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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Carnival Queen in Santa Cruz de Tenerife 2008

Nauzet Celeste Cruz Melo Carnival Queen in Santa Cruz de Tenerife 2008

And the winner is ... Nauzet Celeste Cruz Melo in a Santi Castro designed costume entitled, "La Edad de Oro" (The Golden Age), representing the (French owned) supermarket chain, Carrefour. It was a truly international affair.

If the Gala to select the Carnaval Queen in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, last year was "Amargo" (bitter), then this year's was surreal and, I'm not just talking about one of the candidates costumes, which included one of Salvador Dali's "melting" clocks and a picture of the mustachio'd artist on the flounce of her dress. Actually, that was my favourite.

The televised gala in general was school end of term concert quality and there were the endless performances by all the carnaval groups and dancers. But, that's exactly what carnaval is all about, so it was good, despite all the technical hitches. They just added to the entertainment. The worst of those hiccups might have been that there was no sound to her mike all through Xiomara Laugart's first number, but it was surpassed because the sound did work through her second one.

The Orishas were good, even if they were miming (as you'd expect.)

The surreal part for me was seeing such an ostensibly English design, chosen by a panel of mostly Spanish judges - of course - that also included, French actor, Gérard Depardieu and Italian actress, Sophia Loren. It was reported that Loren said she would "probably" dress up in costume. If she did, she came disguised as actress, Sophia Loren.

When this year's queen came out onto the stage originally as a candidate, she was introduced as Queen Elizabeth I (you know, of England) and the music that was played while she paraded was "Rule Britannia". You certainly can't accuse the Spanish of being bad losers, endorsing Queen Elizabeth I and Rule Britannia, given the history of the Armada! Nor indeed of any remaining animosity over the part she played in local history. Elizabeth I is known to have backed English pirate, John Hawkins, who was slave trading partner of Pedro de Ponte (son of Cristóbal de Ponte, the man who financed the conquest of Tenerife). Hawkins once lived in Ponte Jr's house, the Casa Fuerte, in Tenerife, in Adeje. Last night's "Queen Elizabeth I" is from next door in Arona.

Britannia Rules Tenerife

The upshot is what Nelson (and a few others before him) failed to do by force, it seems we've finally managed with a Carnaval Queen (if only for a year) and, more surprisingly, we've achieved this Révolution surréaliste with French, Italian and Spanish help.

PS: The slated Harry Potter and David Copperfield were magically made to disappear. That is, they were conspicuous by their complete absence at the gala and turned out to be mere Tenerife myth and rumour, as we'd suspected in the end.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Canarian Cowboys and Preposterous Pets

Canarian Cowboy

At Los Silos for their annual Fiestas for San Antonio Abad and Crafts Fair. 

Inside the former convent in Los Silos

Local pottery on display

A stall at the crafts fair in the square

The craft fair was held in the square, as well as inside the former convent.

Horse whispering

Goats with red ribbons

Sheep and a ram

Pigmy goat

Tweety-pie and his mates

Fanciers friends

At Los Silos were many horses, goats with red ribbons, sheep (and a ram upgrade), a fully-grown mini-goat, domestic canaries, rows upon rows of racing pigeons and, an ever increasing number and diversity of pets. At this fiesta, to which animals are brought to be blessed, or at least gawked at, there were far too many dogs to count and, besides, they seem rather boring and ordinary next to some of the more exotic and unusual specimens.

Reptilian chap on a lead

People brought rabbits in hutches on wheels. There were large reptilian chaps on leads. Many people seemed to have a snake around their neck or wrist and, one young girl brought along a small basket of lettuce (with handle). This last item, I discovered upon closer inspection, was not a salad, but a tiny little turtle or tortoise.

Being blessed in hopes of a good Christmas Dinner? 

Risking a serious lynching for my cheek though, the prize for "pet who most looked like owner" (or vice-versa), must surely go to this dear little wrinkled old lady, who had brought along her turkey, on a string tied round his leg. 

Handsome horse

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Luz (Los Silos)

In traditional costumes

Fruit and vegetables locally grown

The bandstand and square dressed for the occasion

San Antonio Abad Livestock Fair in Buenavista

San Antonio Abad 2008 - Buenavista
Some of the supposedly 1,500 cattle "parked" at the show ground at Buenavista

Yesterday was dull, but warm, for the annual livestock fair and Romeria in honour of San Antonio Abad in Buenavista del Norte and, because there are always lots of cute animalitos on display, of course we were there.

