Archive for March 30th, 2011
Cross Dressing, Giant Fish And Other Carnaval Capers

I knew it was going to be a good Los Cristianos Carnaval this year, dates were confirmed weeks in advance, posters were up and they even produced a nice colour leaflet. In Tenerife terms those are all minor miracles, publicity is not their strong point, health and safety is also a bit on the back burner with the handle hanging over and a young child reaching up for it. I watched the car park next to the Valdes Centre undergo its week long conversion to a showground complete with impressive stage, and the fair arrived on the other car park at the same time, both featured off cuts of wood, breeze blocks and lots of crossed fingers. The Carnaval theme was the Circus so thrills and spills seemed about right.

My first trip down was on Friday night for the election of the Carnaval Queen, it of course started alte so I had a wander around the busy, bustling fair and was as always transfixed by the bull stampede ride. Considering there is a recession on the plastic tat was selling well and many people had little plastic houses with a bored goldfish trapped inside. Lots of families were enjoying the preamble to the stage show and my word what a lot of yummy mummies there were. Eventually the stage cranked into life and amid a plume of smoke rearing white horses were propelled around the stage before acrobats and jugglers did their bit. With 6 royal candidates to come and no sign of the intros I retired to The Merry Monk across the road returning briefly later to check on progress, the Dorada won the war with my patience and I never saw the coronation.

On to Sunday and the Coso, the big parade, I felt quite bad that I could only see the first half of CD Tenerifes away game on tv in a local bar, in the end I felt bad about having watched any of it. Duty called with my piece for Tenerife Magazine hanging in the balance and with blazing sunshine it was a pleasure to head down to Paloma Apartments to round up the usual suspects. Many of the young ladies were just adjusting their costumes; of course I didn’t peep. It was baking hot, drink lots of liquids they say, well that advice was being taken in many forms. The parade seemed longer than ever, so many people made an effort to put together floats and performing groups, there were liberal amounts of men in dresses and women nearly popping out of theirs and all to a vibrant musical beat. The new Carnaval Queen Khar Ndoye milked the applause as she travelled in her gilded cage under the chosen name Queen Of Africa, at least she didn’t have to dance, feet were pounding out to the drums and whistles, many of them in very challenging heels. It must have been a relief for the revellers as they turned into the side road at the end of the parade just as dusk was moving in, but the thousands watching, myself include, loved every minute.

Monday brought the farewell act of Carnaval, the sardine funeral, my favourite, packed with bad taste and outrageous outfits it’s a gesture of defiance to the church from when they would preach abstainance for the people during lent while living the good life themselves, for the poor, sardines were plentiful from the sea and kept them going. This years giant silver sardine was a particularly proud and perky specimin complete with pouting lips and a glint in the eye, the music was cranked up, the bottles tipped back and dresses lifted to display various wares and off we all headed towards the beach on a strung out back street route. The mourners are a key part of the fun and split their time between saluting the sardine and chanting its praises and rolling around on the floor weeping for the upcoming loss.

After a few years of sardines so heavy that they could hardly be moved, the fish now rests its gills on a trolly so it can be propelled easily leaving more bodies free to gyrate, dance, and generally go wild. Down below at the old beach many tourists had take the pre advertised timing at its word and were sat along the sea front promenade, I could see it would be a long journey so adjourned to The Devon Arms to raise a few Doradas to my fishy friend before cutting down to the beach just in time. As the dancers shepherded the sardine into the marked off area on the sand some rushed down to line the barricades while others kept to their vantage points that they had guarded for hours. Most of the mourners squeezed into the pen and danced around the doomed fish as fuel was sprinkled over it before the match was struck. Flames leapt out of the hollow belly and devoured the carefully crafted fins on its back, a few fireworks were sent skyward but the death wasn’t long and lingering. The glow of the fire on the now unrecognisable frame warmed my face, the dancing was set to continue here and at the showground for hours but I headed home via a bar stop just to make sure the smoke hadn’t dried out my throat. But as far as this years Carnaval goes I could see the end.