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Heart 2 Heart

In the little town of Tejina above the northern coast of Tenerife, the people wear their hearts, not on their sleeves, but on giant frames that play the starring role in the Fiesta de Los Corazones de Tejina (the festival of the hearts of Tejina).

The fiesta is one of the most deep-rooted festivals of the Canary Islands and its origins are bound to the seasonal celebration of the harvest. Offerings of fruit, flowers and boughs to the local saint are a common feature of fiestas in the Islands and date back to pre-Hispanic times when the Guanche wove boughs of laurel, palm leaves and aromatic herbs into arcs which were used to adorn holy places during religious rituals.

But in Tejina, the arcs have evolved into something extraordinary.

Standing in the Plaza de San Bartolomé on a sultry morning in August, the air is suddenly split by the whirr and bang of firework rockets as the ‘hearts’ appear; three huge wooden and iron frames bearing hearts decorated in fruit and pastry discs with an extravagant bouquet of flowers atop, are being carried by groups of 20 or more men, their faces wet with the strain of the 800 kilo weight.

On a wall by the side of the church, a small girl is hurling insults at the group right next to where I'm standing who are straining to raise the heart with poles and ropes onto a waiting cross fixed into the plaza. The girl is wearing an orange Calle Arriba T-shirt while the men beside me are wearing white El Pico ones; these are rival hearts from rival districts of the town.

As the El Pico team slot their frame onto the waiting bracket a roar goes up from around me; they’re the first to raise their hearts. The little girl is furious and stands with hands on hips, still badmouthing the team who now laugh at her and congratulate each other.

When the hearts are secured, Spanish flags are inserted, three into each side and the finished spectacle is awesome; the plaza is filled with flags, bunting and coloured bulbs that hang in swathes above the brightly coloured kiosks selling jams, wine, flowers and wood carvings. Centre stage, the three ‘hearts’ stand like characters in a Lewis Carroll adaptation, creating a Wonderland in the plaza.

From beneath the hearts, groups of rival neighbours are making comments about the quality or otherwise of the workmanship of the pastries, the freshness of the flowers and the uniformity and positioning of the fruit. Voices rise as the observations turn to insults, each one attracting a retort from the neighbouring heart and a cheer and laughter from the crowd. But the rivalry is good natured, and witty, and the atmosphere in the plaza feels like a local party to which I haven't been invited but am nevertheless welcome.

Tomorrow the hearts will be stripped of their fruit and pastries which will be thrown to the crowd as ‘trophies’ of the fiesta. Minor injuries such as an orange in the eye or a pear blow to the head will undoubtedly occur and people of a nervous disposition will be well advised to stand clear. So just for today, the Corazones de Tejina fill the plaza, a wondrous sight and a tribute to the agricultural heritage of Tenerife’s ‘greenhouse valley’.


The Fiesta of Los Corazones de Tejina takes place this year on Sunday 26th August in the town of Tejina in the valley above Bajamar on Tenerife’s northern coast.
  • 11.30 am – The hearts leave their barrio, accompanied by their parrandas, and are carried to Plaza de San Bartolomé in the centre of the town.

  • 12.00 midday - Offerings are made to San Bartolomé and the hearts are raised.

  • 21.30 – Poems and dedications are recited to the hearts in Plaza de San Bartolomé

  • 27th August at 19.00 hrs – hearts are stripped of fruit and pastries which are ‘distributed’ to the crowd

  • 28th August from 11.30 am – children’s version, or Corazones de Los Chicos de Tejina fiesta

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