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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Day of Traditions in El Palmar

Sunday's Day of Traditions or Día de la Trilla, the last day of the fiestas here in the village of El Palmar, was, as in previous years, a great day out.

The building of the Carbonera - that smoking heap of charcoal producing earth and foliage - was business as usual and, I can't help laughing that it - typically for here - took, by my count, 10 blokes to do so, six of whom were merely "observers".

The bit you don't see in the photo was that it also required an entire bottle of wine, local, obviously, poured from a recycled whiskey bottle!

One element missing this year were the horses - except this pony giving free rides to children. Disappointing, because they do look so pretty, prancing around on the wheat, but it was obvious that their work is also essential to the process. Without the horses first having flattened the straw, the oxen had a harder time of dragging their boards over it.

What one learns by attending these country fairs is how everything has to work in harmony in the countryside. They may make this all into a game for the kids, but even their part, for added weight, is important.

And while these may seem like "quaint traditions", we have to learn from them - while we can - with wheat being predicted to be one of global warming's next casualties.

Meanwhile, the fun continued and somebody must have mentioned the free food for a queue like this to form. That wasn't even half of it either. :)

The rest of the afternoon people spent dancing in the open air next to that market building. Even in the early evening, I could still hear the band playing, all the way up at home.

Those fiestas weren't going to end until everyone had enough, I think.

Personally, after trying to cover even just the major events from the 10 days that the fiestas lasted, I had loads of fun, but I'm also fairly knackered!

The local people have been brilliant, answering all my "stupid" questions over why such and such a thing is done. And, as well as being aware of my constant snapping with the camera, many know that I've been translating this into English, which had made them ever more keen to respond.

You may not come to El Palmar's fiestas in particular, however, but all towns and villages on these islands have their own version of fiestas like this - with a similar lineup of events - so that, if you do come across a fiesta in progress, or make a trip to see one, I hope this series will give you some better insight into what's going on to be able to enjoy it and participate.

And do you know what, there on Sunday were some people in nice, brand new blue t-shirts printed with Comisión de Fiestas 2008. Yeah, selling raffle tickets to begin to collect money to pay for next year's fiestas already. :)

This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar. Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tenerife Village Fiesta: Day 10

Fiestas Day 10 - Sunday, September 23st (Day of Traditions)

Learning to driveAnd so we come to the program for the final day and big finale of the fiestas in El Palmar: the Day of Traditions or Country Fair.

From 11:00 at the Finca Los Pedregales in El Palmar. The highlight of the day is La Trilla (Threshing) carried out, as we see, with oxen, horses and lots of audience participation.

The fiesta program says that this is "an obligatory date in the calendar" (I shan't argue), organized by the Neighbours' Association in El Palmar, The Commission of Fiestas and the Town Hall in Buenavista del Norte.

CarbonerasPlenty of animals and farm implements round out this country fair, along with demonstrations of other local traditions such as the Carboneras (smoking heap of earth and foliage) that people in this area used to make charcoal.

There is such thing as a free lunch too; laid on for everyone who attends (expect to queue, mind you) and the day will come to a close with a stupendous dance in the plaza (next to the market building). The Latin Jazz style band from Buenavista they had for this last year was superb.

Baskets of JoyIt's also worth mentioning that the Farmers' Market generally has three times as many stalls as usual, offering the freshest local produce, as well as genuine local crafts. Hint: those make far better souvenirs than the plastic items that you may find in the souvenir shops, as well as that benefitting the local people.
This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar. Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tenerife Village Fiesta: Day 9

Floral offeringWell, we've reached the 2nd last day of the fiestas today. Doesn't time fly when you're having fun? :)

No really, I've been impressed with the sheer variety of events laid on and that have catered for all ages and, considering that this is such a small pueblo. Today, we have:

Fiestas Day 9 - Saturday, September 22st

At 17:00 Thanksgiving mass and procession around the plaza ... Followed by floral and produce offerings in honour of the Virgin.

At 23:00 Gran Verbena with the Malibu Band, which is a local - very local: they hail from the Barrio de La Cuesta in Buenavista del Norte - 14 piece outfit playing the usual selections of Salsa and Merengue for fiestas.

This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar. Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tenerife Village Fiesta: Day 8

Trestle tables are set out in rows in El Palmar's square for the old folks' afternoon tea.
Whilst I shall (despite being an emigrant / immigrant), of course, claim to have nothing whatsoever in common with the other attendees at the Old Folks Day of El Palmar's fiestas and, deliberately avoided partaking of afternoon tea (to do so would have been an admission that I was old enough), from a cultural and historical point of view, the day's events were some of the more fascinating on the agenda.

Members of the folk groups, in traditional costume, tuck into the sandwiches, rosquetes and wine.
Canarian folk music is a bit of an acquired taste for anyone not born amongst it, but for anyone with even a passing interest in the history of the islands - and their influence on the development of the New World - observing these traditions raises some interesting questions.

Canarian folklore is a product of the temperament and psychology of the Canarian people, their aboriginal ancestry and rites, as well as marks left by the various different cultures that have invaded the islands. This has produced a style with a personality that is very particular to the islands.

It's interesting to note that there are "purists" who would have everything done just so in relation to Canarian folklore, both the music and the dress. In fact, this view can be seen as entirely contrary to the nature of the beast, which has been in constant evolution for more than five centuries.

That the day's entertainments were preceded by a mass for the emigrants, was highly appropriate. Being one of the least developed (least spoilt) areas of Tenerife is synonymous with being one of the poorest financially, thus, the percentage of people who have, in history and living memory, emigrated, mostly to Venezuela, from these valleys is particularly high.

