La Orotava Rolls Out The Corpus Christi Carpets

Grain by grain, petal by petal, families came together to piece together this years stunning collection of street carpets in the heart of La Orotava. Not even an unusually cloudy and moist day could dampen the enthusiasm of the annual devotion to the Corpus Christi celebrations. The huge central tapestry in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento had already been completed over 55 days with coloured sand and now the streets were being transformed into a blaze of colour like a living jigsaw.

Leaving the scorching south of Los Cristianos early I headed to Puerto de la Cruz on the 343 Titsa bus, I thought it would be packed with other carpet baggers but it was only half full. Reading the paper I saw that flights had been diveted the previous day from Los Rodeos airport in the north of Tenerife and as is so often the case the cloud got lower and thicker as the bus reached it, worse than I have seen for a long time. It was better into Puerto but swapping onto a La Orotava link of 10 minutes it got thicker again and was almost chilly when I got out. There was a good stream of people heading for the heart of the town but I thought there was more tatt and stalls on sale than at my last carpet trip 2 years ago.

Soon I was stood behind two short nuns shuffling up the stairs of the Ayuntamiento (council)Â building to get a view from the balconies of the main display in the plaza below. Some one trod on my sore toe during the jockeying for a good position, I uttered one rude word in English, thankfully the nuns were oblivious, I didn’t want to start a religious outrage so early in the day. The tapestries were as awesome as ever and at first glance you would think they were painted rather than made with millions of grains of coloured sand placed over a template. The streams of visitors below looked endless and the sky still looked grey but I could see some people up the tower of the church and made a mental note to try to scale that vantage point myself. Everyone was so enchanted with the plaza carpets they paid little attention to the splendour of the council chambers, glittering chandeliers, expensive looking paintings and religious sculptures all jostled for my interest but they were not the stars today.

Back out on the street I joined the slow march upward along one pavement as other passed back on the other side, all admiring the developing masterpieces on the road between. The main plaza is always completed in advance and the surrounding streets on the big day, many families have been involved for several generations and it was good to see young children learning the craft at their parents sides. Wooden frames are used for guidance but the measuring out and sprinkling of dried petals and sand is a skillful process that is carried out with precision. I tried to be tactful as I took photos and avoided making too many large bottoms semi famous. The streets wound round and down again towards the Church of the Concepcion so I went inside to marvel at the structure and decoration of the church that was built in 1788.

Just like 2 years ago some young boys were left to guard the locked door up to the tower and were only letting family through, looked like they had a huge family, I offered to marry their sister but they didn’t go for that and I never got my birds eye view. Back outside their was definately fine drizzle in the air but it didn’t make much difference to the celebrations as people began to dance to guitars and drums. The day would stretch on for a lot longer until the evening procession marched all over the hard work and destroyed the carpets, no one minds their achievements have already been recognised. Another tradition is being passed on in safe hands.