The smugglers’ troupe was one of the five that founded our Moors and Christians festivities in 1944. Our group was one of the five that went to pick up San Antón at his hermitage. The saint was already used to having his tranquillity broken in the month of January and being taken to the Church of Santa Ana, from where he was taken in procession and a series of events and entertainment were organized around the festival on the first of each year.
The smugglers’ troupe had as its first celebrant, José Francés “Pepito el Platanero” who, dressed in a costume borrowed from Villena, danced alongside the Yaya, a character very much loved at that time by the Eldenses, around the bonfire in the Town Hall Square. This dance, was witnessed by many people, and among them, there were three friends who shared his love for football. They were members of the Club Deportivo Olimpico and up to that point they made their intentions of founding a comparsa known.
Martin Bel, Vicente Vicent and Gerardo Esteve, among many others, thought they could be smugglers, the first one had family in Villena and they could lend him the suits. The first smugglers came out of that quarry of footballers and from that moment, after going through many vicissitudes, it has come to have an extraordinary solidity at present with about a thousand festive among adults and children and with a future ahead really enviable, being one of the best comparsas of the Christian side of the whole Valencian Community.
When the group decides to found the smugglers’ troupe, they rent the costumes in Villena for very little money. Martín Bel, buys the suit in property having to disburse about 500 of the old pesetas of those times that surely today, would seem to us even ridiculous, but that at that time undoubtedly represented a tremendous economic effort very important.
APPEARANCE OF THE COMPARSA
It was in the parade of 1945, in a cold month of January, when our group participated for the first time in our celebrations. According to the chronicles, it was something impressive. Opening the parade, the first flag bearer Elisa Anton Martinez, who carried the flag designed by Francisco Martinez Bel, flag with the colors, White, Red and Green and was embroidered in Alicante by the master of teachers, D. Tomás Valcarcel Deza, a myth in the history of the festivities of the capital of the province. The flag, was blessed on September 17, 1944, during the events held in the town dedicated to the Patron Saints. Being the Godmother, Sara Vicent Vidal. The first captain was Enrique Chiquillo.
The official smuggler’s outfit consists of a red satin scarf knotted to the left of the head. Black velvet hat, which is called “calañés”. White shirt with a lace bib and cuff finished in fists.
Red tie or bow with two drops. Black velvet jacket with elegant embroideries, with gold and red lace shoulder pads or other colours, depending on the embroidery from which the strawberry trees and caireles hang. A wide red satin sash is superimposed on a black canana of material and cartridges. Cotton mule blanket, with multicolored lists and a strawberry tree finish. Black trousers with matching embroidery on the sides of the legs to match the jacket and with small openings on the sides from which two strawberry trees hang. The suit is completed with black boxcalf boots, or leggings with small buckles hanging from them, and pockets. The weapon is a bandit harquebus, and at the ends, usually used, large knives or facas.
FOUNDERS OF THE COMPARSA
These were the founders of the smugglers’ troupe: Vicente Vicent Vidal, Martín Bel Esteban, Gerardo Esteve, Heriberto Gil Sánchez, Manuel Vera Millet, Pedro Pérez Juan, Alberto Beltrán Sempere, José Prats, José Martí, Oscar Vicent Vidal, Francisco Cremades, Enrique Chiquillo, Pascual Cuenca, Luis Hernández, Juan Maestre, Juan Español Vidal, Francisco Buendía and Josete.
In the 66 years of history of the group, there have been a total of nine presidents that have had the smugglers. The first, who was also the first captain, Enrique Chiquillo in the years 1945-46. He was followed by Jesús Ochoa Rico in 1947. From 1948 to 1951 the president was Heriberto Gil Sánchez. From 1952 to 1960, the president of the Smugglers was, Pedro Pérez Juan. The decade of the sixties began with the presidency of Vicente Vicent Vidal, who would remain in office until 1975.
In 1976, Juan Deltell Jover was president of the group. From 1977 until 1990, the presidency of the group was held by Joaquín Puche Ibañez. From 1991 to 1999, Antonio Sirvent Juan has been the president of the group and Ana Hurtado Martínez has been its president since 2000.
VARIOUS EVENTS OF THE YEAR
The smugglers’ troupe organizes various activities throughout the year. Biennial of Plastic Arts “Gabriel Poveda” at national level. Children’s Drawing Competition. Gala and Festive Dinner, Christmas Party, Coexistence Day, Snack and Children’s Party and other events held at the headquarters of La Bodega, throughout the year.
ABANDERADAS AND CAPTAIN OF HONOUR
In 1974, the group named the actress and singer, Lolita Sevilla, as the group’s honorary flag bearer. He was present at the gala dinner held by the group to award the appointment and the captain of honor is Pedrito Rico, illustrious artist Eldense, who since childhood, and paraded with the smugglers. Later, Charo Reina was also named as the flag bearer of honor.
The smugglers’ troupe has its own music.
From the first years in which it was almost obligatory to march to the chords of the pasodoble “La Entrada” by Quintín Esquembre, diverse scores of different composers began to arrive. For example, a march dedicated to our group in the Festive Music Contest of 1991, by Luis Blanes Arques, later arriving compositions by the author Eldense Octavio José Peidró, “Mondi Contrabandistas” and “Contrabandistas de Elda”, to whose pasodobles, Jorge Beltrán Llorens wrote the lyrics. In addition to these three works, there is one that could not be missing, “Bajo mi cielo Andaluz” which is undoubtedly the anthem of this group. Later another pasodoble arrived to swell the list, also work of Octavio José Peidró, ” Joaquín Puche”. Queros Sanz, is the author of the pasodoble dedicated to the squad “Luis Candelas” and recently, one has been released, specifically in the Palau de la Música de Valencia “Adelardo Capitán” original of Miguel Ángel Sarrió.
GROUPS OF THE COMPARSA
At present, the smugglers’ troupe has the Zalagarda Music Group, to which around 80 festive people belong. This musical group has participated in different places in the province and outside our community. There is also a festive block such as the Cuadrilla Bandolera, composed at the moment by more than 30 people, and the Puñaico, that with official suit, since some years ago, takes part in the parades of our celebrations.
The Smugglers’ Troupe has been awarding the Gold Badge every year during its gala dinner since 1976 and the Silver Smuggler’s Badge since 1978. Many have been the celebrities of our group that have the highest distinction and also, people outside the Smugglers, but with enough merits, to have the Silver Smuggler.
On the other hand, the festeros of our comparsa, have obtained the Silver Christian of the Central Meeting throughout the years.
Our group, since its foundation, has been one of the ones that on several occasions, has gone out to parade outside our city. Cities like Alicante, Almansa, Guardamar, Santomera, Montealegre del Castillo, Bullas, Torralba de Calatrava, Alcudia de Carlet and Jaen, have been towns that have seen the Elda smugglers marching by.
Juan Deltell Jover
Elda Noviembre de 2010