There are strong links between Tenerife and Venezuela, through emigration and numerous returnees who brought back customs, a taste for arepas, cachapas and hallacas and, even Venezuelan born kids, but we tend to think of the more recent waves of emigration to escape poverty and repression in the 20th Century and, their return since democracy was restored.

When we think of musical styles that the Canary Islands share in common with Latin America, the ones that come to mind most readily are Salsa, Merengue and, more recently Reggaeton, all of which have made their way east across the Atlantic ocean, but that are all now homegrown too.

But the cultural and musical links go back much farther than that.

In 1536, Pedro Fernández de Lugo, son of Tenerife's conqueror and first Adelantado (Governor), embarked on his expedition to Santa Marta in Colombia with 1,500 soldiers, half of whom were Canarians.

Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Florida, Luisiana, San Antonio (Texas) and, above all Venezuela (where Canarians, at times, made up 52% of the white immigrants into the country), were all also either founded or colonized by Canarians. Either voluntarily or by force, it's calculated that 10,000 Canarians or Canary Island residents emigrated to the Americas in the first century after the conquest alone.

In later centuries, these numbers were considerably greater still.

Dancers from Teno Alto.
Meanwhile, the fiestas and traditional dances in El Palmar and Teno Alto, we are told, have been passed down through the generations.

This group, which is from Teno Alto, danced the danza de las cintas (ribbon dance) that is reminiscent of Maypole dances and treated us to performances of various others of the most noted local folk dances; Tajaraste de Teno, Polka de Teno and Joropo de Teno.

Joropo is a word that I'm familiar with, because one of the regular dance troupes at Tenerife's main Carnaval in Santa Cruz every year is called the Joroperos. Male dancers of the Joropo wear what is called liquiliqui: an outfit, traditional to the plains of Columbia and Venezuela and, again, one of the groups to perform regularly in Santa Cruz' Carnaval, Los Liqui-Liquis, takes this word as their name. They actually come from Venezuela, but in representation of the Hogar Canario (kinda Canarians abroad club) there.

The Joropo - a musical style resembling the waltz, and an accompanying dance, having African and European influences - is considered an unofficial national anthem in Venezuela and is said to have originated in the middle 1600s, in Columbia and Venezuela, but the roots of joropo include music from sailors and troubadours who came in galleons from Spain.

Dancers in typical Tenerife dress.
One must remember that back in the days of galleons, a stop in the Canary Islands for provisions, often also taking on additional passengers and crew, was mandatory, even if the ships did not originally depart from the archipelago.

Some styles of folk music here contain elements of aboriginal customs, onto which Spanish ones have been tacked. This is certainly true of the tajaraste. When you consider that around 150 years had passed between the conquest of these islands and the appearance of the joropo in Latin America, it becomes less clear if this went straight from Spain to Venezuela, or whether it picked up elements from the islands first.

When you also add that in the years between 1900 and 1910 alone, although 53,920 emigrants left the Canary Islands, some 61,931 actually returned here from the Americas, it starts to be unclear even in which direction this crossed the Atlantic. But either way, at some point in history, a dance with the name of joropo reached the plains of Teno Alto; one of Tenerife's smallest and most inaccessible hamlets, where it is still danced.

La emigración canaria a Venezuela

Today, we can rejuvenate and bring ourselves right up to date with:

Fiestas Day 8 - Friday, September 21st (Youth Day)

At 17:00 Workshops in the plaza, under the watchful eye of the Buenavista del Norte youth club.

At 18:00 Festival Infantil (Infants' Festival), a show put on by the children of the district, organized by Deisy Salar and presented by Nohemi and David.

At 21:00 Festival Joven (Youth Festival) with a disco provided by mobile disco, "New Evolution".

This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar. Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tenerife Village Fiesta: Day 7

Well, yesterday, it was a (hopefully rare) case of "rain stopped play".

Actually, I don't know if it stopped the football, but because it had been raining heavily here in the valley during the afternoon, as much as I love you all and, as intrigued as I was to find out just exactly what could deserve the exalted title of Estadio Los Pedregales (Los Pedregales Stadium), I had absolutely no intention of going out and getting myself wet. :)

So, onto today's events, weather permitting:

Fiesta Day 7 - Thursday, September 20th (Old Folks Day)

(After walking a mile to the village and often back again most days to cover these events, this day is the one I now feel best qualified to attend! :)

At 17:00 there is to be a mass for the emigrants. They mean, of course, the locals who emigrated, mostly to Venezuela. Almost everyone you speak to in this valley has family there, or has spent some time there themselves.

At 18:00 is the Old Folks Festival, with participation from several folk groups and with a free afternoon tea laid on for all the OAPs who attend.

This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar. Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Pirates Attack Tenerife

For yesterday's International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a Brit in Tenerife would have done well to keep as quiet as possible, lest it be thought that they were a descendant of any of the many English pirates to have visited or attacked these shores.

During the 14th Century, the pirates avoided Tenerife, since they had heard hair-raising tales of the savagery of the inhabitants of the larger island, but almost as soon as the Spanish conquest was over, the island became a magnet for the many, mainly British, French and Dutch, pirates.

Antique Canary Islands Map
The Canary Islands, due to their geographical position, became a compulsory stopover for the Spanish fleets on their way to and from the New World. And because of their strategic location along these trade routes, Tenerife and its fellow Canary Islands, therefore, became sitting ducks for pirate attacks and skirmishes with foreign invasions.

Galleons, which came back loaded with treasures from the American Continent, were often attacked by pirates protected by English and French crowns.

