by Carter Harrington
An array of bright colors lit up the sky as mortar fireworks popped simultaneously. On the sandy beach below, a cool breeze blushed the cheeks of all who gazed upward at the multi-hued sky. Apart from a few hollers and whistles here and there, the crowd was completely hushed by the ten-minute extravaganza that unfolded.
After the last boom, the intercom crackled, and a woman’s voice came over the crowd. She spoke Catalan with a calm yet powerful voice. What she was saying was unrecognizable to any of the ALBA students who were gathered together, sitting in the sand. Every so often, however, you could hear her cursing “el diable,” the devil, and other demons.
While it was next to impossible to understand what she was saying, we knew why we were here, and that was to watch the demon burn. From the front of the crowd, a structure the length of a football field stood 50 feet high. Its base was wide, similar in shape to a circle. For the second time in the history of this annual event, the demon represented the figure of a woman. The title of the structure translates to Demon Lifts Walls, and the work represents the image that immigrants from all over the world saw arriving in New York City between 1892-1954: the Statue of Liberty. In the presentation of the design, chosen by a jury, the artist explained that he wanted to depict a figure “that makes criticism to all the walls and obstacles that are put in place to prevent the passage of the refugees.” Therefore, the figure includes elements such as a float, a life jacket, a boat and a wall.
Now I know this may sound relatively sadistic, but it really is not. This event is called Cremada del Dimoni, or cremation of the demon, and it takes place every year on a beach in Badalona, a town right outside of Barcelona. The event commemorates the annual festival, Festes de Maig, which takes place in Badalona throughout the entire month of May. The festival commemorates the patron saint of the Badalona, Sant Anastasi. Thirty eight years ago this celebration became an official festival in order to strengthen the shared fundamental rights of expression that popular culture and leisure share, as well as to unite the town through a variety of events, such as building workshops, fireworks, parades, and other activities much like the cremation of the demon. Burning the demon has actually been around since 1940, but has become extremely popular among Catalonians in recent years.