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Monday, February 12, 2007

Carnaval in Santa Cruz Streets Cancelled?

Noise Makers

Well, we'll see ... I seem to remember exactly the same pantomime acted out in the run up to last year's Carnaval too. First it's off, then it's saved at the last minute.

Anyway, Canarias7 report that the judge of the Contentious Administrative Court Number One (an apt name?) in Santa Cruz, has communicated today to the town hall in Tenerife's capital, an injunction that orders the the prevention of the fiestas and dances in the streets where they had been planned during the carnival. This is in response to petitions from a group of residents who complain about the noise (again).

This injunction has been awarded eight days after the Superior Court of Justice had recognized that the celebration of the fiestas in the center of the city "violated citizens' fundamental right to rest" and had declared that the fiestas could go ahead, but that the noise level must not exceed 55 decibels (the level of a conversation).

Is Carnaval Prejudicial to health?

The 55 decibel limit ordered by the court, is actually 30 decibels below the level of the noise of city traffic. Have you seen / heard the traffic in Santa Cruz? It seems laughable to award a decision against a once-yearly event in light of that.

So, what does fit the description of an "atmosphere of little noise" that is below the 55 decibel limit? Well, according to an article at ABC; silence, footsteps, the sound of leaves rustling on the trees, a conversation in low voices and the quiet of a library are the only things that maintain their sound below that limit. Of course Carnaval is louder than that, but so is the TV and conversation inside people's homes, never mind what's going on outside with the traffic, industry, construction works ...

Press buzzing with Carnaval Hysteria

And, they're doing it in at least two languages. The earlier story being covered by Reuters, both in the international news, UK news and on their blog.

The New York Times in the US "ledes" with Please Keep Your Carnival Quiet.
The Guardian in the UKCourt shuts down Tenerife's all-night fiestas
Weblogs Inc. Gadling traveller's weblog in the USTenerife Just Got Lame.
In The Age, in Australia Fiesta ruled too much of a racket.

Meanwhile, the president of the carnival organizers in Cádiz, says that the judges decision "sounds more like a desire to annoy, than anything else." He also makes the valid point that carnival is only once a year and says that for noise to be a nuisance, it would have to be something that happened every day. Even the so called Ley del botellón - that restricts the consumption of alcohol in the streets - excludes fiestas, carnivals or romerias.

Tenerife in uproar because of just 15 killjoys

The above are not all, of course, but a pretty representative sample. My prize though, has to go to the German Press Agency for their thorough and efficient coverage in TheRawStory, "Tenerife in uproar over cancellation of carnival", where we learn that "About 15 local residents lodged a complaint". Yes, count them, fifteen!

Is Tenerife's Carnaval really off?

First, it still remains to be seen if the injunction sticks after negotiations are resumed in the courts on Monday, but in any case does not affect all of the events.

The injunction only affects late-night carnaval revels: music on the streets, after 10.00 p.m. We are told, "The big galas are unaffected as they take place in the city's exhibition centre, and daytime parades and events can go ahead as normal."

Revellers protest against Carnaval suspension

With banners that read "Carnaval YES, timewasting neighbours, NO" - well, the word they used for timewasting was a little more "colorful", but I didn't have the "balls" to translate it that literally - around 400 people demonstrated against the injunction. The protest kicked off from the Plaza de Weyler in Santa Cruz. Protesters marched through the very same streets where carnaval is normally celebrated. Dozens of carnival fans and members of carnival groups protested outside the town hall against the injunction and in sarcastic irony, they made their protest by singing, shouting & tooting horns!

Spectators for the murga contests this week have been wearing supporting slogans on their t-shirts, as have some of the murgas themselves, even down to pointed references in the lyrics of their songs, like "Wake your neighbor up".

Carnaval awaits a resulotion

The news we were all waiting for today, was the decision from the "contentious" court in Santa Cruz over the fate of the nighttime revelries for the capital's Carnaval. "There will be Carnaval in the streets and with all the noise possible," report Canarias7.

The judge lifted the precautionary suspension and declared that the residents' case was "inadmissible". Rejecting the injunction based on an appeal lodged by a group of residents who said the carnival was too noisy, judge Jaime Guilarte Martin-Calero said that the issue had already been settled by a 2006 court ruling.

The lawyer acting for the residents, Felipe Campos, had to be escorted by several police when leaving the court today. Earlier, Campos had complained of "a possible manipulation of public opinion to generate a hostile climate against his clients."

Tenerife Carnaval: The party is back on

Carnaval events will resume on Wednesday night with the Gala for the Selection of the Carnaval Queen and, will continue on Friday, when the Cabalgata Anunciadora (Opening Parade) officially brings the carnival into the streets. Parade starts at 8 p.m.

Residents to complain about the noise again

Despite the Canary Islands Government's measures to "arm" the fiestas, by unanimously declaring that noise regulations are suspended during these events and, despite the judge lifting the earlier suspension of late night revelries, saying that the the issue had already been settled by a 2006 court ruling, ABC report that the lawyer acting for the 15 residents, Felipe Campos, says that noise levels measured on the first night of the festivities in Santa Cruz measured greater than the "permitted" 55 decibels and, that they intend to denounce the situation again.

This article at Canarias7 points out that the suspension is not definitive. It also reiterates the history of carnival arriving with the conquistadores and being prohibited on various occasions; by King Carlos I in 1523 and by King Felipe II, as well as during the time of the Civil War. If Franco's dictatorship couldn't suppress it, then the injunction has a snowball in hell's chance.

Carnival was declared as national tourist interest in 1967 and, internationally in 1980. At the end of the day, carnival is popular with far more people than it is unpopular. It also puts too much food into too many mouths - the expensive stalls that are erected all around the city center, as well as all the ongoing tourist revenue - to get squashed.

And it's mystifying that none of these 15 knew about the carnival that has been going for hundreds of years when they bought their apartments in the city.