Sir Francis Drake attacked Tenerife in 1586 and Gran Canaria in 1595. In 1656/7 Robert Blake, the English pirate, tried to conquer Tenerife and annex it to the English kingdom. On April 20 that year, Blake totally destroyed a Spanish silver fleet of 16 ships at Santa Cruz Bay, Tenerife. In 1706, Rear Admiral Sir John Jennings, with a fleet of 13 ships, tried to occupy Santa Cruz harbour, without success. And in the most famous failed attempt of them all, England's Lord Horatio Nelson, the famed admiral of the mighty Royal Navy, not only lost his 1797 invasion attempt but also his arm.

Of course, it depends which side you're on whether you call these pirates and privateers, or historical icons and national heros, but it's a testament to how tough the local people are that none of them succeeded here.

But the constant cross-ocean naval movements between Spain and its American colonies meant ships laden with treasures and spices. Pirate flotillas began patrolling the stretch of ocean between the Azores and Canary Islands in the 16th century, and would continue to do so into the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries. In their down time, these pirates would head for the islands - particularly Tenerife and Gran Canaria - where they robbed, burned down villages and killed islanders in search of wine and riches. This constant threat led to a militarization of the island.

Castillo de San Juan Bautista, popularly known as the Castillo Negro, in Santa Cruz.
Watch towers and castles were constructed in hopes of fending off bad-intentioned seafarers, villages were built out of sight from the coastline and, today you can still explore castles, forts and towers in Tenerife. Among those best preserved are the Castillo de San Juan Bautista (or Castillo Negro) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Castillo de San Felipe, Puerto de la Cruz

Meanwhile, the Castillo de San Felipe, in Puerto de la Cruz, was also built to protect that town from attacks of pirates and corsairs. Built in 1634, it continued in its original use until 1878. Restored and in an excellent state of conservation, it is used for recitals and cultural events.

Castillo de San Miguel, Garachico

The Castillo de San Miguel in Garachico - which was the island's main port from the conquest, until the eruption of 1706 - was built between 1575 and 1577. This Renaissance style fort, now property of the local council, is occasionally used for art exhibitions and contains a mini-museum of history of the area.

The village of Adeje, prey to frequent Arab attacks, was also sacked by Sir Francis Drake in 1586, so fortification has played an important part in the development of the town. The sturdily fortified hacienda, Casa Fuerte stands as testimony to the village's remarkable defensive structure.

Research also shows that many Crypto-Jews [Jews who secretly practiced their religion after being forced to convert to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition] prospered when they cooperated with the local pirates who turned the archipelago into their main base.

Cristóbal de Ponte
Cristóbal de Ponte, founder of Garachico, financier of the conquest of Tenerife and father of Pedro de Ponte.
In 1555, Pedro de Ponte - son of Cristóbal de Ponte the Jewish merchant and banker from Genoa, who founded the town of Garachico in 1496 - obtained permission from Spain to build the Casa Fuerte; a mixture of country house and fort, part of which still remains in the south Tenerife town of Adeje, to protect his sugar-cane business from the incursions of British and French pirates on the coasts.

Remains of the Casa Fuerte in Adeje
Worthwhile for an idea of how the Casa Fuerte must have looked whole is this 1839 drawing, Vista de la villa de Adeje con su Casa Fuerte.

On several occasions, English corsair, John Hawkins, lived here. Hawkins, cousin of Sir Francis Drake and backed by Elizabeth I, was the partner of Pedro de Ponte in the slave trade with America.

John Hawkins was one of the most flamboyant figures of the Elizabethan Age, having left his mark as a slave trader, privateer, rear admiral, double agent and noted shipbuilder. Hawkins made plans with his friends in the Canaries to break into the slave trade in Guinea. Pedro de Ponte would help provide the fleet with water and supplies, make necessary arrangements with merchants in the Indies, and find a skilled pilot to handle navigation. Hawkins would provide the ships and the capital.

The last member of the Ponte family to live in the Casa Fuerte was Marqués Don Domingo José de Herrera y Ayala, who died in 1766 and, although the Casa Fuerte is not open to the public, in May of this year, Adeje council announced that it's in process of rescuing and digitizing its historic archives, documenting the history of the area between 1445 and 1931.

The old cannon that guards the Casa Fuerte.
The 86 meters worth of documents from the Casa Fuerte: more than 17,000 files and more than a million folio pages, must surely shed some fascinating new light on the history of, not only Adeje, but also of the island of Tenerife, as well as those of the islands of La Gomera and El Hierro during the 15th to 20th Centuries.

Plaza de Santo Domingo and Chuch of Santo Domingo de Guzmán in La Laguna
On the other hand, quite why an ancient tombstone in the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán in San Cristóbal de La Laguna should bear the unmistakable trademark of piracy: an engraved a skull and crossbones, shall, for the moment, remain a mystery.

The Canaries' wealth invited frequent attacks by pirates and privateers.

The most significant attack took place in 1599, when the Dutch Van der Does attacked the capital Real de Las Palmas with 74 ships, 12,000 men (the city had 3,500 of the island of Gran Canaria's 8,545 inhabitants) and 150 landing craft. They attacked the Castillo de la Luz, which gave itself up when the city was evacuated.

The town of Santa Cruz de La Palma too has a rich seafaring history. It was founded by Alonso Fernández de Lugo on 3rd May 1493 and from that time onwards, became home to Spanish, Flemish, English and Portuguese merchants and a target for pirates including those led by Françoise Le Clerc (known as Peg Leg) who, in 1553, pillaged and destroyed the town.

Protected by too small a garrison, Lanzarote's inhabitants were decimated, for centuries, by the relentless attacks of pirates who were slave-hunters. In the 17th century, pirates raided the island and took 1,000 inhabitants to slavery in Cueva de los Verdes.

