Battle of the Belens in Santa Cruz

A few weeks before my first christmas in Tenerife, my editor asked me to cover an event where the mayor would be unveiling his bell end. What sort of debauched island had I come to? then I saw it written down and realised it was a belen, a traditional Spanish nativity scene. Well today I headed to Santa Cruz to see more of these traditional scenes.

First stop was the Caja Canarias bank in the Plaza del Patriotismo, they hold regular art exhibitions and the belen was suitably impressive. This one featured the main castle residence of King Herod, some 13 kms south of Jerusalem, set in the rolling hills, complete with trickling streams. The sprawling hillside had the usual shepherds and of course the manger complete with animals, as carols played in the background, and the lighting faded and flared to show day and night. It’s open until 5 January from 11.30 am to 3.30 pm and 5 pm to 8.30 pm, apart from Sundays when it’s open 10 am to 1.30 pm.

Moving down into the Plaza de España and the Cabildo (government) building, and they had an interesting twist, the nativity was mixed into a traditional Canarian setting, with old farm buildings and houses surrounded by figures performing ancient crafts. The baby Jesus was being serenaded (above) by timple playing visitors. All the belens were free to view, but as always the Cabildo had a voluntary collection point to donate for local charities. The times to note here are 9 am to 3 pm, and 4 pm to 9.30 pm, except Christmas and New Year Eve’s 9am to 3 pm, and Christmas and New Years Day’s 4 pm to 9.30 pm.


At this point, with thoughts of a few new art expositions in La Laguna, I jumped on the tram and whizzed up there to have a look. The street decorations showed a bit of flair, especially in the side streets (above) , noone had resorted to a Blue Peter advent crown made with coat hangers. The former church and convent of San Augustin is now the Cabrero Pinto Institute and a great art centre, I found an interesting display of work by Ernesto Valcarcel in the main hall. Called Jugetes del Tiempo (games of time) it features deep rich textured painting on wooden backgrounds. Next door in the open air Patio de Los Cipreses, there was an unusual work , called Patrimonio, featuring life sized dummys addressing graffiti and other impromptu art. While in the main hall, a downpour had soaked the patio adding an extra quality to the work.

Time was pushing on, so it was tram time again and a return to Santa Cruz, getting off at Plaza Weyler. Heading down the Calle Castillo shopping street, I was suddenly surrounded by Shakin Stevens singing Merry Christmas Everyone, he seemed to be everywhere, finally I noticed the small speakers tucked in with the decorations strung across the street at various points, that’s good, I thought he was haunting me. At this point I noticed another belen, inside a disused shop and thought I might as well add it to my list. Another variation on the main theme awaited me inside, the scenes were all set in Santa Cruz, moving along the display I could pick many landmarks among the more biblical scenes. This one opens 10 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 9 pm daily, except 10 am to 5 pm on the 2 big Eves and 4 pm to 9 pm on Christmas and New Years day’s.

Maybe I could just squeeze in one more stop, the ferry building is always worth a visit to see what ships are in, todat though I was lured downstairs by another art exhibition. Paintings and sculptures from the Tenerife Siglo XXI group (21st Century) had a more contemporary feel and were certainly providing a welcome distraction for waiting ferry passengers. This was one of my favourites, they were all for sale, some at outrageous prices, but good to browse.

With my camera and notebook bursting, it was finally time to head south, passing the dockside I could see the huge stage and tiered seating taking shape for the 25 December FREE classical concert with the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra from 10 pm, that will be a pretty impressive way to end Christmas Day. More details on that and other festive events at