Calf wins a special prize

Along with lots of his older cousins, one of the stars of yesterday's show was this 24 day old "veal", I mean calf, which, I'm told, was given to the boy (in costume) by the Tenerife Island Corporation to foster and maintain the yougster's interest in rural pursuits.

Another star for me was this Shetland pony with a mop dog in a basket on his saddle.

There also were Teno's now infamous polkadot goats; a hen in a "chicmobile" that appeared to have laid eggs en route (the woman joked with me - well I think she was joking - that these were hard-boiled); dancers from the island of El Heirro and more ...

Dancers from El Hierro

Teno's polkadot goats


Last year, on seeing Teno's goats "dressed" for the fiestas with red ribbons (as bows tied on their horns or around their necks), a commenter asked, " ... how did they keep the goats from eating each other's ribbons?" It's a good question, so being curious and wanting to know the answer myself, I asked the lady from Teno with the polkadot goats yesterday. Her response will astound you: "Because they're not hungry." She then chuckled and said that's all she can think of and puts it down to the fact that the goats roam free, so they are used to constantly grazing (she also supplements their diet with feed), so you could say they are neither hungry, nor bored enough to be bothered with fiddling with their ribbons.

According to Diario de Avisos, there were 1,500 cattle and 18,000 people at yesterday's fiestas. I was there early and didn't wait for the parade, which the report says began after 2 p.m., but I see no reason to dispute the figures, because there did seem especially to be far more cattle than there had been in previous years. Now can you imagine the amount of muck there will have been on the main streets of the town?

Sheep among the goats

There were also lots of horses, hunting dogs, an ever increasing number of pets (not just dogs, but of all descriptions), and back to the farm animals, sheep among the goats.

Tell me, if they're mixed together is it a flock or a herd?

There were also more tourists at the fair this year. Normally, the only ones I meet in this area are lost, but I heard or found myself speaking in English on more than one occasion to people who had come to the fiesta on purpose, which is nice. Not unsurprisingly, the bars and chiringuitos (beer and food stalls), as well as the stalls selling sweets, cheap toys and other tat were doing a roaring trade. As was the cake shop, El Aderno, on Buenavista's high street, who, incredibly, have installed a ticket machine to deal with customers in numerical order like a deli counter of a supermarket. I don't know if that's permanent or was just for Sunday's extra fiesta traffic, but it was a bit of a revelation.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Buenavista Hosts Annual Cheese Contest

Cheese PleaseThe central Plaza de los Remedios in Buenavista del Norte hosts to the 13th annual contest to choose the best goat cheese from the hamlet of Teno Alto from 11 a.m. today. Those of you thinking a cheese contest is a bit lame, clearly haven't tasted the cheese, the superior quality of which is owing to the ideal conditions in which the goats live.

Gorgeous GoatsThis traditionally made cheese can now be purchased at various points around the island. Tomorrow, Sunday, you can meet the goats themselves too, when Buenavista has its livestock fair, romeria and fiestas in honor of San Antonio Abad.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bananas Are Not the Only Fruit

Canarian Bananas

In Three Random Facts About the Spanish, Notes from Spain's Ben Curtis says, Bananas must come from the Canary Islands. He adds, "And if they come from anywhere else, many a Spaniard will rather go banana-less until the next shipment comes in." We're certainly glad to hear that the marketing is still working.

You'd have to be very old to remember a time when the small, flavorful Canary Islands' bananas were the favorite in Britain too. Now they can't be found there and haven't been able to be exported outside of Spain and the Balearic Islands because of EU regulations. EU banana-growing (France grows them too in Guyana) is being phased out in favour of Caribbean ones to support underdeveloped countries, while the Canarian industry is converting itself to mangos, papayas, pineapples, etc.

In the 1870s Thomas Fyffe, a London food wholesaler, went into partnership with a fruit dealer named Hudson who had connections in the Canary Islands. In 1878 they shipped their first cargo of bananas to England. Within five years the business had become so successful that they purchased land in the Canaries to be cultivated as banana plantations. Then the WWI British maritime blockade of Europe destroyed the banana trade. Canarios voted with their feet and fled the poverty in droves for a new life in Latin America.