The island of Fuerteventura was once a favorite haunt for pirates and their legacy for divers are some great wreaks to explore.

Bring me one noggin of rum, now, won't you, matey

These days, the mostly legless, rather than armless, English invaders of Tenerife can enjoy Pirates Attack Tenerife, which is a Pirates Show with live singers, dancers, acrobats, comedy and lots of live entertainment. Or they can take a 3 hour cruise on the Jolly Roger pirate ship from Los Cristianos.


Visitors can go on a guided tour of the Route of the Castles in Tenerife with a little help from the History Museum. Reservations in advance are necessary. Information from 922 825 949/43.

Other sources:
History of Lanzarote
Introduction to Adeje, Spain
Canary Islands From Wikipedia
History of Tenerife: Spanish Conquest
In Deep - Santa Cruz de La Palma
Holidayinfo - Tenerife
Santa Cruz de Tenerife - Historic City and Capital of the Spanish Province
Adeje - Cabildo Insular de Tenerife
A time line for the history of Tenerife
Historia: Navegación: Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595)
Sir Francis Drake The Queen's Pirate
Historia: Sir Francis Drake (1543-1596)
Tenerife Island: Some information
History of the 18th y 19th century
15th, 16th and 17th centuries
Ataque de Robert Blake a Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Ataque de John Genings a Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Santa Cruz de Tenerife travel guide - Wikitravel
The Jews of the Canary Islands

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tenerife Village Fiesta: Day 6

Lucha Canaria (Canarian Wrestling)Yesterday afternoon, I moseyed along down to the day's events for the fiestas: the exhibition of Native Sports (which, following mass, actually did start around about the advertised time, as I wagered.)

Although it's often on the TV here, I've not paid a lot of attention to Lucha Canaria (Canarian Wrestling) before, but anything live lends its own atmosphere and, as such, it's easy to see why this is the most popular of the indigenous sports in Tenerife.

Canarian wrestling has more in common with a Japanese martial art than wrestling as we know it in the UK or the US. Lucha is "gentlemanly", in that opponents don't seek to hurt one another and they shake hands before each bout. They also help each other up afterwards too: good manners that the guy in charge was constantly instilling into the kids present and, running the ring in a similar way as I have seen martial arts masters run a dojo.

Juego de Palo (Stick fighting)Junior wrestlers from Buenavista, Icod de los Vinos and San Juan de la Rambla provided the demonstration: six lads and one girl, who was certainly no easy opponent for the boys she wrestled. All made much more fun for the crowd when they got volunteer kids from the village to have a go at wrestling too.

Before that, there was a demonstration of Juego de Palo (Stick fighting), which originates with the Guanches, ancient inhabitants of Tenerife.

Bola Canaria (Canarian boules)Meanwhile, the older men played Bola Canaria (Canarian boules) on the village's purpose-built playing area, across from the plaza, at the back of the health center.

I'd long wondered what that was there for and thought maybe it was a flowerbed someone forgot to plant or a zen style sunken garden. My dog thought it was a K9 public convenience, but when there aren't any for humans, it seems unlikely they would install one for dogs and then there's the fact that there is a bank of seating alongside. Duh, now we know! :)

And there's more sport lined up for ...

Fiesta Day 6 - Wednesday, September 19th

At 16:00 Football - between single girls and married women.

At 17:30 Football - between the single blokes and married men.

Both of these, reputedly, will take place at the Estadio Los Pedregales (Los Pedregales Stadium). Well, I know where Los Pedregales is, what I didn't know was that it had a "stadium" and, you'd tend to think you'd notice something like that, wouldn't you? Wembley, it certainly ain't! :)

At 21:30 There is to be a Velada Musical (Musical Soirée or Social Evening)

This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar. Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tenerife Village Fiesta: Day 5

What time did we say the kids' activities would start yesterday?

Yes, 11 a.m. (That's what is says on the printed program.) And what time did they start? 4 p.m. Good job I didn't go down until the afternoon then.

Lesson 1: Whatever time they tell you here, pay no attention! :-)

Except, of course, on the occasions when the time they list is true.

How do you tell the difference? Heck, I wish someone would tell me!

My advice: if you come across a village decorated for fiestas, hang around for a couple of hours, because something is almost bound to happen.

And it's uncanny, you know, whenever there's any event on, there will seem to be nothing happening and nobody there until the exact moment everything starts. I see this every year at the Three Kings parade in Garachico. There will be no more than a few people milling around (probably mostly visitors), then all of a sudden, you hear the kings arriving, look up and a football stadium sized crowd has beamed down, probably from outer space.

Yesterday was the same. I had the plaza all to myself for the now customary couple of hour wait, then, at the very moment that the air was plugged into the bouncy castle, hoards of children appeared from nowhere, shoes were coming off and they were forming a line. Can anyone explain this?

And, could someone please lay on a bouncy castle day for grown-ups. :)

Probably the nearest thing is what we have lined up for today (and my bet, on this occasion, is that the published times will be fairly accurate):

Fiesta Day 5 - Tuesday, September 18th

At 17:00 - Eucharist for the departed of the village.

At 18:30 - Exhibition and workshops of Native Sports, including:

Juego de Palo (Stick fighting)

The "juego del palo" (stick fighting) originates from techniques of defence and attack used by the Guanches, ancient inhabitants of Tenerife. Now a sport where no is harm inflicted, it has become a type of fencing match between two combatants armed with wooden sticks.

We've all seen Robin Hood and Little John doing something similar. :)

Bola Canaria (Canarian boules)

"Bola Canaria" (Canarian boules) is very similar to the French sport of petanque. In both games the idea is to get closest to the jack but in the Canarian game the boules are heavier and the playing area larger.

