The Demoness (Txema Gavaldà): “Without baddies, heroes would not exist”

Txema Gavaldà, abans i després de transformar-se en la Diablesa / ©Rafael Ló—pez-MonnŽé

Fire, paso doble, kettledrums, fireworks… The popular Seguici leads the Santa Tecla Festivity right up to its crucial point, while thousands of Tarragonins (Tarragona citizens) gather around the Part Alta streets, so they don’t miss a bit. At the front of the long procession, the ‘Ball de Diables’ (Dance of devils) makes its way onwards while burning all the powder in hell. The ecstasy is overwhelming, and Demoness smiles absolutely chuffed: Tarragonins spare no expense in order to honour the patron saint. And whereas bells cry out for virtue from sky, the Demoness invokes all human vices on earth.

A unique world, and two powers complementing each other. Without baddies, heroes would not exist‘. Txema Gavaldà says he is one of them, the heroes. Casteller (human towers), married, with 2 kids, and he works on shifts at the chemical industry. He is a responsible, kind and decent man. But at the time of Tarragona’s festivity, he is possessed by the most absolute disorder. He does not eat or rest properly, does not follow any schedules, since it is time for his alter ego to erupt, Demoness; a character he is been playing for the ‘Ball de Diables‘ since 1990. The worst of all the baddies.

Banal, grotesque, lascivious… Lucifer’s partner sticks her tong out, pulls her skirt up, and chases everyone around her. ‘Demoness has glamour, she seduces me, transforms me. I stop being shy all at once, and I feel really comfortable. She’s a complete yobbo, that comes to symbolize and prove people’s lack of control when partying, and that allows anyone to do what most people would love to, but don’t dare do‘, explains Txema.

Despite the fire, despite the imposing respect she radiates, thanks to her royal beard and ceptrot (a stick where fireworks are carried), Demoness is also one of the most beloved characters by people. ‘Kids come to me and take pictures. Youngsters have not met any other Demoness than me‘, he states.

The so-called ‘Starter of Sant Miquel and Devils‘, which has its routes in Tarragona back in the 15th century, was revived in 1983. It shows the fight between the good, embodied by Sant Miquel, and the bad, twenty-two horned devils led by Lucifer and Demoness, one of the most admired and popular groups of the festivities in Tarragona.

The traditional element, in fact, is Santa Tecla’s undisputed thread, a massive celebration, declared as Patrimonial Festivity of National Interest by the Generalitat. The Seguici, which almost disappeared during the 20th century, was brought back again on the 80’s thanks to civil society’s push, and can boast now of an increasing success. Nothing to do with the Santa Tecla of the 70’s, when it had been reduced to its minimum expression, and the whole procession had to stop in order to give priority to cars.

Demoness lights so many carretilles (firework boxes) in each performance, we would not be able to count them. Txema is, in fact, on payback-time. When he was a kid, his parents used to run a bar at the Plaça de la Font, downtown Tarragona, and he was not allowed to play with fireworks during Sant Joan festivity, so that he would not scare customers.

His two children and his partner, who also take part in the Ball de Diables –in fact, even one of the boys plays now as Demoness in the kid’s Dance– have not gone through so many restrictions. At the end though, Txema, who is for sure one of the biggest firework men in Catalunya, has finally got to understand and agree with his father. ‘I can’t stand the firework mass use during Sant Joan’, he admits, laughing.

Text: Oriol Margalef (@OhMargalef in Twitter)
Translation: Artur Santos (@artur_1983 in Twitter)
Photo: Rafael López-Monné (@lopezmonne in Twitter)

From Septembre 14th to 24th, Tarragona will be holding Santa Tecla Festivities 2013.