Tenerife Carnival (2)
The main events
The glue that holds all this partying together is the parades and other, more-organized carnival events, which kick off with the selection of the Carnival Queen on the Wednesday before Shrove Tuesday, when various good-looking girls strut around in elaborate costumes in a bid to be elected. It takes the best part of a year for designers and dress-makers to produce many of these incredible, cumbersome, oversized structures, some of which require the assistance of trolleys to enable the wearer to move around. The huge, heavy and precarious headdresses in particular owe more to engineering than clothing design. Beyond this, though, it’s a beauty pageant like any other, and a bit of a yawn to be honest, heavily sponsored by local businesses. Indeed, things don’t really pick up until the following Friday night, when an opening parade of bands and floats announces the start of the festivities proper and the beginning of two of the wildest nights of the Carnival.
After everyone’s recovered from the weekend, the flagship event of the official carnival is the Coso or “Grand Procession”, which starts around 4pm on Shrove Tuesday.
This is a huge, lively cavalcade of floats, bands, dancing troupes and entertainers that marches and dances its way along the dockside road, passing beside the Plaza de Espana, for about five hours. Again, the costumes worn by those parading (a good many of the islanders it seems) are impressively imaginative and clearly labour-intensive designs. The Grand Procession is followed by fireworks at around 9pm, which act as a starter gun for another night’s partying.
The following night, on Ash Wednesday, the Entierro de la Sardina (Burial of the Sardine) is one of the best- attended events. Originally a parade to mark the closing of the carnival, it has now been left stranded in the middle of the festival, and has become a tongue-in-cheek event in which many dress – or more commonly cross-dress – in mourning attire. Central to the occasion is a huge wood- and-paper sardine that is paraded, at a painfully slow pace, down the Rambla de Pulido into the centre of town.
The procession is accompanied by funereal music and followed by a cortege of priests, and “widows” – mostly
moustachioed men in drag – wailing miserably. A cremation, just southwest of the Plaza de Espana, follows, with the widows doubled over with grief and seemingly inconsolable (and usually more than a little drunk), until fireworks launch everyone back into party mode.
Still not put off by the onset of Lent, the carnival doesn’t reach its climactic end until the following weekend, when some of the festival’s most intense partying follows a kids’ parade on the Saturday and a seniors’ Parade on the Sunday. While these may mark the end of festivities in Santa Cruz, this is just the beginning for many of the smaller towns around the island, who, not wishing to compete with (or miss out on) the capital’s carnival, wait until the dust settles in Santa Cruz before getting stuck into their own celebrations.