Lucha Canaria (Canarian Wrestling)

Canarian wrestling is the most popular of the indigenous sports in Tenerife. Requiring both strength and skill, the winner is the wrestler who makes their opponent touch the floor first with any part of their body aside from the feet.

... plus other popular games.

Los juegos y deportes autóctonos y tradicionales canarios (In Spanish) Illustrated article on Canarian native and traditional sports and games.

This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar. Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tenerife Village Fiesta: Day 4

Having missed last night's variety show, we can go directly into the schedule of events for the fiestas today, Monday, September 17th: Kids' Day.

From 11:00 a.m. there are activities for younger children, including:

- Bouncy castles
- A foam party
- Crafts workshops

As well as a corrida de cintas en bicicleta. Cintas are ribbons, bicicleta is, fairly obviously, bicycle. Whatever it is, it sounds fun: count me in! :)

The Tenerife island corporation have been organizing these activities in the Teno Rural Park during the summer, through the management office in El Palmar and are listed for today in El Palmar itself. These took place in Las Portelas in August and the Albergue de Bolico have the photos here and the first of those, showing the plaza decorated with multicolored ribbons against a pretty blue sky is certainly an image to brighten up a Monday morning.

This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar. Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tenerife Village Fiesta: Day 3

Yesterday's fiesta events began with the Baile de las Libreas (Livery Dance) and, it's worth mentioning something about the "Canarian timing" again. Listed on the program for 6:30 (in order to encourage people to gather in time), it actually happened at around 8.30 p.m., as was predicted. :-)

What the devil?When someone talks of one of the oldest folk dances on the island of Tenerife, unique to the village of El Palmar, possibly originating in the 17th Century and, whenever it's mentioned, in the same breath is always a speech about how important it is and how it needs to be preserved, what I really expected was something serious demanding of utter respect. However, the Baile de las Libreas (Livery Dance) turns out to be a satirical piece turned entertainment for kids of all ages.

Fiestas El Palmar 2007One can understand having the male dancers dress up as women, as this was the accepted custom of the era. Cross-dressing has a long history in theatre, for instance, even in the English Renaissance, because it just wasn't done for women to perform.

However, these costumes - that look like they've been made out of the remnants of the kitchen curtains - remind one more of the Pantomime Dame and nobody is fooled: this is comedy and these are men in skirts.

Fiestas El Palmar 2007The dance itself, though reasonably strange, with its sarcastically exaggerated steps, is hardly the high spot of the entertainment. We are told that they set light to the devil figures - though we must say that "going to hell" does not seem half as daunting if the devil looks like Dusty Bin's Canarian cousin - as a purification and to drive away evil.

What this meant, in reality, was that they lit a column of fireworks that are attached to the back of the figures. They then run round the plaza, which fills with smoke, pointing their backs to the audience - the more so just as the fireworks are about to go bang - at a distance that would have fire safety inspectors giving birth to whole litters of kittens. It's all seriously weird.

Fiestas El Palmar 2007The more so as this "pantomime" takes place immediately before a solemn mass and a procession of the Virgin de la Consolación through the village, accompanied by the band and yet more fireworks.

There are constant bangs and, the already slow procession is constantly held up as Catherine wheels are set on tripods in the middle of the street - with spectators feet away - or fireworks rain down from flat roofs and balconies.

The Grand Finale was a huge fireworks display when the procession reaches the main road that is closed for the duration. Once the Icon was safely back inside the church (after a little intervention with a broom to extract the streamers decorating the plaza that got caught up in her canopy), on came the band for the Monumental Verbena (Open air dance).

The many kids, who had come for the fireworks and who ran around the plaza throughout the open-air mass, were still doing so at 2 a.m.

So what do we have lined up for today?

Fiesta Day 3 - Sunday, September 16th (Principal Day)

At 15:00 the Municipal Band of Los Remedios from Buenavista arrived.

At 16:00 mass, sung by the Santa Monica Choir from Los Realejos (who, apparently, were listed in error on the program for yesterday), followed by another procession of the Virgin de la Consolación through the village and, despite being still daylight, terminated with fireworks - of the noisy kind.

Listed for 19:30 (who's betting this really means 21:30?) is a Gran Festival of Variedades (Variety Show), starring singer, Fabiola Socas from Icod de los Vinos who sings, as well as typical folk of the islands, jazz, soul and pop; timple player Domingo Rodríguez "El Colorado" (who, along with Benito Cabrera and José Antonio Ramos is one of the top three players of this Canarian instrument) and soloist - twice accompanied by the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra for their annual Christmas Concert - and former member of Los Sabandeños, José Manuel Ramos.

Not bad for a tiny village and, when you consider that everything is free.
This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar. Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tenerife Village Fiesta: Day 2

Spirit of the carnivalLast night's carnival style opening of the Fiestas in El Palmar was a hoot, though, it's hard to understand why they put times on the program: they bear absolutely no relation to reality. Not that this really matters, except, the longer one spends waiting, the more acutely one becomes aware of the complete lack of public toilets! :)

Events were slated to begin at 7.30 p.m. yesterday. When did they actually start? Some time well after 9 p.m. Although the official speeches then were mercifully short, it still must have been getting on for 10, when the carnival opening procession even started off on it's rounds of the village streets.

Fiestas El Palmar 2007It was a little after midnight when it and the entourage of revellers - the Comparsa, the band and numerous carnivaleros: mostly men dressed up as women and one, inexplicably (although the lack of bathroom facilities might have been a clue), dressed in an adult diaper - finally returned.

