The day the Martians invaded Barceloneta

It was one of those afternoons outside the Virgen del Mar school, which seemed to last forever because childhood itself seemed everlasting.

.It was 1979 and it seemed that the 70’s would never end. It seemed that Barceloneta would always be that grid of old streets enclosed between the beach, the port and the Somorrostro wasteland where time had stagnated.  

My friend Eusebi Gómez approached me at the exit of class and he seemed to be very nervous. I was so excited that I realized that something out of the ordinary was going on.

      “You have to see this, man!”

I asked him what was going on and he had already started walking with his long legs, almost running, down Almirante Churruca Street, because earlier the neighborhood was full of admirals. From what he was muttering I could only understand a few words: 

      “The Martians, man!”

I knew that Eusebito Gómez was a very imaginative person. We shared a passion for science fiction movies, especially Star Wars, which we saw in a premiere movie theater in Paralelo, and for a series that was shown on Thursdays called Espacio 1999. But what if the thing about the aliens was true? 

We arrived at Ancha street and he signalled me to go into the Bar la Cepa. It was a small, dark bar. I was twelve years old and we didn’t usually go into bars alone, but we went in. There was a box taller than us near the entrance, painted in cool colors with Space Invaders on it. It emitted a strange greenish space light. My friend, very excited, pointed me towards the screen of that kind of giant TV 

and I saw them: the Martians! Some kind of glowing green insects that seemed to shoot stingers.

“They shoot lightning! If they catch you, you’re dead, julay (“fool”)!”

I had never seen a Martianitos machine before. Eusebi, who always had money in his pocket, took out a five-dollar coin and put it through a slit. He took the controls and began to operate some rectangles, which were his ship. I watched hypnotized that geometric formation of invaders that launched rays that Eusebi had to dodge while shooting at them, because they were coming down in blocks until they came down on you and destroyed you.

I learned much later that Space Invaders was an Arcade Company video game created in 1978 by a Tokyo University engineer named Toshihiro Nishikado. When it was launched in Japan it was so successful that the 100 yen coins that made the machine functional ran out and the government had to increase the number of coins in circulation. The fever spread around the world. It even reached our neighborhood, which seemed to be on the fringes of this great world of modernity.

Soon a more evolved marcianitos machine that was operated with a joystick instead of buttons appeared in a frankfurt in Baluard street. We were the first generation of video game addicts in history. Sometimes we only had one coin to play a game that ended quickly, because in the end they always won, but we spent hours watching the games of others. We would go through all the bars in the neighborhood in a route of machines: the one of the comecocos in Can Ganassa or the one of the asteroids in the Bar Climent, where besides looking at the game screen, you also looked at the posters of ladies dressed in soccer jerseys and nothing else.

Then, the 80’s came and we had to face the real life and Eusebi did not know how to or could not do it, with that head of his that was too fanciful. He never got to know the 90’s. I always remember him that happy and joyful afternoon when the Martians arrived in Barceloneta and the future was a galaxy far away.

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