The Women’s Tuna of the University of León has passed its final test this Saturday to become the first group of women to compete in a National Circuit of University and District Tunas of Spain, something like a competition league for tunas. The city of Astorga has been the scene of a prickly pear contest where they acted as organizers, the last step for its official admission. Only his official candidacy already caused a tuna from a Madrid university to leave the circuit, but they did not give up. Because talking about the prickly pear, they recognize, is talking about a world of men and chauvinists.
Female tunas in Spain date back at least three decades but throughout all these years none has entered an official circuit. They are called to participate, as guests, in contests but the last step has not yet taken place at this point in the 21st century. The female tuna of León is recent, dating from 2013, and has 18 members and throughout Spain there are twenty female groups.
Patricia ‘Dalton’, Paula ‘Picolín’ and Alba ‘Chanclas’, founders and first members of la tuna, assume that their hobby takes place in a very macho environment. “It’s a very macho world, flat out,” explains ‘Chanclas’, pointing out that “society continues to be macho.” ‘Dalton’ points out that when they considered setting up the prickly pear, they first tried to target the already existing male one and the answer was “you can’t because you are women”. Finally they chose to set up their own, sponsored by the male one. Although in their constitution they suffered the first machismo, having to be called ‘feminine’ when the masculine one does not have it.
“Because of being a woman, if you want to, you have to find your life and start from scratch, and put up with quite heavy things,” says ‘Dalton’. And is it worth entering and fighting in such a macho world? “Yes”, the three rogues answer flatly. “Today the vast majority of tunos in Spain, especially young people, have accepted that there are female tunas, and there are more and more,” says Dalton.
The Astorga de tunas contest has also had changes such as the fact that the groups of male participating tunos have been put around a man, a history of music and deceased, when the usual thing is that they go around a woman, the godmother.
Can participating in habitually masculine codes whiten this world that is so macho? Dalton explains that there are many people around him who have asked him why he gets involved in a world like that of prickly pears and he has been in a position to defend it, “like the prickly pear that I understand, but it is not whitewashing but it is true that a guy is not asked why he is in the prickly pear”.
Alba ‘Chanclas’ recognizes that entering the Circuit would be a milestone and that the previous internal controversy, including a schism, has been closed, “they are interested in us entering to avoid that dandruff view of the prickly pear”. And it is that public policies have also forced, they explain, that in many of the prickly pear contests there must be the presence of prickly pears with female components, “some do not want female prickly pears to go but they have forced them to have a presence”. “This gap has been made by women from many fields and the female tunas who have gone before us and we are here to defend it,” she clarifies.
The associated idea of tuno and macho world is not exclusively for men, since there have also been cases of women who tell them that “that is for men”. “Sexism is not just a men’s thing, there are many sexist women, and I don’t understand it,” says Dalton. The other side of the coin is the older women who congratulate them, “hopefully in my time”, lamenting not having been able to be prickly pears in their university years.
Would you define yourself as a feminist tuna? “Our performance and the mere fact of existing already is”, she points out. “Sometimes it is unfair that the behaviors of a long time ago, of that folly of hanging around only women, tarnish the trips and adventures that you live as a prickly pear,” defends ‘Flip Flops’. In fact, the lyrics of the songs, some of them very sexist, are changed although on other occasions, especially classic ones, it is not done. Or the repertoire is updated with hymns like ‘The violet door’ by Rozalén to denounce sexist violence.
However, they believe that despite the machismo with which they find their experience as tunas is worth it, even despite events such as having bottles thrown at them in a contest or using their photos with sexist and humiliating comments. One of them is that what were they doing dressed as prickly pears “you are women disguised as men”. “Sometimes it fascinates me that some have been university students, something that shocked me when I entered the tuna, some things that I have lived and suffered are unthinkable, and that some are important people in their civil life”, explains Patricia ‘Dalton’ .
Paula ‘Picolín’ is the granddaughter of prickly pears and has continued with the family tradition, even with the tapes of her grandparents still going out to party, and defends the tunanta life, “what the prickly pear gives me is companions, trips, experience, it is living another thing that you would not live dressed in normal clothes.
They defend being a tuna in the 21st century and more than one female tuna, “I would prefer to be from the female tuna than from the male, they still have it easier”. “The important thing about a tuna is to be aware that if you want to continue in the future you need people to come after you,” encourages ‘Chanclas’ to young women from the University of León who want to join.
For the memory they stay with their parties and experiences, among them appearing unexpectedly in a video clip by Natalia Lafourcade after a Mexican ‘tour’ or going to see Eurovision in Lisbon in 2018. Party and hand in hand vindication in a world that is still profoundly sexist.