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Tenerife Carnival

Since the 1700s, the Carnival has been the biggest of the festivals celebrated on the island. During Franco's reign and under advice from the church, he banned the Carnival. Santa Cruz de Tenerife ignored this ban and at great risk continued to celebrate each year. Cadiz was the only other Spanish town to ignore the ban. Carnival would arrive on the weekend and the following Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday the people would dress in costumes and masks and run through the streets with the police trying to catch them!! If the police grew too many in numbers the poeple would be offered shelter in locals houses. One year, so many revelers were arrested that the prison overflowed and the bullring was converted into a second prison.

In 1961 the festival was officially recognize and made legal and has grown in popularity every year with over 200,000 people joining in the main parades through the streets.

carnival 2012


Pregón - This is an "introduction" to the Carnival. A Master of Ceremonies will host an evening of general entertainment with some sneak previews of the coming two weeks.

Murgas & Comparsas - Ask a team member and they'll probably tell you there's a huge difference between these two events but to me, they're pretty much the same. Each comprises of a team performing amusing and entertaining songs. Their songs are about a current event or a political topic and the difference would be that the "Murgas" is more about the song with humorous gestures and movements, the Comparsas is also about dance and more flamboyant costumes.

Gala Reina - Selection of the Carnival Queens. The main competition is the selection of the adults Carnival Queen but there's also similar competitions for the children's carnival queen and the pensioner's carnival queen. The main focus of attention here is the costume. It's usually several meters high and several meters wide and almost impossible to walk more than a few yards in. They are spectacular to see and a team usually spends most of the year working on a costume so the attention to detail is also very impressive. Each candidate comes on to stage and slowly parades from one side to the other to display her costume. The more adventurous competitors will try a little carnival "wiggle" as they move but most just try not to fall over!

Drag Queen - This tends to be the most popular event of all the competitions as the guys have a go. Their costumes are less cumbersome than those of the girlies as their time on stage is longer and much of their efforts are spent on performing. Platform shoes several feet high and outrageous costumes are the norm.

Mogollones - All these competitions can get a bit too much, especially if you can't get tickets for any of them. There's vast but limited seating for the competitions so a couple of times during the carnival a "mogollone" is held. This is an open-air, free-for-all carnival party. Carnival, Latino and Salsa music, live entertainment and the party atmosphere attract tens of thousands to these events.

Cabalgata - The competitions tend to finish a few days before the actual carnival does. Once all the winners have been selected there's the Big Parade or" Cabalgata". With more than 200,000 people lining the streets, the winners and other costume-clad entrants board fantastic floats that parade through the main street. The thousands lining the streets are also often in carnival costume and the carnival atmosphere is present with everyone! There's also a children's day once the children's events are completed and therefore a children's cabalgata too.

Entierro de la Sardina - I really should find out why the sardine is the symbol used to represent the carnival. It's always been the traditional fish sought after by the fisherman for financial reasons, who knows? Anyway, it is and as the sardine dies (carnival coming to an end) it's parade through the streets in the form of a 30 foot version aboard a float. It's taken to the beach where it's finally laid to rest. The whole atmosphere remains that of the carnival but with a more somber note, people often dressed up in full funeral gear to mourn the passing of the carnival.


Other competitions and events include body painting competition, costume and fancy-dress competitions. There's usually a celebrate to host most of the events and celebrities to perform as well.

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