Monday, August 8

The nights of Paca la Tomate, San Pollardino and other crazy memories of Nazario’s ‘underground’ Barcelona

The official history of the cities takes place in their parliaments, in their main squares, ports and walls, but then there are the alternative stories, those that run between the small alleys that cross the great avenues and in their small and dark premises. Few like the Kike bar, on En Rauric street, in the Gothic Quarter, to understand a fundamental passage of the Barcelona –nocturnal, festive and countercultural– of the 80s: the one that brought together town homosexuals with a desire for freedom with prostitutes and his pimps; the one that attracted glamorous artists and hashish vendors alike. Also, little by little, the one who sensed that all that was about to be buried under the new Olympic city, first, and the tourist city, later.

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The Kike bar and En Rauric street became the headquarters of Nazario Luque and his people during the 1980s, which made it the epicenter of the queer – according to his own terminology – in the city. Parties, cross-dressing, hilarious sets, alcohol, unlikely police raids, and the occasional exhibition. “It was like the Opera bar, on the Rambla, but much more rogue”, Nazario describes it today.

At 77, this central figure in Spanish comics has once again rummaged through his archives and has taken out enough material to publish Kike bar and Paca la Tomate, published by the Barcelona City Council within the Secret Library series. A collector like few others, Nazario, the father of Anarcomaalways has a corner of memory to dig into. Boxes of photographs to rescue. The editor Jorge Herralde knows this, to whom at the beginning of the century he sent an autobiography of more than 3,000 pages, which ended up being published by volumes, the best known The daily life of the underground cartoonist.

But the Barcelona that he portrays on this occasion is not that of the transition. It is not the one that saw him arrive in the early 70s from Andalusia to live off the comic, the one that saw him hang out with cartoonists like Javier Mariscal or Pepichek long before it was founded. The Viper. Nor is it the Barcelona that he shared at the end of that decade with the unclassifiable performers José Pérez Ocaña and Camilo, but rather the one after the death in 1983 of the first.

Above all the protagonists of the book, Paca la Tomate stands out, named Paco Ocaña, a character who never attracted the spotlight because he did not have artistic aspirations like most, but who was, like the Kike bar, the link between many friends and adventures. Born in Bujalance, he emigrated to Barcelona at the age of 22 and, after going through various jobs in the hotel business, ended up as a cleaning clerk in that small bar in the Gothic Quarter. Encouraged by the uninhibited atmosphere of the place, and with the necessary help of alcohol to overcome shyness – as Nazario did, according to himself – he ended up becoming the transvestite artist Paca la Tomate.

Without pen but with imagination

“We were all clear that Paca, who had neither a voice nor an ear; that he did not know how to dance or play the castanets; that he lacked the slightest sense of rhythm and that, to make matters worse, he did not even have a pen, he had to lay his hands of his two great qualities: imagination and stubbornness, “says Nazario. Their performances at the Kike, but also at other venues such as the Dickens, became quirky parodies of the best-known transvestite singers. In some of its performances more applauded he went up on stage with the bucket and the mop.

Paca la Tomate appears in many of the episodes that Nazario refers to in his book. She was the protagonist of the poster of By May we take off our coat, an event at the Kike bar in which all his artist friends contributed a work for the set and which ended up being remembered for the huge papier-mâché penis that Alejandro – Nazario’s partner – made to hang from the ceiling. He was also at the fake wedding that someone invented with the sole excuse of dressing up in elegant women’s dresses and walking around town to the scandal – less and less – of his neighbors. “At that time there was not even the registry of de facto couples, so gay marriages were something that no one dreamed of. Our wedding would be a fun,” recalls Nazario.

The parade of San Pollardino against the Pope

From time to time his adventures reached the press. This was the case of the demonstration in 1986 against Pope Wojtyla for homophobic statements. Although they were never activists within the Front d’Alliberament Gai de Catalunya (FAGC), they joined their protests. “We were always in the front line, but without a license”, sums up Nazrio. On that occasion, they participated in the concentration in the Cathedral and to everyone’s amazement they arrived in a procession with black dresses, mantillas and veils and with scapulars dedicated to Saint Pollardino.

“San Pollardino de la Gloriosa Metida, free us all from syphilis and AIDS,” read the motto on their cards and banners, which were mixed with the official slogan: “Wojtyla, shut up! We love each other as we want.” “An unknown photographer, whom I have tried in vain to contact, published in the magazine Living in Barcelona a couple of photos of Alejandro and Fernanda showing their stylized legs inside the door of the cathedral “, Nazario explains, but he does not keep other snapshots because those taken by a friend of his went wrong.

Local artists of all kinds regularly passed through the Kike, from the usual cartoonists from The Viper the photographer Maria Espeus or the designer Peret, but figures such as the singer Marc Almond or the artist Keith Haring also visited the small and dark venue, when he was carrying out an intervention in the Raval neighborhood in 1989. In the case of the latter , acquired legendary tints for the graffiti he made in the bathroom and on the bar. “When Carlos –the owner– closed the Kike, he took the cistern and a piece of the bar that he had cut and kept them in a loft, but he never remembered them again,” recalls Nazario.

The anecdotes of this prolific cartoonist follow each other more incredible, such as the time when a raid by the Guàrdia Urbana ended with an agent demanding fellatio in the bathroom from the parishioners -except for Nazario, who was known-, but everything It has an end, also the parties that seem to never end, and the Kike closed at the end of that decade, La Paca was left without a job and the group of regulars was scattered. “The friends of the bars we are before the bar than of the friends,” Nazario acknowledges, aware of the cruelty of the statement. He was an alcoholic. “When I stopped drinking, the bars stopped interesting me,” he adds. Paco Ocaña, Paca La Tomate, returned to old jobs, but also suffered from drinking problems. He spent time at Fernanda’s house, a neighbor of the same block where Nazario continues to live today, in the Plaza Real. After a while they learned of his death.

These summer days, Nazario explains that he is working on a compilation of photographs that he has taken for decades from his window, which is always open and focused on the square. A square in which there are no longer any whores or shoe polishers, from which Ocaña left more than 30 years ago –now his surname gives its name to a tourist bar–, but in which he remains faithful.