The Lull Before The Storming Carnaval In Santa Cruz

It was eerily quiet in Santa Cruz for a Saturday but as I wandered around I kept catching glimpses of partly made costumes hanging up in doorways, and in front of the bus station the fair was being pieced together like a large jigsaw. Carnaval is in the air, the streets will be mobbed for the main events but more than ever this year there has to be a lot of belt tightening in the run up.

Anyway I had plenty of missions to accomplish, first up a photo sweep of the 36 Santa Cruz Carnaval posters recreated in pavement tiles beyond the Auditorium by the Parque Maritimo pools. The hot sunny weather boded well for the festivities ahead, my next call was the African Market or Mercado Nuestra Señora de Africa to be precise. I popped inside and was impressed to see them trying to boost trade with a stall of breads, cherry tomatoes, and jams to taste and the offer of a prize draw for anyone shopping in the busy market. I tried some bread with a generous spread of blueberry jam and looked at the jar as I ate, hoping to see where in Tenerife it was made. What a shock, it was made in Barcelona, I just about managed to avoid a Little Britain moment and kept the jam down – bring on the lovely honey and jams made in Tenerife.

Outside the real reason for my market call was waiting, a new sculpture dedicated to the Chicharreros, the local fishermen. There is already a statue of a fisherwoman nearby carrying a basket of fish for market and this new addition compliments it perfectly. The weather beaten looks on the faces and the straining sinews really capture the dedication of those in peril on the sea. Big respect to the sculptor Javier Murcia.

Fate was on my side and checking the days papers in the vast library at TEA – Tenerife Espacio de Las Artes, I noticed that a catwalk of childrens Carnaval costumes was being staged in one of the small shopping streets. Hot foot I was there in a moment and caught the end of the presentation with a small stage and red carpet plus of course the drum rhythms that provide the backbeat to most Carnaval events. This years theme is Bollywood but it’s little more than a guideline, I spotted the usual pirates and a few big booted murgas (satirical bands) finding their motivation as the best performers say.

Duty calls, the Parque Bulevar shopping centre was on my tick list to load up with photos of the Carnaval Museum that is housed there. I have been several times since it moved in last June and each time the mannequins have outnumbered the shoppers. Maybe it’s because the centre is tucked away off the main drag as you cut through from Plaza del Patriotismo to Parque Garcia Sanabria but it’s another of my regular short cuts and always worth a visit.

Back in the centre of the city on Calle Castillo the main shopping street I saw a small tent settlement of people whose houses have been repossessed under the harsh mortgage laws in Spain. The BBVA bank was the target of their anger and desperation but it could just as easily have been any of the big banks. The system not only takes these peoples houses away when they fall behind but they also have to keep on repaying the debt, the nightmare doesn’t end. The Canary Islands has one of the highest unemployment rates in Spain and the crisis is hitting a wide range of people. Carnaval is all about the ordinary people, the biting satire of the murgas is largely aimed at politicians and councilors and the sardine funeral is a historical swipe at the hypocrisy of the church. Sardines and other scraps from the sea were all many had to survive on during a strictly enforced lent while the senior church officials and their friends continued to dine lavishly.

There was still time to set sail for the port to see what ships were in, the work on the Via Litoral is coming on well, crossing the main road, Avenida Anaga, I could see the new extra lanes of road were now emerging from the tunnel that will allow a large pedestrian area to spread across from the lake at Plaza de España. It’s another big project that will enhance Santa Cruz, for now it means a squeeze for the big Coso parade on 12 February but nothing stops Carnaval.

There were a couple of huge cruise ships moored up but I like to nose around among the marina and hopefully see a few vessels with more character. No surprise visitors on this trip but I quite liked the Miss Pezi from Linx in Austria just calling off on a pleasure trip from St Martin, France. With a full camera, a ticked hit list, and a song in my heart it was time to head back south to Los Cristianos – before returning the next day for football!

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