It has something dreamlike that the Fallas are celebrated this first week of September. A dream within a nightmare, that of the COVID-19 pandemic. The humid heat of this time does not resemble the milder atmosphere of March. The tourists who walk through Valencia do not look like they have come to the city to attend its parties. They are summer tourists, beach and sun, certainly perplexed by the deployment of means that the party involves. In the streets, it causes a strange sensation to see now the monuments with their colorful ninots occupying the road while waiting for the fire that will make them disappear.
It is a historical fact, that of this Fallas edition with a justified apprehension of the public and in the changed equinox, from which autumn is faced instead of spring, contrary to what is traditional. Las Fallas have become one of the first major mass events on the international scene to deal with the pandemic, once contagion rates have been reduced and the vaccination of the majority of the population provides a safety net. Who knows what mark this anomalous call will leave, with its withdrawal measures, in the immediate future and in the medium and long term. This is quite a challenge.
The Olympic Games were held in Tokyo this summer with empty stands, music concerts and theatrical shows have returned with precautions and limited capacity, as well as fans of stadiums in controlled proportions, but parties that involve large crowds, in Generally, they continue in stand by. Why is the city of Valencia taking this step?
When the pandemic was declared, in March 2020, the failures were already on the street. The confinement left them planted in the landscape of a deserted city. Those with which such a maneuver was feasible were removed and stored at the Feria Valencia facilities. Others, whose disassembly was impossible, in most cases half finished, were burned alone, in the saddest of rituals. Last March they could not be celebrated. But, not without risk, the Fallas collective and the City Council chaired by Joan Ribó have chosen to close the cycle when circumstances seem to allow it.
It is not just about giving way to the tons of figures that must be consumed by the flames and that have been in storage for a year and a half, in what undoubtedly constitutes the main singularity that justifies the initiative, but about closing an episode to undertake that of 2022 with a certain normality. Tens of thousands of people are involved in the entire operation, but there is also a large economic activity: from Fallas artists to cleaning services, through towing and transport companies, band musicians, clothing artists, pyrotechnics, flower nurseries, street vendors and, of course, hotels and restaurants.
The Fallas of 2021, which are also those of 2020, are very strange. Parades and parades are held without public; the mascletades and fireworks castles have been relocated to avoid large congregations of spectators; there are no festivals; the hours of the cream… There is still a curfew in Valencia.
The Generalitat Valenciana, from the Department of Universal Health and Public Health; the Valencia City Council with the Fallera Central Board and the Fallas collective as a whole have coordinated to adjust to the maximum the protocols of some festivities marked by a less expansive behavior of the commissions in their casals, where the current measures and capacity for bars and restaurants are applied, in a return to the popular and neighborhood origins of this festival that, hand in hand with tourist consumption, ended up adopting gigantic dimensions. May the acrid smell of gunpowder grant luck to an experiment on which the Minister of Health, Ana Barceló, has warned like the mother who warns her children: “Everyone looks at us.” They are some Fallas that the city will never forget.