Motors Mutts And Mourning As Los Cristianos Carnaval Bids Farewell

The mormons who tried to convert me on my way to the sardine funeral wouldn’t have seen the irony of their timing but it made me chuckle. The closing act of the 2016 Los Cristianos Carnaval is a time to mock the hypocrisy of religion and the mourners were dressed in a mix of black widows weeds and some very saucy under garments.

The previous morning had shown that Sunday is no day of rest for the carnaval organizers, the showground was spilling over with classic cars from all over Tenerife and dogs were being poured into their Sunday best for a pet competition. The odd dog bark struggled to be heard as the motors purred and the bodywork sang a nostalgic tune. The car show was bigger than ever with wheels occupying tarmac outside the cultural centre as well as in the main arena.

I’m no petrol head but proud names demanded my attention, Riley, Mini, Cadillac, Bedford, and even a little red Corvette caught my eye, there was even a small pang of home sickness at seeing a Morris truck, well I am a Cowley boy. I was waiting for an enterprising salesman to jump on a soap box and try a cheeky auction, I was also hoping for a few seductive young ladies to drape themselves over a bonnet or two – dream on. At the sidelines owners were brushing their dogs, dressing them, and posing them for passing cameras.

Fast forward to Monday night and the giant sardine was putting on a brave and cheeky face but it knew it had to perish in the flames to satisfy time honoured ritual. The history comes from lent when the catholic church told the poor people to fast while the clergy and their rich friends wined and dined in fine style. Sardines dredged from the sea were many peoples only illicit supplement to their enforced diet so it became a sign of rebellion and discontent. The sardine funeral always ridicules the church leaders, there was a shortage of popes and cardinals this year and the mourners were less wild than usual – heaven forbid we lose the subversive undercurrent.

The sardine drew a large crowd to the cultural centre and the Cuban influenced music encouraged feet to dance as final preparations were made for the long journey through the back streets and down to the beach. There are always a few holiday makers taken by surprise at the bizarre spectacle of the giant fish being trundled along with a large following of cheering, drinking, and singing enthusiasts. Avenida Suecia squeezed the parade slowly along, a few mourners wrung out their emotions but they weren’t throwing themselves to the floor like Premier League footballers so much this year.

It’s quite a logistical challenge threading the sardine through the car park at the bottom of the port road, imagine having to make an insurance claim for scratches to your car – hit by a giant fish! Eventually the crowds parted and the sardine was ushered into its enclosure on the beach, fireworks were inserted into its body and a flame started the crackling and popping as it dissolved into a ball of fire as fireworks tore through the sky. It was a fitting farewell for a big, brash, and visually stunning carnaval.