Archive for June 18th, 2009
La Orotava rolls out the carpets

Maybe my hearing is going but I’m sure I didn’t hear “go and see the inspirational carpets in La Orotava”. So there I am this morning looking forward to a concert from the 1980’s Manchester rock band The Inspiral Carpets, but they were no where to be seen or heard. It was of course the big day of the Corpus Christi celebrations, the huge volcanic sand carpet was already in place in front of the Ayuntamiento (council) building (above) and work was frantically underway on the 35 individual floral carpets in the streets.

I started out with the 343 Titsa bus from Los Cristianos to Puerto de la Cruz at 9.20 am, just 75 minutes and 7.25 euros with my bono ticket. Changing to a 101 bus to Santa Cruz (cost .95 cents but FREE as my bono was still warm) it took just 15 minutes to pull into the bus station at La Orotava. It can be a little cloudy and chilly this far and high north, but the sun was beaming and the crowds were streaming, and once I had passed Mickey Mouse and Bob Square Pants bobbing on strings from the tacky stalls in town, I was soon heading up the Carrera del Escultor Estevez to be greeted by the throng around the impressive Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

The roads around here are tight,so people were funnelled either up to the Ayuntamiento building, and inside to climb for a balcony view, or onward up the narrow hilly pavements past the roads full of developing mosaics. These smaller carpets were started early morning and are carefully built up from a sand, grass and shredded pine base, to support spectacular toppings of flower petals, all layered with love and dedication.

This amazing art form started in 1847, and although it takes place in several towns around Tenerife, no one does it with as much style , or on such a grand scale as La Orotava. It’s a wonder there are any flowers left on the island that are not naked of their crowning glory. Buckets and baskets of multi coloured petals sit alongside bags of coloured sand awaiting their addition to the jigsaw. Families get involved with children playing their small part and the men creating great art with a can of beer in one hand.

Rough drawings are made first, and they have frames to work to for the main body of the carpets, but the intricate and most creative work is done by hand. Some of the streets wind down and around the Church of La Concepcion, as fine a piece of Baroque art as you could find. I had bumped into Jack and Andrea Montgomery, producers of the excellent guide books, Real Tenerife Island Drives and Going Native In Tenerife and we tried to get up the tower of the church for some photos. Alas the young chaps guarding the door seemed to think it was a private club for their friends, and although their were youngsters in flip flops going up, we were told it was dangerous underfoot due to yesterdays rain.

It really is a wonderous site to see the mosaics take shape during the day. As well as the colours, the smells are amazing, I havent smelt as much grass since the last match at CD Tenerife. Life is about constant change and despite all the effort put in, the carpets will be worn and trampled away as the big procession snakes through town this evening. It may seem a waste, but to the people who make it all possible, it’s an annual display of their faith and they are proud to see it come and go, and will be back to make it even bigger next year.