It happens every year, every July 16, at 20:00 p.m. It's barely ten minutes, less even (seven or eight), but some shoot 80.000 flyers practically in unison. It's not hard to imagine the huge bang. Although it is one thing to imagine and another to live it live, because the sky turns completely gray for an instant, everything shakes under our feet and in these intense minutes, the penetrating smell of gunpowder seems to reach everywhere, even to the memory of those from Cangues by birth or adoption who could not be present.
The showiness of the near 90 decibels equates the quiet town of Cangas del Narcea with a large city capable of detonating all the noise it contains in a few minutes.
The Download Party
The high point of the party is to explode drills, flying and all kinds of gunpowder (more than a ton in total) in the shortest possible time. She applauds herself, she shouts, the gesture freezes in a vibrant smile that we can't get rid of. Some insist on taking photos, but they would do better to cover their ears because similar discharge look for the limit of our eardrums. The final firecracker is so extraordinary that a sudden rush dominates us, an excitement that we will not get rid of all day.
In the organization of this ephemeral but very intense event, it is of paramount importance The Society of Craftsmen of Cangas (founded in 1902). With its approximately 3.000 members, they finance a large part of the Descarga, assemble and disassemble the shuttle machines in the legendary Prau El Molín and are in charge of ensuring compliance with the regulations. There are also thirty federated clubs, "Gunpowder Rocks", which carry out their particular downloads throughout the festive week.
In a pyrotechnic event of this magnitude, the security measures They are very important, so talks are given days before to raise awareness among the population. A part of the Download is done manually about three hundred shooters with their corresponding rushers or helpers. The organization and the State security forces previously check that all these people have the appropriate training, that all batches of artifacts are correctly labeled and that the public, about 50.000 people, keep a distance of more than 50 meters from the shooters.
Everyone is looking for the best place to see the show, although this is not entirely difficult since the launching points are located down in the valley and the rest of the area, higher up, serves as an amphitheatre. The holes in the rock the flyer they prelude the shooting and put everyone in the houses and streets on alert. It is also a warning for shooters who are already anxious, with a racing pulse and a tense body. The most novices get to shake their legs. The occasion is not for less. Mentally review the phases of a good throw: the flyer is caught by the area called wheelbarrow with the index and thumb, the fuse always out, the legs are separated with the feet firmly planted on the ground. The arms are stretched out with the rod slightly tilted forward, the fuse lights and you hear the snort, you feel the push and you release it... One after the other. The hand throw is a very long moment that lasts five minutes. Then it is the turn of the shuttle machines, capable of launching tens of thousands of flyers per minute and generating unspeakable noise.
With the sudden cessation of the explosions comes shouting and celebration. The tears, the kisses. Happy New Year!, the cangueses are desired, who count the years from Download to Download.
The Virgin of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
She is the star of the party. In the press, her picture usually appears in the foreground with the rockets exploding behind her. Both the excessive fireworks and the ringing of the bells are in her honor. Already on July 7, nine days before La Descarga, the the ninths with massive dinners from the clubs and their particular "throws". During that week, events take place, including the proclamation and the parade of the clubs through the streets of the town.
On the morning of July 16, a procession popular that transfers the image of the virgin from the chapel to the basilica of Santa María Magdalena. At that time there are already two discharges of flyers. Around 8 in the afternoon, and after a mass in her honor, the image returns to the Ambasaguas chapel, where it will remain all year. But shortly before reaching the hermitage, the entourage stops at the Roman bridge of the town, and at that moment this gunpowder prayer so particular that is the Download. A perfect combination between party and devotion whose origins are not sufficiently clear. It seems to have to do with the use of fireworks to scare off the French troops who wanted to conquer the town (they ended up fleeing in fright at what they thought was the sound of local artillery), and more recently with the impulse of residents of Gijón living in Cangas who wanted to venerate their marine virgin in style.
The week prior to Carmen is full of acts and events: exhibitions of Asturian rural sports, children's activities, markets, country pilgrimages, folkloric groups and bagpipe bands, parades of giants and big heads, fanfares and festivals with musical performances every night.
Everybody goes to folixa (as the party is called in Asturias). On these dates, in the south-west of Asturias there are usually high temperatures and torrid days, so it has become a custom to stock up on hats, fans, umbrellas, sun cream, lots of water, lots of cider. It is also almost obligatory to try the local wine and have some caipirinhas to the canguesa The good atmosphere reigns in all corners of the town. After the download happens a total party; people of all ages enjoy the longest and most crowded night of the year. A very special night that is shared with family and friends, with the ever-present complicity of the clubs.
Text: © Ramón Molleda for asturias.com