For now, if you want to taste a Canarian Banana, you have to come to Spain.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Santa Cruz Celebrates Nonexistent Anniversary

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Town Hall

Statue of José Murphy in the
Plaza de San Francisco in
Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Yes, you read that right. The town hall in Santa Cruz in Tenerife is, apparently, making the final preparations to celebrate the 186th Anniversary of the city being declared the capital of the Canary Islands, which in 1822 was one single province. These festivities, on Sunday, January 27th, will be held in the Plaza de San Francisco, before the monument to José Murphy y Meade (1774-1841), who was [obviously?] of Irish decent and "Tenerife's most famous early 19th century politician who fought for economic independence of the Canary Islands and for Santa Cruz to be recognized as the capital of the islands."

But, never mind that Santa Cruz is not still the capital of the Canary Islands and now only capital of the western province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife since they were split in two in 1927. I'd be tempted to suggest that there's some Irish logic in here. And  Las Palmas in Gran Canaria celebrated the split last September, which is probably what gave Santa Cruz the daft idea.

Image Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tenerife Carnaval: Creatures of the Night

With Carnaval season about to begin again this month, Real Tenerife Island Drives' Andrea Montgomery writes about her and Jack's experiences at Carnaval in Puerto de la Cruz.

We're standing at the Plaza Charco end of Calle Perdomo. A family walks past and the youngest child looks back, catches my eye and screams. There's a steady trickle of flashes from cameras as people ask if they can take our picture.

Three hours earlier we'd been watching the Barcelona match on TV, still dithering about whether or not we should attend Carnaval's opening party and not having given a moment's thought to a costume. After raiding the 'Halloween and Xmas Panto' box from our former lives in the UK, Jack emerged as a fiendish werewolf and, with the aid of a recently discarded mosquito net, I'm the Corpse Bride.

A sudden hike in volume in the music persuades us to abandon our diorama and join the throngs of furry animals, transvestites, super heroes, ghouls, witches, Smurfs, Cardinals and nuns (to name but a fraction) who've turned the street into an open air rave.

The small beer stands dotted along the centre of Perdomo and around the plaza and harbour area are doing brisk business in JDs and coke and the tapas stall has removed its high stools to make standing room only for the hordes of revellers whose attack of the munchies can only be sated by a Desperate Dan sized montadito or three.

By 3 am the whole of Plaza Charco, the harbour, Calles de Mequinez and Perdomo are dance floors and a circuit of them takes us through different music zones and their respective audiences. In the main plaza, a Latino band is pumping out salsa to couples who sashay and swirl in synchronised rhythm within the confines of their floor space. On Perdomo, Mequinez and Marina, the disco beat provides the background for a Club mix of grime and hip-hop with hot Latino undertones and one or two classic anthems riding the airwaves en route.

The circuit, which would normally take us 2 or 3 minutes to stroll, takes upwards of an hour to negotiate, only moving forward when the crowd permits and stopping at regular intervals to dance or order a drink. At one point we detour to the car park on Parque Marítimo, where we've abandoned the car until the sober hours of Sunday, and stumble across a whole alternative Carnaval.

Every other vehicle has its boot open and is distributing drinks from the small off licence within to throngs of teenagers who surround it. On the roof of an old battered VW van, a devil is standing at decks, lining up the next track in between swigs from a bottle of Soberano Rum. The van is shaking from the impact of the bass beat that pounds out across the car park. Everyone seems to know each other and they're all partying like it's their last chance ever to do so. But it's not, it's just the first night and over the course of the next 7 days, there'll be six more just like this one.

It's 5.30am before we finally arrive home having walked from the Plaza. I drag my weary limbs up the path to begin the tiresome and messy job of removing my theatrical make-up before my head can hit the pillow. By the time I wake up, I won't need the make-up to complete the look tomorrow night.

Copyright © 2008 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.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival 2008

Carnival 2008 in Santa Cruz de Tenerife

  • Wednesday 30 January 2008 - Election of the Carnival Queen
  • Friday 1 February 2008 - Opening Parade
  • Tuesday 5 February 2008 - Carnival Main Parade
  • Wednesday 6 February 2008 - Burial of the Sardine
  • Saturday 9 February 2008 - Daytime Carnival
  • Sunday 10 February 2008 - Classic Car Parade
Image Friedhelm Dröge [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons