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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Carnaval is Illegal?

THE most emblematic and important date on Tenerife's fiesta calendar, no, in the world (after Rio) - Santa Cruz Carnaval - is illegal, according to residents of eight neighborhoods of the island's capital, who, through their lawyer, have presented a claim in the courts aiming to prevent the carnaval from being celebrated in the zones in which they reside.

The matter also made the TV news today and, I have to say, that I just HOPE it is some kind of sick joke or a publicity stunt to create interest in the Carnaval itself. Well, that is more comfortable to contemplate than that it may be serious. (It was.)

Goodness, this is not the fun-loving image of Canarians that we have come to expect, is it? What a bunch of party poopers!

Now, I will be the first to admit that when there is a fiesta going on in your village and the salsa music is still making the legs of your bed dance in rhythm at 5 a.m., night after night, but you work in a job that doesn't respect the local holidays, then it can be a tad inconvenient, but you live with it.

Sure, the celebrations can be moved to another location, but there is always going to be someone within earshot ready to be disturbed, unless you move the party to mars!

Besides, it was my impression that most employers on the island understand that people will be late and not a lot gets done during carnival. Or is the island becoming more "efficient" and that such relaxed attitudes have become a thing of the past?

It is a VERY sad day, if that is the case.

A culture that knows how to enjoy itself is much healthier, both physically and mentally and, for that reason alone, I think it is extremely important to preserve these customs.

I wonder if the residents of Santa Cruz would prefer a carnival on the London model, where there is (or at least there was) a 7 p.m. curfew? On the surface, that may sound great to sleep-deprived residents, until you look at the balance.

Curfews and prohibitions - that require a large police presence to enforce - lead to just the sort of tensions between party-goers and the authorities that have been known to end in riots in the British capital, but that so far, have been avoided in Tenerife, despite the large numbers who attend each year.

It may be a case of "be careful what you ask for", because the solution may be more disruptive than the original problem.

Since I am no lawyer, I cannot say whether the legislation they are quoting applies to this particular event, however, my hope would be that carnival is too important from the economic point of view for the action to succeed.

From what I understand of carnival's history, the tradition originally came to the islands with the conquistadores 500 years ago, although it is true that neither the authorities nor the church approved and dances in the streets were prohibited.

But, such was the strength of the public desire to celebrate the fiestas, that even after the Civil War (1936-1939) and the prohibition in the time of Franco, people continued to celebrate carnival in their homes, until the 1960's when the party returned to the streets under the disguise of "Winter Festival".

It wasn't until 1976 that, finally, without the censorship that characterized the dictatorship that it was actually able to be called carnival again and the event reached it's zenith.

Surely, no one wants to turn back the clock?