Carnaval on Tenerife – Trapped in a Crazy World

Posted: March 12, 2009 in Life, Spain, Tenerife, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
A real Monster Mash

A real Monster Mash

This might sound like an exaggeration, but there was a point at the closing night party where we were positively trapped by Carnaval. At the top of Calle Perdomo in Puerto we were surrounded by an undulating sea of colour and painted faces which stretched into the distance in all directions. Movement was impossible. Carnaval had us firmly in its grasp and we surrendered happily.

It is points like this that the weariness accumulated by a week spent at the occasional street party and all of the parades completely dissipates. Carnaval is a drug for sure. It gets into your veins and injects you with a natural high. A friend of ours who stays in Puerto every year had stayed out till 7 in the morning a few times, feeding on the buzz of the animal. By the time we met him for the Carling Cup final he could have completely dispensed with any make up as he looked like a zombie. Extra time and penalties nearly did for him as the adrenalin boost from the previous night/that morning’s carnaval party wore off.

It was a great closing night; one of the best. It had been a beautiful day in Puerto; in fact after the rains which had delayed the election of the Carnaval queen, it had been a good week for weather. For once during Carnaval, the fun loving weather gods had kept the straight-laced ones at bay and the closing parade was a sunny event where the sun shone as brightly as the smiles on the participants’ faces.
The parade takes place from around 16.00 mas o menos and lasts for about three hours, giving us enough time to get home, eat, and try to figure out what to dress up as.
I had three attempts: a cowboy (boring), A big game hunter (didn’t have a gun) and finally a vampire.
Andy knew she was going to dress up as a witch, but had a clothes crisis about what skirt looked the more witchy under a longish jacket; until we noticed that the best effect was when she was mid change i.e. sin skirt…well it was carnaval; to be wearing more than what is basically underwear is overdressed for many carnaval goers.

If there’s one thing I’d change at Carnaval, it would be the music in the so called ‘clubbing’ area. I enjoy Latino, but I like a bit of pulsating dance as well (even if my attempts to move to the groove are embarrassingly like a ‘dad dance’) but all the dance areas stick pretty much to Latino sounds all night.
There was a point on Saturday night which was quite illuminating about the Canario psyche. There was some decent dance music being played in the ‘dance tent’ and the younger Canarios were bouncing away happily. But even in this area, they couldn’t seem to go more than a couple of tracks before changing back to a Latino base. At one point they actually stuck on a track which I swear was a ‘murga’ number (murgas are the satirical clown like bands which fill TV screens on the run up to carnaval – not the most musical of sounds and certainly not rave material) and the crowd went crazy for it. At that point we realised that if we wanted to hear some variation in sounds there was only one thing for it; head to the gay area. That’s where the best costumes usually are anyway. And it was there that we got trapped, drinking cheap beer amidst a throng of mutant flowers, giant penises, an ‘is that a man or that a woman’ in full length see through body costume, gimps and tribes of Indian Braves jumping up and down singing along to ‘I Will Survive’ and the soundtrack to Grease. There are more boring ways to spend your Saturday night, but there aren’t many more bizarre.
For the closing night party there were as many people as I’d ever seen at carnaval. The road from the harbour to Plaza del Charco, up Calle Perdomo and back to the harbour was a solid mass of thousands upon thousands of people in fancy dress. The words of a British ‘swallow’ we’d bumped into at the parade came back to me.
“The town’s very quiet this year,” he’d said.
It seemed an incredible statement, given the fact that there had been carnaval parties nearly every night, but it’s the perception that some visitors can have when they come to Puerto and keep ‘British’ hours.
Time as it always does at carnaval did a bit of a magic trick and what we thought was about 2.30 turned out to be closer to 5.00. We decided to attempt one last circuit then turn our back on Carnaval for another year.

This is what Carnaval does to your complexion!

This is what Carnaval does to your complexion!

It’s been a tiring one this year (nothing new there) and lots of important things (work) were shelved for a week, but taking part in Carnaval is important, if not essential, in understanding what makes Tenerife tick. It’s also incredibly good fun even if my body felt as though it had been through the Spanish inquisition.

We’d been hugged and bumped till we were black and blue (actually that was my face paint smudging); on numerous occasions various people (all men – I think) have exposed their genitals (fake ones…err, I think; although there was one disturbingly realistic vagina) and at one point I even received a proposal of marriage. All in all a typical carnaval experience and even though it was another unforgettable occasion and I wouldn’t miss it for the world, I’m glad it’s over…I desperately needed to rest.


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