Corpus Christi Carpets in La Orotava 2010: What a Difference a Day Makes

Posted: June 11, 2010 in Life, Spain, Tenerife, Travel

The Day Before Corpus Christi

The mist was so low you could almost reach out and touch it. It covered the valley in a grey shroud, obscuring La Orotava only a couple of kilometres away, and the air was filled with a light drizzle of the sort which penetrated clothes on touch.

I felt sympathy for anyone who had made the trip from the south to experience one of the most uplifting days in the fiesta calendar, Corpus Christi and the flower covered streets of La Orotava. But most of all my heart went out to the alfombristas (flower carpet layers) and their families who plan for this day for months.

24 hours previously I’d watched them put the finishing touches to the main tapestry outside of the town hall in sweltering sunshine with nary a cloud in the sky. It was shaping up to be one of the most impressive carpets that I’ve seen since moving here and I looked forward to the buzz and the spectacle of the day of the flowers.

But then Mother Nature threw a spanner in the works. The alfombristas may pray that the wind is kind, but rain isn’t something that anyone is unduly concerned with…not in June. There hasn’t been rain on Corpus Christi in La Orotava since 1942.

All day we kept up to date with what was happening. The alfombristas waited until midday, hoping that the weather would clear, and when the stubborn mist showed no sign of abating, went ahead with laying their floral works of arts on the wet streets whilst a hardy few looked on under the protection of umbrellas.

We kept a check on the weather in La Orotava. Fortunately for us, one step outside of the house and we can see the town or, because of the low cloud in this case, not.  We waited and waited, but it was obvious that the cloud was here to stay. So late afternoon we decided that if the alfombristas were determined enough to continue in this dreary weather, the least we could do was support their efforts by going to see them.

Despite the weather the alfombristas had done an incredible job. Some designs had clearly been simplified to enable the carpet layers to finish then after a late start, but their colour added brightness to the grey day. And the people who’d made the effort to turn up smiled at their beauty from beneath their umbrellas and the hoods of rain macs. The main sand tapestry had stood up to the rain and if anything looked even more poignant, glistening defiantly against the elements.

What a Difference a Day Makes

I have to admit that from a selfish point of view that I was gutted about the weather. It’s always an opportunity to get great photos, meet friends and enjoy a fantastic day out.
There was none of that yesterday; instead the people who turned up will have witnessed something quite unique. Something that has far more value than a month of cloudless days. Something that would have given them an insight into what makes Tenerife a very special place.

Under grey skies and incessant drizzle; young and old alfombristas alike ignored the moody weather and displayed a humbling sense of pride, community and determination by doing what they always do at this time of year and filling the cobbled streets with glorious, if slightly mushy, floral carpets. If they felt sorry for themselves they didn’t show it and once the carpets were completed, retired to the nearest hostelry for some well deserved refreshments. Despite the disastrous weather there was no sense of self pity, or doom and gloom on La Orotava’s streets; only a display of a proud community spirit held together with a bond that was unbreakable.  And that was something very, very special to witness.

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