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Even with the start of the 'new normality' on 21 June 2020, popular fiestas and most large gatherings and events are still prohibited and social distancing guidelines still in force. Dates listed on this site, therefore, are still subject to cancellation or change and we will update, where we can, when any new information is made available.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Carnivals of the World: La Palma

The quintessential character of this festival is La Negra Tomasa whose arrival triggers the celebration of the Los Indianos festival was devised by Victor Lorenzo Díaz Molina, better known as Sosó.
Ayuntamiento de Santa Cruz de La Palma / CC BY-SA

For this excursion to the Carnivals of the World - the theme chosen for Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival in 2021, we need only go as far as the neighbouring island of La Palma, where the biggest event of the carnival in the capital, Santa Cruz de La Palma is Los Indianos, normally held on Carnival Monday, the day before Shrove Tuesday

The figure of La Negra Tomasa, possibly the most emblematic character of this festival, is certain to offend some people, being a character who is blacked up and in drag, so a little context and history is required to attempt to explain this unique tradition.

Los Indianos is a traditional festival on the island of La Palma that attempts to poke fun at the islanders who had emigrated to Las Indias, that is the West Indies, more specifically to Cuba, and who, on their return, flaunted the wealth they had obtained in those lands. These islanders who had emigrated and returned to the island were labeled "indianos".

In the middle of the afternoon, the parade begins from the Avenida de los Indianos, next to the port, to the Plaza de La Alameda, where the party will continue until the early hours of the morning. The Indianos carry luggage; leather suitcases and trunks, maybe filled with Monopoly money, cages with tropical animals and some even a retinue of black servants, all accompanied by Cuban music and tastings of sugar cane, molasses and mojitos.

Traditional dress for this festival consists of a guayabera (a.k.a. Beach wedding shirts) traditionally associated with Cuba and white pants or a linen suit, as well as a Panamanian hat. Women dress in equally white period dresses and lace parasols. As can be seen, the festival has a strong Cuban flavour, this is so because it was one of the main sources of emigration for many people of La Palma, so the two islands were strongly linked.

Tons of talc are used in the battle Ayuntamiento de Santa Cruz de La Palma / CC BY-SA

The battle of talcum powder, according to popular belief, has its origin during the 19th century, when a ship left a cargo of flour in poor condition in port, becoming an element of fun at the carnival that was celebrated at that time. This belief was discarded because 17th century documents have been found that speak of "powdering" on Carnival Monday. It is believed to be a custom inherited from Cuban rituals of bleaching the skin. At the beginning of the 20th century, this tradition was repressed, as "it disturbed public order too much", but from the second half of the century it began to recover, replacing the flour with talc.



Los Indianos de Santa Cruz de La Palma 2020

There will be no Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 2021, although the City Council is working with the Carnival groups in the design of some activities that can maintain the spirit of the festivities during the weeks in which it should have been celebrated

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