Carnival

Carnival

The Carnival, the great winter fiesta, deserves a chapter of its own. The origins of Carnival lie in the pagan festivals prior to the Christianisation of Europe. They were rituals intended to release the lowest passions and instincts of the human soul, repressed during the rest of the year. These heathen rituals were to be mingled with the religious feasts of mediaeval Italy , giving rise to Carnival, one of the most widely-accepted popular festivals in the world. The Tenerife Carnivals, just like those of PCR, have a cosmopolitan character imposed by the idiosyncrasies of the town where they are held. The festival tradition in PCR was interrupted during the years of Franco’s dictatorship , but even it was incapable of keeping at home the restless masked revellers who continued to do honour to Puerto’s festive spirit every month of February. The Carnival takes over all the town’s streets, where the townspeople immerse themselves in its delirious atmosphere. The first Carnival Pageant was held in 1910 when the recently formed Tourism Committee in collaboration with the “Arautápala” local newspaper, decided to organise a Pageant like those in the French town of Nice. In the procession, in which the townspeople of Puerto as well as the British and German communities participated, stood out above all the six floats which represented Columbus’ sailing-ships, Great Britain, the Zeppelin, a Swiss landscape, a Canary basket and a basket of flowers. The festivities started with dancing on Carnival Saturday in the Taoro Hotel and the Círculo de Iriarte and Nueva Unión social clubs which lasted until the small hours of Sunday. From that moment on, the Pageant has been repeated throughout the years. The “Murgas” – groups of all sorts of people from every area of town – rehearse their songs daily, managing to blend their many and varied voices into an ordered, enthusiastic chorus. The lyrics of their songs tend to be satirical, even scathing, and the melodies are “borrowed” from current pop songs or South American or Caribbean beats. The “Comparsas”, on the other hand, are mixed groups of dancers who take their inspiration from Rio de Janeiro’s Samba Schools . Their parades are greeted with admiring glances for the splendour of their costumes which are designed anew every year to outdo the others in the contest, to the delight of visitors. Every year the start is signalled by the Election of the Carnival Queens and Carnival ends with the symbolic Death and Funeral of the Sardine.