Then the party started. Well, no the party had been going on in the streets of El Palmar (both of them) for all that time and, this was when I discovered what is really meant by "enjoying the good meat, wine and music."

Fiestas El Palmar 2007The meat - a whole open-backed truck load and probably several animals worth of it - and the wine was free. As much as you like: all you had to do was to raise your hand amongst the hundreds of others similarly begging.

Chaotic? Well, just a tad, but I only saw one argument break out.

On the back of this ancient camion (lorry), which apparently, was still being fixed at 6 p.m., were half a dozen people handing out barbecued meat, from an industrial-sized grill, in half loaves and sloshing out the "good wine" in plastic cups, at speed of service that McDonalds can only dream about.

By the time everyone did get back to the plaza and the dance band got going, the wheels were certainly well oiled, so to speak.

Fiestas El Palmar 2007And, if the free food and wine wasn't enough for anyone, there's a stall in the square selling toys, snacks and sweets, plus two bars, one of which is also selling perros calientes (hot dogs) and papas locas (chips n sauce).

So onto today's scheduled events.

Fiesta Day 2 - Saturday, September 15th (Eve of the Fiesta)

At 16:00 there is a photographic exhibition in the plaza.

At 18:30 (very approx.) is the Baile de las Libreas. (Livery Dance)

I've been informed that the Baile de las Libreas usually starts around 8 to 8.30 p.m. and, based on yesterday's experience, I have no reason to doubt it. What I've been told is that the only thing that starts on time is mass (and today we have one that will act as a guide to the rest of the timetable): the rest of the times are listed, just so that people will start gathering. Ah!

This dance is apparently one of the oldest folk dances in Tenerife, probably dating from the 17th Century and, also seems to be unique to El Palmar.

It consists of three pairs of dancers, i.e. 6 in total, all male, three of whom are dressed as women, plus figures representing male and female devils. The whole symbolizes the struggle between good and evil and the dancers dance, jumping and gyrating with exaggerated movements, to the sound of the "tajaraste" pipes and drums around the streets of the village, eventually setting fire to the devil figures in order to purify and drive away evil.

Many different theories exist over exactly when, how and why this dance originated, but it seems that a combination of elements fused at some unknown point in history. The "tajaraste", most likely originates with the pre-conquest aboriginal inhabitants of the islands and was allowed to be combined with Christian religious events as a means to attract people.

The dancers who dress as women have powdered faces and wear veils, from which may come the custom of masks at carnival and, the presence of devils in religious processions seems to have been an island obsession, as is written in the records of the tribunals of the Inquisition.

There's more information about it (in Spanish) here from Paulino Alonso; in this article about the statue being built in El Palmar to commemorate the dance Eladio de la Cruz diseñará la escultura de las libreas en El Palmar, this newspaper article which emphasizes it's status as one of the oldest dances Buenavista conserva una de las danzas más antiguas de Tenerife and in-depth cultural considerations over this dance, the symbolism of fire and the prevalence of fireworks at fiestas in Algunas consideraciones sobre las libreas y fuegos de artificio en nuestras fiestas populares.

At 21:00 The Eve of Fiestas Eucharist (mass) will be sung by the Coro Santa Monica (Santa Monica Choir) from Los Realejos, followed by a procession of the venerated (and Canonically Crowned, by Pope John Paul II) image of Nuestra Señora de la Consolación, accompanied by the Band of Cornets and Drums from Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in La Cuesta, Buenavista del Norte. At the end of the procession, we will enjoy a fireworks display provided by the Toste Brothers from Los Realejos.

After the fireworks, and listed as starting at 24:00 there is a Monumental Verbena (Open air dance) with the Orchestra de Arturo Castillo (or Arthur Castle's Orchestra, if you really must anglicize it) from Garachico.

This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar. Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Friday, September 14, 2007

Chronology of a Tenerife Village Fiesta

En Primera PáginaIn towns and villages throughout Tenerife and the Canary Islands, the annual fiestas are a very important event in the social calendar.

In olden times, they were probably the best - and often only - opportunity young people got to find a mate and these fiestas are still very much a thanksgiving for the harvest.

Part carnival, part village fete, part harvest festival and part country show, the amount of organization that goes into these events - every village has its own association or committee of fiesta organizers - often seems quite disproportionate to the size of the population it aims to entertain.

In the case of the Grandes Fiestas in honor of Nuestra Señora de la Consolación 2007 in El Palmar, that's only about 620 of us, but especially in rural areas such as this, where until very recently, most people relied entirely on backbreaking subsistence farming, this once-yearly chance to really enjoy themselves was, and still is, fully appreciated.

They also want to share these celebrations with others and do themselves proud, so it's a matter of good hospitality to offer guests far more than they could possibly want. After months of planning, visible preparations began a week before with putting out the flags and, local authorities too make a point of saying that these old customs need to be preserved and act as tourist attractions.

All you need to do is come along, watch or participate and enjoy.

Threshing MachinesSo, whilst normally, when I list events, I just pick out the major items from fiestas so that you could get a taste of what's going on and what it's about, since I have a copy of the superlative filled printed program for our village fiestas, I thought you might like to see a bit more of a Tenerife fiesta's typical lineup.

Over the next 10 days - the fiestas begin today and end on September 23rd with the wheat threshing - I'll cerealize serialize each days events.

Quite how many I will actually manage to attend, is another matter entirely, but I do hope to see some of it and get photos and, the list alone, I think, will be a worldwide internet exclusive in any language: :)

Fiesta Day 1 - Friday, September 14th

At 19:30 the Fanfarria del Puerto de la Cruz (this, I am reliably informed, is the carnival type of parade band, in costume) and the Comparsa Las Chicharacas (carnival type dance troupe) enter the village.

