Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Midsummer madness: Summer Solstice at the Pirámides de Güímar, plus Decorating the fountains, Midsummer Night Bonfires and Bathing the goats in Puerto de la Cruz

The Party on the Playa Jardín on the Eve of San Juan in Puerto de la Cruz

Summer Solstice at Pirámides de Güímar

Midsummer weekend kicks off with celebrations for the Summer Solstice on Friday 21 June. The place to go (albeit numbers are limited) is to the Ethnographic Park & ​​Botanical Garden Pirámides de Güímar, where one can observe a "Double Sunset".

Decorating the fountains in Puerto de la Cruz

The first Castilian governments on the island promoted works aimed at bringing water from the springs to the central locations of the population centers: very popular and valued works. In Puerto de la Cruz, it is customary, on 22 and 23 June, to decorate these taps - an event named the Enrame de Chorros - with branches, vegetables, fruits and other offerings. This ancient popular tradition demonstrates the importance for the residents of these infrastructures that brought the indispensable water close to their houses.

The fountains are; the Chorro del DuraznoChorro CuacoChorro Las MaretasChorro MequinezChorro del MuelleChorro Cupido and the Chorro Blanco. There are usually guided walks available, however, all of those links lead to the map showing the location of each fountain, so you could work out your own route to see some or all of them.

Video: Enrame de los chorros en Puerto de la Cruz

Noche de San Juan

Forget Glasto or other expensive festivals held in a cold muddy field and head to Puerto de la Cruz for the free celebrations of the Noche de San Juan on 23 June each year; the eve of the saint's day of San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist) on midsummer's day.

The Fiestas de San Juan may be named to honour a Christian saint now, but have their roots firmly in remote times and are linked to the pagan celebration of the summer solstice. The Guanche aborigines considered this date as a special moment where everything was ready for life to be renewed: a new year. A time to celebrate the arrival of summer and, with long days the spirit of the human being becomes open, joyful and expansive.

Until the middle of the 20th century, the Fiestas de San Juan were the most celebrated in the Canary Islands, largely surviving in its character as a popular and revered festival.

The most magical is the eve of San Juan (June 23), the night of the cult to fire where bonfires are lit and the purifying effect of the flames enrapture and transport us, driving out the old and bad. It is the time of rituals, even for the most skeptical, where we decree our deepest desires and place them in the hands of those intangible energies. In Playa Jardín tens of thousands of people gather for this popular party; for a purifying bathe in the nocturnal waters of the Atlantic; to dance to the music with national and international artists, as well as the performance of folk groups; see the magnificent fireworks display, as well as other cultural events that take place in the vicinity of Castillo San Felipe.

Surviving Midsummer Fiestas and the Noche de San Juan on Tenerife

Video: Noche de San Juan Puerto de la Cruz

Bathing of the goats in Puerto de la Cruz

One of the most curious San Juan traditions takes place on 24 June. It has survived in Puerto de la Cruz although it is also remembered in other enclaves in the north of Tenerife. The bathing of the goats in the sea appears in the book titled "The celebration of San Juan in the Puerto de la Cruz", published in 1987 and published again in the year 2002.

The bathing of the goats originally took place before the sun came up, a time also chosen for other practices: bathing people in the sea, splashing the houses and all their rooms with the "holy" water collected at dusk on the day before ... And goatherds from all over the Orotava Valley - even from the upper part through some of the vertical paths that run through it - brought their goats to the old fishing port of Puerto de la Cruz.

At the end of bathing and while the animals dried, their owners went to nearby coffee shops or bars, in order to have a drink, taking the opportunity to do some business, while the boys of the town used to fight with the children of the goatherds on the pier or the nearby streets, until they were asked to touch the goats in order to milk them, in order to sell the milk: the bathing of the goats allowed people of the sea to relate to the people of the field. 

But what was the reason for bathing the goats in the sea? The answer given by some of the old shepherds from Valle de la Orotava, among them Adrián Morales García, a native of Benijos, was that it was "By tradition inherited from their parents."

In 1974, in Teno Alto (Buenavista del Norte), we asked Don Modesto Martín Dorta, who was then 92 years old, for the explanation of the goat bathing on San Juan, and he told us the following: "[So] that they wallow and enter in heat". Crucially for these communities, that meant being able to continue counting on new animals on whom they would depend in the future. By releasing the male goats on the [unsuspecting] females after their bath on the 24th, the shepherds knew that the kids would be born at the right time of year - about five months later, after the first rains, when they would find enough food and pasture.

Until the 1960s the bathing of the goats continued as an endearing tradition, but subsequently became less popular. Then in 1984 some Orotava valley goatherds returned to Puerto de la Cruz to bathe their livestock. The following year, two of them organized the bathing of the goats in the sea with the festival on the previous evening of June 23. 

Los orígenes del baño de las cabras

Video: Baño de las cabras por el día de San Juan - Puerto de la Cruz 2018