Virgen Del Carmen Floats Everyones Boat

It takes a womans touch to calm the seas, get the fishing boats scrubbed and decorated, and get everyone up and dancing. The Virgen del Carmen is the patron of the fishermen and Los Cristianos loves to celebrate her fiesta with colour and music.

This year it was an extra special party as the church in the heart of town was celebrating its 50th anniversary. The fair rolled in and the huge stage rose up at the car park next to the Valdes Centre. For anyone living close to the showground, the sight of the powerful speakers dominating the stage might have brought a little sigh but most people just roll with it and the many other fiestas that make Tenerife such a fun place to live. It’s the only time of the year that the statue of the Virgen comes out to play, carried down to the port for a whizz around the bay on a boat. The great lady is always in the minds and hearts of the local fishing community and the scaled down statue that is sunk on the sea bed keeps an eye on passing boats while her land based shrine is constantly topped up with flowers.

One of the newer events this year was the Fiesta del Sombreros (party of the hats) in the sealed off Calle Amalia Alayon. Tables were groaning with food and drink all afternoon and the homemade hats were very inventive and funny. There were prizes for the best efforts but it was more about the party spirit than glory hunting. The fair was back in town with some big scary rides and the fun favourites like the rodeo bulls – I could watch people falling off them for hours.

The sea was the big canvas, these are testing financial times for the latest generation of fishermen but they all proudly decorated their boats and did a twirl around the bay. I noticed on thee final night there was workshop going on in the Cofradia (fishermens association) office to teach Turismo Marinero, a new way to pass on a feel for history to the visitors that flock to Los Cristianos. Just back from the old beach, the Plaza del Pescadora was another popular focal point for music and dance, all the local bars and restaurants had good reason to say a quiet thank you to the Virgen as their tills got a welcome top up.

I dipped in and out of the events, and the bars, but made a point of catching up with the final evenings Sortija del Barcos. The shadows were starting to lengthen but the beach was still full as the fishing boats chugged out of the port to form a circle in the open sea in clear sight of shore. One of the biggest boats, Moby Dick, provided the stage for announcements as a dozen competing boats made a close orbit as one of the crew strived to grab a small ring from an outstretched post on the side of the main boat.

It needed a steady eye and hand even in the calm shallows, last year I watched a similar competition on horseback at nearby Montaña Chayofita. As the showground stage was dismantled, the last night of dancing unfolded at Plaza del Pescadora with the gentle lapping of the sea a fitting goodnight to the Virgen del Carmen.