It was another stunning day in La Orotava and the flower carpets as always added a sea of vibrant colours to the already ridiculously picturesque old streets. But although the carpets were sensational, there were other things which caught my eye this year. Images and scenes which brought home to me the real essence of La Orotava’s rainbow coloured celebrations – the first was the sight of four toddlers sitting on the ground picking petals from flowers.
The carpets are clearly the magnet for the thousands of people who visit La Orotava, but having photographed the carpets over the last few years, I was looking to try to take some different shots, so this year I focussed more on the people creating the flower carpets.
I find them incredible to watch; each family member’s role is clearly defined from the most mundane snipping petals from flower heads to the careful placing of each individual flower to create evocative images. The younger kids are entrusted to carry bags of sacks, a bit of petal pulling and some laying the grass seeds in the less detailed sections…watched closely by the supervising abuelo who barks stern words when they get over enthusiastic. There are even individual carpets created solely by children. It really is an all round family affair which ensures that the tradition will be carried on ad infinitum.
The family atmosphere even extends to visitors and although by midday La Orotava is buzzing with people, the chances are that if you’re a resident of any nationality, you’ll bump into someone you know. At various points we bumped into Colin Kirby (admittedly there aren’t many people with blond hair wearing a CD Tenerife shirt, so Colin’s hard to miss), Phil Crean (composing a photograph with a patience I just don’t possess) and our friend, Jose, who we hadn’t seen since last year’s carpets.
As Colin mentioned in his blog, an attempt to ‘storm the tower’ to get some aerial shots was thwarted. But at least we weren’t physically rebuffed like some overly keen young local lads who also tried to rush the entrance to the Iglesia de la Concepción’s tower.
Thanks to Jose, I did manage to get halfway up the tower at one point and snapped a few quick shots before being shepherded back to ground level by a trainee jobsworth. To be fair, I understood his reluctance to let just anyone up on to the roof. It’s not designed for spectators and somebody falling with a splat on a flower carpet might have been spectacular, but would probably have ruined the day.
To get the full sense of what is going on a few circuits are required to see the streets being transformed from being full of crates of exquisitely coloured petals and grass seeds into an open air gallery for floral masterpieces.
The heat of a June day combined with La Orotava’s muscle testing slopes can make it a test of stamina, but the rewards are always worth the effort and anyway a rest stop at a Guachinche every so often rejuvenates. One of the things I noticed was that carpets retain a similar theme each year. Some alfombristas stick to traditional designs or religious imagery whilst others use more contemporary designs which need a bit of contemplation to figure out. Thankfully Jose provided priceless information when we were stumped. I just couldn’t make out what one carpet was at all until he pointed out it was a fallen angel.
As the day progressed, the town became a little less manic and ironically by the time many of the carpets are having their last petals placed, between 4 and 5pm, the streets were relatively quiet. It’s a good time for photographs, but we were shattered. I knew that I really should complete another circuit; that the best shots lay out there waiting for me.
“Home?” Andy suggested.
“Absolutely.” I answered without hesitation. At least for us it’s only a five minute drive.
We strolled past the church again and headed down hill. A little kiosk beside the church was buzzing with some of the alfombristas who, now that their work was done, were enjoying the late afternoon sunshine with a caña in their hands. It looked inviting.
“Cerveza?” Andy suggested.
“Absolutely,” I replied without hesitation.
That’s the problem with this colourful family affair; it’s very difficult to drag yourself away from it.