Valencia was home to one of the most cutting-edge club scenes in the world, until it all came crashing down. Carlos Hawthorn tells its story.
On a boiling hot day in Valencia last August, I jumped in a car with a colleague and two locals and headed south, out of the city, towards the beach. We took the only road available, the CV-500, a coastal motorway commonly known as Carretera El Saler. In the haze of the midday sun we passed palm trees, tatty hotels and rows of empty greenhouses, usually home to melons, pumpkins and tomatoes. To our right was Parque Natural de la Albufera, a freshwater lagoon rich with birdlife, and on our left was Playa Perelló, a beach popular with surfers, tourists and city workers on a lazy lunch break.
This might have all felt entirely ordinary were it not for the many clubs and bars dotted about in various states of disrepair, relics of a once-bustling nightlife industry. From the late-'70s until the mid-'90s, Carretera El Saler was the main artery of a rich music scene that solidified around dozens of clubs, pubs and gig venues, many of them huge, in and around Valencia.
This scene would one day become known as La Ruta (or La Ruta del Bakalao / La Ruta Destroy) because ravers would spend all weekend bouncing from club to club on a set route. ("Ruta" is "route" in Spanish.) But this name didn't take hold until the late-'80s. According to Joan M. Oleaque, whose excellent book En Éxtasis is essential reading on the topic, before that everyone simply referred to going out as "la fiesta"—"the party." (For simplicity's sake, I'm going to use the name La Ruta throughout.)