massive street-art Papier-mâché sculptures) bonfires all over the Mediterranean city.
The Fallas have been listed on the UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity since Nov. 30, 2016.
The Pyrotechnical experts of Reyes Marti from Burriana (Castellon) arrived this year to Valencia with the intention of “Cracking up the (Town Hall) square” on Saturday and according to the collective reaction, of a very demanding public watching the spectacle, it was a booming success.
Marti, a gunpowder master and top pyrotechnical manufacturer, had previously stated that “on the 18th (of March) you can’t arrive with just a 100-kilo Mascleta,” so this year he came with 210 kilos of some very noisy firecrackers.
However, Saturday’s Mascleta is only a teaser of what Sunday night’s “Nit del Foc” holds in store: a pyrotechnical symphony that in 18 minutes will blow-away 1.2 tons of gunpowder.
Saturday’s explosive light and sound event began with a colorful, rhythmic thunder, which according to Marti was “to savor the Mascleta’s beginning before the arrival of a big heap of sound,” a powerful 35 second finale, as powerful as its beginning: “we wanted to save the ‘roof collapsing on the square’ for the grand finale.”
The Mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribo, was present for the lighting of the first firecracker and according to Marti, he looked “Surprised, excited, but not scared,” although adding that the Mayor told him he would have been “unable to remain there without ear protectors.”
The town hall balcony overlooking the square where the Mascleta takes place included the presence of the “Fallera Mayor” (Queen) of Valencia plus the “Queens” of Murcia and Burgos and the “Falleras” of the Valencian Regional Houses of Mendoza (Argentine) and Montpellier (France), as well as the representative of the Belleas del Foc (Fire Beauties) of Alicante (Spain).
A “Fallera” is a woman who has been selected by a jury to attend the Fallas events as city representatives, and later become PR ambassadors of the Valencian Fallas, outside the city, until next year’s election of the “Fallera Mayor” and her court of Honor.
On Saturday, for example, the “Falleras” watched the Mascleta from Valencia’s Town Hall balcony.
There are other “Falleras” in the children and youngster categories.
However, it is worth giving foreign visitors and tourists a word of caution regarding this truly impressive event.
Although there are safety and health regulations related to the Mascleta, to avoid punched eardrums, burns or physical injury, and a lot of thought is given to possible safety hazards, the Spanish Red Cross informed that in the course of Saturday’s Mascleta, 128 people were treated: 106 for heat stroke, two treated for burns, four by objects (spent firecrackers) hitting their eyes and five treated for diverse injuries, although none required evacuating to a hospital.
According to the 97 percent hotel occupation rate on Saturday in Valencia, this (minor) risk seems well worth all the gunpowder and rolling thunder spectacle of the Fallas.