The legend of Barbacoa, the traveling artist |  Catalonia

The legend of Barbacoa, the traveling artist | Catalonia

Casimiro Pascual Cruañas, 'Barbacoa', on the beach of Sant Feliu de Guíxols.
Casimiro Pascual Cruañas, ‘Barbacoa’, on the beach of Sant Feliu de Guíxols.Josep Andújar

In the villages you learn everything you need to escape from them. It runs freer through its streets and stories are known up close than a large city hidden in anonymity. One of those adventures in Sant Feliu de Guíxols (Girona) was living with Barbecue, the seal man. Two decades after his death, the legend of Casimiro Pascual Cruañas still lives on. For some, he is the local character with a fondness for bottles and an uncertain past; to others, the shirtless brawny man who would show up at parties, wow them by lifting all sorts of heavy things under his chin, and then walk away.

“He was very famous,” recalls the Leonese writer Julio Llamazares, about the sixties and seventies in the life of Barbacoa, or Barbachei, one of the protagonists of his novel silent film scenes. It is a recreation, a memory and imagination game, based on the man he saw perform as a child in Olleros de Sabero. “I would go through the mining towns,” he says, about a time when circuses and traveling artists abounded in search of festivals and local events to earn a living, and what better than a mining town, where “on the 15th of each month it was payday, and it was even celebrated with fireworks,” explains Llamazares, 67, about his local success that he saw when he published his novel. “The readers knew him,” he says.

But no one is a prophet in his own land. That Barbacoa from the novels, colloquia and local press articles from the north of Spain continues to be a blurred character in the Girona municipality of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, where he was born. “I remember that he was a circus trapeze artist who fell and was slightly touched. I don’t know how he ended up in Sant Feliu, but he always ran along the promenade, with broken sneakers because he had six toes on each foot. they called him Barbecue, the seal man. I took chairs from the promenade, from the bars, and it was like a tourist attraction”, recalls Elm, a won 44-year-old who lived through the adventures of Barbacoa as a child. “In the eighties, he had come to take my bike, a Panther BMX, and he would put it on his chin and lift it up,” he says, about someone he remembers as a “good guy.”

“He was always where there were people, at all events in the town,” details the journalist and singer-songwriter Josep Andújar, 67. To collect anecdotes and honor his memory, in 2017 he posted one of Barbacoa’s photos on one of Sant Feliu’s Facebook pages. Nearly 70 comments fondly remember his adventures and some wonder who he really was. “I have seen him put up with his chin for wheelbarrows and even bicycles with a child on top,” specifies Andújar, about a Barbacoa already in his fifties who lived practically in destitution, in abandoned warehouses, caves and battered sheds, always accompanied by a cardboard box. wine.

A very different image from the one preserved in Parres (Asturias). “A middle-aged man, with an athletic build, dark complexion and hair, he loudly encouraged all who could hear him to come see the performance of the peerless Barbaché, the seal man, how he defined himself”, the retired professor Ramón Noriega describes in his blog Aldea Recuperada. He saw him perform as a child and hasn’t forgotten it. He began by raising a chair, “like a feather”, then hoisted up a boy sitting on it, and continued with “one of the wheels of a cow cart, with spokes made of oak wood, acacia gourd and a wide band of thick steel”. A utility pole and a plowing machine followed. The author of it confesses that he himself doubted whether his memory was playing a trick on him, between fable and reality.

shortly after posting silent film scenes (1994), where Barbacoa appeared, Julio Llamazares received a call from a journalist from Sant Feliu de Guíxols. He told her that Casimiro Pascual was still alive, in the municipal asylum. “I was impressed,” he explains, with the coincidences between his memories, imagination and reality. “It made me feel a little weird because I killed him in the novel and he was alive,” he confesses. “It’s the only time in my life that I’ve been about to meet one of my characters,” he adds, about the proposal that finally did not materialize for a two-way radio interview.

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Casimiro died in July 2003 at the age of 76. Three years earlier, he had given an interview in a town youth magazine, Rejafix, where he sealed his biography. He was born on September 29, 1927 in Sant Feliu de Guíxols. At the age of 30, after working as a farmer, he obtained his professional circus degree in Barcelona. He did an internship at the Teatro Apolo, worked for five years in various companies (Circo Americano, Circo Moderno, Circo Roma, Circo Hungría) until he decided to get on a bicycle and tour the major festivals in Spain, in a bohemian and single life. His specialty was holding things with his chin, with a record of 80 kilos. In 1978, at the age of 51, he returned to Sant Feliu, where he was shooting, with shows improvised for tourists and locals, and lots of alcohol. In 1991 she entered the nursing home and stopped drinking. While still alive, the Colla Gegantera Ganxona made him a capgros that still comes out every year for Carnival.

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