Throughout June 17th, pilgrims were arriving.
The same was happening during Friday the 18th, well into the evening. Persons from foreign countries were numerous. The L’Etoile dans la Montagne mentions: «200 Frenchmen, 10 Americans, 6 Englishmen, 4 Italians, and an occasional representative of the other countries of Europe and America.»
There must have been many priests, but there were only a dozen visible in cassocks.
Vehicles with the most varied license plates inundated the village and its surroundings. Attention was especially drawn, and not only because of their size, to the vehicles of the technical crews for Spanish NO-DO,(11) and Televisíon Italiana. In the latter group, the famous actor Carlo Campanini was particularly active.
What was the attitude of the crowd? Fr. Laffineur tells us in L’Etoile dans la Montagne as a witness of the scene:
«In general, it was exemplary. Pious, modest, penitent. Almost all those who composed it had received Communion at one of the three Masses(12) during the morning . . .
Occasionally there could be found a face that was there only to spy on the events and activities, to gather information to utilize in favor of a cause that he represented or served . . . the emissaries from the Commission of Santander, obviously; members of some foreign agencies also, and even someone representing the ridiculous expriest Collin.»(13)
How did the crowd pass the interminable hours of waiting? Certainly with less difficulties and hardships than the congregation that waited on October 18th, 1961. This time there was not such a great gathering and the weather was much better. But opportunities were not lacking to exercise patience, and practice penance. Mr. Poch Soler, the reporter sent by the Barcelonian weekly, Por que?, wrote an interesting article:(14)
«From Cossío we made the trip on foot, 7 kilometers, always heading upwards, arriving at Garabandal after 2 in the morning of June 18th. Unplanned and spectacular! The monumental task of sheltering hundreds of pilgrims in a small town of no more than 40 houses had already ceased when we arrived. The people were sleeping in the doorways, in the stables, on the porches, in the kitchens, in the middle of the streets . . . In our nocturnal walk through the uneven and rocky streets, we had to step with the greatest attention, avoiding the many people who were sleeping, stretched out on the ground, under the feeble illumination of a dozen light bulbs scattered throughout the village.
One of the two bars or taverns in Garabandal remained open all night, although its small capacity could barely shelter 12 or 15 people. There we settled ourselves down to write. To our one side two English people were sleeping peacefully, slumped over the table on their elbows. On the ground, two French priests were praying the rosary in a hushed voice. Others were drinking beer and later went outside to walk in the streets beneath the clear moon illuminating that night in Garabandal.»
The French correspondent from Le Monde et La Vie agreed with this, and said further that well into the night, in scattered sectors of the village, there rose up prayers and devout hymns in Spanish, Latin, and French . . .
As day dawned, the influx of people increased, creating a boisterous commotion in the streets. The French reporter describes it:
«The morning passed rather well. Everyone was using the time the best that he could. They were praying, singing, taking photographs, speaking with the villagers, asking a multitude of questions about the girls and their ecstasies.»
Conchita’s house naturally was the principal magnet of attraction. Only she was going to be the protagonist of what everyone was awaiting. Only she could name the time and the place. The youthful 16 year old girl was slow in appearing to the crowd because her mother rightly did not let her get up until well into the morning. The reporters were the ones most importune in their desire to see her. Poch Soler wrote in his article:
«Conchita inspired all the press reporters with profound respect. My colleagues from Paris, Portugal, Madrid, the crew from NO-DO were waiting impatiently, but without irritation, for the time when they would be able to speak to her.
You have to have a little patience, her mother told us. Understand that the girl is tired. Yesterday she was sick with a 40 degree temperature. She wants to talk with everyone, embrace everyone. I am the one who doesn’t want her to go outside on the street.»
11. NO-DO (Noticiario-Documental) was the governmental agency of news pictures. Its importance has diminished with the development of television. The presence of NO-DO at Garabandal was due to the activities of a young woman from Segovia, Paloma Fernández-Pacheco de Larrauri. This woman, who already knew the village well, was there again for June 18th with her sister Fuencisia.
12. Aniano Fontaneda from Aguilar de Campoo wrote on June 26th to Fr. Ramón:
«I was at Garabandal on the 17th and 18th and I saw your friends and a great number of acquaintances. You missed a great day since everything turned out magnificently. Although Fr. Valentín told me that there would be no Masses in the village unless the priests came with written permission to celebrate Mass, we actually had several Masses, with more than 1,500 Communions. I can say no more than that the Hosts were exhausted on two occasions.»
13. We have already spoken about him during his visit to Garabandal on August 22nd, 1963.
14. This article was not published in the weekly paper until April, 1966. Its introduction went like this:
«In writing about this, we have tried at all times to avoid the frivolousness and journalistic lightness that at times we are accustomed to use for other subjects of the street. We have limited ourselves to reporting the facts as we have seen them, transcribing everything that we have heard and all this with the greatest objectivity possible.»