At 20:30 the Pregón (Proclamation) by the pregónero (this actually translates to town crier) - or, in this case pregónera, because it's a woman - proclaims the fiestas open for business with due ceremony, in company of the local mayor, Aurelio Abreu. These days, you seem to need a higher education for the job of fiesta crier. Ms Jessica Fortes Regalado, who lives in the district, has a degree in Philology (OK, it means a "love of words"), from the University of La Laguna. She wrote her thesis on the "lexico agrario" (farming terms) of the North West of Tenerife.

After that, there is to be a Gran Cabalgata (Carnival type cavalcade) through the streets of the village, "enjoying the good meat, wine and music." At the end of which, is a Gran Baile (Big Dance) to the band, Grupo Atlantic.

This is one of a continuing series of posts on these fiestas, continued at:

Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day of Traditions in El Palmar

Fiestas El Palmar 2007 Photos

Friday, September 07, 2007

High Fliers: Granadilla's Festival Internacional de Cometas

With the XVII Festival Internacional de Cometas de Tenerife (17th Tenerife International Kite Festival) about to take place at the Playa de La Tejita, El Medano, Granadilla de Abona, this weekend, Jack Montgomery gives us a glimpse of the wonderful and surreal creations you can see against Tenerife's blue skies ...

When I tell friends that I've seen an octopus, stingray, puffer fish and shark all at the same time, they look impressed. When I casually add that when I saw this eclectic collection of marine creatures they happened to be in the sky at the time, their expression changes and I can see them wondering whether I’ve been overdoing the mojitos.

However, head for Playa de La Tejita, between El Médano and Los Abrigos, on either the 8th or 9th of September and it's very possible you’ll be greeted by a similar, surreal scene as it's the location for Granadilla’s Internacional Festival de Cometas (Kite Festival). This contemporary fiesta, it’s only sixteen years old, is an enchanting and laid back affair, when the skies above the beach are filled with a colourful display which includes big, beautiful and occasionally downright bizarre kites.

Over 100 participants are expected at the two day event, including kite fliers from Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, South America and Germany. The fact that it takes place on a kilometre long beach also means there’s plenty of space for spectators.

It’s widely accepted that the Chinese invented the kite more than 3000 years ago, since when it's been used in wars, to progress our understanding of the weather, for fishing and even for building bridges across ravines. The kites at Granadilla; however, are definitely flown simply for pleasure, both participants' and spectators'. Although, the Gallic curses coming from the French crew at last year's fiesta, as their giant red octopus stubbornly insisted on keeping his eight feet firmly on the ground, showed that it isn't always sunshine and smiles.

From mid morning the sky begins to fill with diamond shaped and snakelike kites, darting and weaving in the hazy sunlight. Their numbers increase as the day progresses and bigger, more ambitious and more surreal creations join the party until the sky becomes a mass of multicoloured creatures ranging from the wonderful to the weird. The pick of last year's kites were the thirty foot bright red octopus which dominated the scene and the Leon brothers from Madrid's witty combination of Gaudi lizard and footballers' legs. The sight of two oversized pairs of disembodied legs chasing a huge ball along the beach will stay with me for a long time. Throw into this colourful affair a couple of beach bars selling refreshing beers and a stall helping kids make their own mini kites and you’ve got a visually stunning and very laid back festival which both adults and kids will love.

And the best bit? Because the festival takes place on the beach, there's no standing around for hours waiting for the payoff. By mid afternoon when the collection of kites reaches their zenith and the sky is transformed into a visual feast for the eyes you can simply lie back on the warm sand and enjoy the eclectic army swirling and swaying in the heavens above; pure bliss.

Read more about these high fliers in High as a Kite »

Copyright © 2007 Real Tenerife Island Drives. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be copied or reproduced without the written permission of Real Tenerife Island Drives.

    Lying on a beach all day every day might make for a relaxing holiday, but memories of it fade as quickly as your sun tan. Island Drives is aimed at travellers who want to experience the real essence of Tenerife, not just its pools and beaches. If you want an unforgettable holiday as opposed to a good one, Real Tenerife Island Drives will make the difference.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Have you won big on a Spanish lottery?

A Load Of Lottery Balls

Had an email from someone today asking for the winning lottery numbers from specific date and, whilst I'm pleased to oblige, if there's one thing there's more of than fiestas in Spain, it's lotteries! So, the purpose of this post is to give you some brief details about the most common lotteries in Spain and, to show you how and where you can find Spanish lottery results online.

Now, I don't wish to encourage anyone into betting and gambling - remember; you can lose money, it can be addictive and that's very, very bad for you.

On the other hand, here's a chance for a little bit of holiday fun and, if you don't win you can donate your money to a good cause in the process ...

ONCE Charity Lottery for the Blind

The lottery you will see most frequently in Spain, because it's sold in the streets, is the ONCE.

The letters stand for Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles (Spanish National Organization for the Blind). So, even if your luck is out, you know that what you spent on the ticket will help someone blind or partially-sighted.

Their regular lottery is run Monday to Friday and on Sundays. Monday to Thursday, currently, there's a top prize of 35,000 euros (about £23,000), if you have the whole five figure number and, smaller prizes for getting the last 4, 3, 2 or 1 figures. You get your stake back if you have the last figure, but most people simply exchange this for another ticket for the next lottery.

On Fridays ONCE have a special big draw. The prize, currently, is 6 million euros (about £4 million), if you have both the five figure number and the three figure SERIE. On Sundays, that same number / serie combination attracts a prize of 6,000 euros (around £4,000), per month, for 25 years.

