The nights of Paca la Tomate, San Pollardino and other crazy memories of Nazario’s ‘underground’ Barcelona.

The official history of cities takes place in their parliaments, in their main squares, harbours and walls, but then there are the alternative stories, the ones that run through the small streets that cross the main avenues and in their small, obscure premises. There are few places like the bar Kike, in Carrer En Rauric, in the Gothic Quarter, to understand a fundamental passage of Barcelona – nocturnal, jaranero and countercultural – in the 1980s: the one that brought together small-town homosexuals with a desire for freedom with prostitutes and their pimps; the one that attracted glamorous artists and hashish sellers alike. Also, little by little, the one that sensed that all that was about to be buried under the new Olympic city, first, and the tourist city, later.

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The bar Kike and the street En Rauric became during the 80s the headquarters of Nazario Luque and his gang, who turned it into the epicentre of queerism -according to their own terminology- in the city. Parties, transvestism, hilarious sets, alcohol, improbable police raids and, from time to time, the occasional exhibition. “It was like the Opera bar on the Rambla, but much more rogue,” Nazario describes it today.

At 77 years of age, this central figure of Spanish comics has once again rummaged through his archives and has pulled out enough material to publish El bar Kike y Paca la Tomate, published by the Barcelona City Council as part of the Biblioteca Secreta (Secret Library) series. A collector like few others, Nazario, Anarcoma‘s father, always has some corner of his memory to dig into. Boxes of photographs to rescue. The publisher Jorge Herralde knows this, to whom he sent at the beginning of the century an autobiography of more than 3,000 pages, which was eventually published in volumes, the best known being La vida cotidiana del dibujante underground (The Everyday Life of the Underground Cartoonist).

But the Barcelona that he portrays on this occasion is not the same as the one he wrote about.s that of the transition. It is not the one that saw him arrive in the early 70s from Andalusia to make a living from comics, the one that saw him get together with cartoonists like Javier Mariscal or Pepichek long before El Víbora was founded. Nor is it the Barcelona he shared at the end of that decade with the unclassifiable performers José Pérez Ocaña and Camilo, but rather the one after the former’s death in 1983.

Above all the protagonists of the book stands out Paca la Tomate, named Paco Ocaña, a character who never attracted the spotlight because he had no artistic aspirations like most, but who was, like the bar Kike, the nexus of many friends and adventures. Born in Bujalance, he emigrated to Barcelona at the age of 22 and, after working in various jobs in the hotel and catering industry, he ended up as a cleaner in this small bar in the Gothic Quarter. Encouraged by the uninhibited atmosphere of the place, and with the necessary help of alcohol to overcome his shyness – as Nazario used to do, as he himself says – he ended up becoming the transvestite artist Paca la Tomate.

Without a pen but with imagination

“We all knew that Paca, who had neither voice nor ear; who couldn’t dance or play the castanets; who lacked the slightest sense of rhythm and who, to top it all off, didn’t even have a pen, had to make use of her two great qualities: imagination and stubbornness”, says Nazario. His performances at the Kike, but also at other venues such as the Dickens, became outlandish parodies of the best-known transvestite singers. In some of his most applauded performances he would go on stage with a bucket and a mop.

Paca la Tomate appears in many of the episodes that Nazario refers to in his book. She was the protagonist of the poster for Para mayo nos quitamos el sayo, an event in the bar Kike in which all her artist friends contributed a work for the set and which ended up being remembered for the enormous papier-mâché penis that Alejandro -Nazario’s partner- made to hang from the ceiling. He was also at the fake wedding that someone invented with the sole excuse of dressing up in elegant and elegant

tes dressed as women and strolling around the city to the scandal – less and less – of their neighbours. “At that time there wasn’t even a registry of unmarried couples, so gay marriages were something no one dreamed of. Our wedding would be a diversion,” Nazario recalls.

The parade of San Pollardino against the Pope

From time

to time their adventures reached the press. This was the case of the 1986 demonstration against Pope Wojtyla for homophobic statements. Although they were never activists within the Front d’Alliberament Gai de Catalunya (FAGC), they joined their protests. “We were always in the front line, but without a membership card”, Nazrio sums up. On that occasion, they participated in the rally at the Cathedral and to everyone’s astonishment they arrived in a procession wearing black dresses, mantillas and veils and with scapulars dedicated to the saint San Pollardino.

“Saint Pollardino de la Gloriosa Metida, deliver us all from syphilis and AIDS,” read the motto on their placards and banners, which mingled with the official slogan: “Wojtyla, shut up! We love each other as we want. “An unknown photographer, whom I tried to contact in vain, published in the magazine Vivir en Barcelona

a couple of photos of Alejandro and Fernanda showing their slender legs inside the door of the cathedral,” explains Nazario, but he has no other photos because the ones taken by a friend of his turned out badly.

All kinds of local artists regularly passed through the Kike, from the regular cartoonists of El Víbora

to the photographer Maria Espeus or the designer Peret, but figures such as the singer Marc Almond or the artist Keith Haring, when he was doing an intervention in the Raval neighbourhood in 1989, also came to the small, dark place. In the case of the latter, the graffiti he painted in the bathroom and in the bar became legendary. ”

When Carlos -the owner- closed the Kike, he took the cistern and a piece of the bar that he had cut out and put them in a loft, but he never remembered them again”, remembers Nazario.

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The anecdotes of this prolific cartoonist follow one after the other, each one more incredible than the last, like the time when a raid by the Guardia Urbana ended with an officer demanding fellatio in the bathroom from the patrons – except for Nazario, who was known – but everything has an end, including the parties that never seem to end, and the Kike closed at the end of the decade, La Paca was unemployed and the group of regulars began to scatter. “The friends of the bars are friends of the bar before we are friends of the bar”, recognizes Nazario, conscious of the cruelty of the affirmation. He was an alcoholic. “When I stopped drinking, I stopped being interested in bars,” he adds. Paco Ocaña, Paca La Tomate, returned to old jobs, but also suffered from drinking problems. He spent some time at Fernanda’s house, a neighbour in the same block where Nazario still lives today, in Plaza Real. After a while they learned of his death.

These summer days, Nazario explains that he is working on a compilation of photographs he has taken over the decades from his window, which is always open and focused on the square. A square where there are no more whores or shoe shiners, where Ocaña left more than 30 years ago -now his surname gives its name to a tourist bar-, but where he remains faithful.

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