It’s time for Puerto to grind for a halt, for Carnival 2018
It is that time of year when in Puerto de la Cruz everything else seems to grind to a halt.
For two weeks nothing else is deemed important enough to cause a distraction. It doesn’t matter that, despite promises and assurances, work on the bus station didn’t start in January. It is of little consequence that entry to Puerto through the Martiánez tunnel is still closed off or that the beach project, after so much promise in 2017, has once again been conveniently forgotten.
No one cares that the Muelle project has undergone so many changes that it has become a joke. At least, that is, not for the two weeks in February when Carnaval comes to Puerto de la Cruz Carnaval.
Yes, Carnaval in Puerto de la Cruz, the highlight of the social calendar and the locals can’t seem to get enough of it. A chance for them to don their glad rags, dress up in their best party frocks, put on their blonde wigs, squeeze into their highest heels and head out for a night on the town. I am, of course, referring to the men, I thought I’d better mention it just in case you hadn’t realised. What is it that makes hairy, bearded men, abandon their otherwise quite macho personas for something so outrageously opposite; quite frankly, I am at a loss to understand? Still, they are in a way the very essence of Carnaval. If you are still trying to picture it, think of the Kenny Everett character and you won’t be far wrong.
Surely though , you would have thought that Carnaval is a Summer event, elsewhere maybe , but not in Tenerife where they choose the coldest and often wettest months, either late February or early March.
The actual dates for Puerto de la Cruz are predetermined by Easter; the Burial of the Sardine, one of the major events is always on Wednesday of the second week, which coincides with Ash Wednesday. Not that these dates are necessarily etched in stone, last year there were calls for this year’s Carnaval to be held later.
There was to be a vote, I am not sure if there ever was, but either way they chose to stick with tradition and as a consequence the Carnaval dates once again overlap that of Santa Cruz, and Puerto has to compete with a much bigger, better and more popular Carnaval. You would have thought therefore that a slight tweak of the dates could be an attractive proposition.
All events in Puerto are pretty much open air, there is no venue, with a roof, big enough, at least, not until the Parque San Francisco project is completed, and that is still years away. Until then Puerto is at the mercy of the weather and the long range forecasts are looking a bit iffy, but of course, that could all change.
Two events at risk of the weather conditions, both from the cold and the wet, are the Galas for the election of the Carnaval Queen and Carnaval Princess. This year it seems that both competitions are restricted to just five contestants each. I am sure there used to be more, perhaps now the numbers are whittled down beforehand to get rid of the also ran’s. Maybe it is to allow more time for the local dignitary speeches or perhaps as the whole idea is really a little bit dated there is simply less interest this year. It could, of course, just be a problem of logistics, a problem of manoeuvring all those huge costumes around the makeshift stage in Plaza de Europa. So it could be health and safety then, no, that can’t be right, they have never seemed too worried about it before.
I have to say, I don’t really understand the whole concept of the competitions, is it the costume that is judged or the person wearing it, or is it a combination of the two, the complete package, a costume with a personality.
Carnaval may be a two week event, but the main attractions, if you like, all take place towards the second half.
On the first Saturday evening there is the mini parade, marching bands and dance troupes parade through the San Felipe district towards the town hall. I have to say I quite like this event, probably because it is normally less crowded and does not last too long, (I have a short attention span for this sort of thing).
On the Wednesday, as I have already mentioned there is the Burial of the Sardine. A giant papier-mâché effigy of a sardine is pulled around the town on a trailer pulled by the corporation dump truck (no expense spared) and trailed by the wailing widows, (men in black dresses) before being ceremonially cremated on the Muelle beach, followed by the obligatory fireworks display. What can I say? It was a spectacle the first time I saw it, after which my enthusiasm waned. I think the waiting about detracts from it a bit as it is one of those events that never seems to start on time.
Friday night brings what for many is the main event of Carnaval, the Men in high heels Marathon. An event which organisers claim originated in Puerto de la Cruz and is now copied throughout the world. I am not sure about that, but I don’t think the organisers of the event in New York which has been running since 1986 would not necessarily agree. So enthralled by this event, the tourism arm of the Ayuntamiento staged a demonstration of the race recently in the middle of Madrid, at FITUR, a major tourism convention. Is this a good selling point for prospective visitors, a good example of what to expect should they come to Puerto de la Cruz? It doesn’t matter because the locals love it. It is not really a race, more a parade of contestants, hundreds of them, over a course of obstacles and cobbled streets; it’s funny for five minutes and lasts for hours.
So that brings us to the second Saturday and the Grand Parade, almost the finale of the Carnaval. It is vibrant and colourful and always has a great atmosphere, but can be a bit shambolic and unorganised as it stops and starts, slowing winding its way through the streets of Puerto de la Cruz, so much so that it goes on for hours.
It is the people’s parade that much is evident as anyone in fancy dress can seemingly join the parade, or in deed leave it, wherever and whenever takes their fancy. It has a new start time this year, two hours later at 18.00. So regardless of it starting on time some of the procession will be in darkness. Why the change of time? Who knows, however, the result is it is more convenient for locals who favour a later lunch and perhaps a siesta, but less convenient for tourists who hampered by hotel dining hours will may be forced to have a big lunch, go hungry , or only watch part of the parade. Still whoever said Carnaval was for tourists!
What else is happening? I haven’t space to mention it all, but surprising two events from last year are missing from this year’s programme. “Crazy Cars” or is “Kracy Kars”, the soapbox derby, is not taking place this year. An event which I don’t think will be greatly missed, apart from by the competitors that is, but fear not they won’t have to look far for a new venue, as it is a feature of this year’s Carnaval in Los Silos. Puerto’s loss is potentially their gain, if they stage the event right. Also missing this year is the Trans Queen Gala, an event only introduced for the first time last year and hailed as a great success at the time, however, on reflection, it was obviously not such a great success after all or it would have been repeated.
One event still included is the ritual “Killing of the Snake”. An event re-introduced to the Carnaval a few years, with origins in Cuba, but cited as part of Puerto’s cultural heritage. The act is performed in different parts of the town by local children with blackened faces, to represent African slaves, who are encouraged by the white slave master, using a whip, to attack and kill the snake. Whoever said political correctness or racial harmony was a prerequisite.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Carnaval without some loud Latin music booming out from Plaza del Charco almost every night. Fair enough, to be honest, I wouldn’t expect it to be any different, but why does it have to go on until 5.00am? Fortunately I don’t live within earshot, but there are plenty who do and they will have a week of late nights or sleepless ones to look forward to.
Enjoy Carnaval 2018 in Puerto de la Cruz; it is a great event, both for the locals, and for the town.