You can buy ONCE tickets from authorized cupón sellers in the street, as well as in ONCE kiosks, which are clearly identified by the word "ONCE", in busy areas and shopping centers and, often shops and bars will have tickets on sale too.

But bearing in mind that many ticket sellers are blind or partially-sighted (pointing to the ticket you want probably won't work), it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with numbers in Spanish from 0 to 9. Then you can ask for your "lucky number"; i.e. a ticket terminating with that figure.

For instance, if you want a ticket that ends in 7, say "Dame un siete" (Give me a seven) or just "Un siete" (A seven) will get the message across, because this is a common way for locals to choose their tickets.

Don't know how to pronounce numbers in Spanish, watch this:

Video: Numbers and Counting in Spanish

You can be more fussy and exact over your choice, of course, but I'm just trying to make this simple and fun for the non-Spanish speaker.

Where to check your winnings: at the ONCE website.

Results are only displayed in Spanish, but since lottery numbers and dates are all in Arabic numerals coupled with the information you'll have on the ticket itself, you should have no problem finding your way around.

Video: Days of the Week and Dates in Spanish

More about ONCE and the Cupón Diario (Daily cupón) at Wikipedia

State Loteria Nacional (National Lottery)

The next most commonly seen lottery is the state Loteria Nacional (National Lottery), which was created as a way to increase the State Treasury without bankrupting contributors.

So, if you've ever heard the phrase, "Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at maths", know that this jest is not at all far from the truth!

With that in mind, you can, nevertheless, easily buy tickets in the special lottery administrations L.A.E.- Loterías y Apuestas del Estado (State Lotteries and Betting) - lottery ticket / betting shops, found in most towns.

Where to check your numbers online:

At ElGordo.com, you can check results for the Loteria Nacional (National Lottery), Loteria Nacional Jueves (Thursday National Lottery) and many other Spanish lotteries, plus EuroMillions ... In English.

Loterias.com provide the results, in Spanish, of a huge selection of lotteries, listed in the left hand menu of their site; Sorteo de NAVIDAD (Navidad = Christmas; this is the same as El Gordo), Sorteo del Niño, Loteria Primitiva, Bonoloto, Lotería Nacional, Lotería Nacional Jueves, 1X2 La Quiniela, El Gordo de la Primitiva, Cupon de la O.N.C.E, Euromillones, Oro de la Cruz Roja, Loto Catalunya, Quinigol, Lototurf and Quíntuple Plus.

I hadn't even heard of half of those, much less know how they work, so I'm guessing you won't need to know either! For regular, hardened punters, they also provide the numbers for some of the most popular, including ONCE, both National lotteries and Euromillions, by email.

Spanish Christmas Lottery (Sorteo de Navidad)

You can't mention lotteries in Spain without mentioning the Spanish Christmas Lottery (Sorteo de Navidad), affectionately known as El Gordo (The Fat One) that takes place every year on December 22nd and, which, as ElPeriodico say, has been "Repartiendo ilusiones desde 1812" (Distributing hope since 1812). The price of a ticket in that first Gordo of December 18th, 1812, was 40 reales (10 pesetas / 6 cents / 4 pence) and the top prize was equivalent to 240 euros (£160). It went to ticket number 03604.

Last year it went to number 20297 and the prize was 300,000 euros (about £200,000) for a decimo (one ticket) with the correct number and serie. You need the whole strip of 10 tickets to get millions, but this draw is famous for distributing lots of pretty decent prizes, rather than one huge one.

El Gordo is not known for distributing a lot of hope in the Canary Islands, just some fifth prizes in Icod de los Vinos last year and a portion of a first prize, but on tickets that had been purchased in Seville.

We are told that, "Madrid and Catalunya are the communities that invest the most money in the Christmas lottery and are also the most fortunate at the time of obtaining large prizes." Maybe "invest" isn't exactly the word I would use, but we get the principal! Just to make you feel really sick, Blog Navidad have images of happy winners and such from last year's El Gordo draw.

What if I've Won?

IdealSpain say, "According to the Spanish State Lottery, non-Spaniards can participate in the lottery and claim prizes just the same as Spanish citizens. The only restriction is that any prize winnings must stay within Spain or you face paying taxes on the amount won upon entering another country."

Well, I would counter that: what does it matter if it's taxed in your country? Whatever you end up with, after tax, is still extra. Buy a ticket and win first! :)

Generally, you have 30 days to claim your winnings, so don't hang about. If it's one of the state lotteries, go to any of the lottery administrations L.A.E.- Loterías y Apuestas del Estado. If it is ONCE, find a kiosk. If you've you won a big prize, you'll be able to pay someone to translate. If you've won a really, really big prize and you don't know what to do with it, give me a call! :)

No, I don't know how you could claim from outside Spain, other than contacting one of those organizations via their websites for advice.

Other Advice and Warnings

In the information given at Wikipedia, it says that, "Like Spain's National Lottery agency, ONCE does not sell its lottery products over internet, and both bodies continuously issue warnings to that effect ..."

Well, I would differ. The official state lotteries and betting do now sell some of their products online, as do various of the administrations (betting shops), as well as many of the sites listed above who provide results. I think that some of them may be perfectly legal and trustworthy these days - but I have absolutely no idea which ones might be. Use caution. As with everything, purchase online at your own risk. I'm merely providing a list of places to check the results of tickets that you may have purchased in person.

Everyone else mentions the email scams that appear in the name of the Spanish lottery, so I will too. ElGordo.com have a page about scams here and the official state lottery site also have a page about scams, in English here. There is only one rule to follow there, "To win a prize of the Spanish lottery is essential to have purchased previously lottery or bets ..."

In other words, if you didn't buy a ticket you CAN'T have won. Period.
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