It may to the outsider appear that there is a very lackadaisical attitude in Tenerife when it comes to announcing what events are happening. At one time it used to be that we would read great reviews of how good things HAD BEEN, but of late it is getting better and we are hearing a few days prior to some cultural programme taking place. This doesn’t mean however that these things just happen off the cuff or are last minute afterthoughts, there is often lots of work going on in the background it is just that the organisers are not much good at shouting about it and you have to know what is going to happen, to know that it is going to happen, if you follow my drift…..
Take for instance the festival of the Virgen del Carmen, this is an important fishing tradition celebrated in Tenerife. It is celebrated by the residents in towns such as Los Cristianos and Los Abrigos in the south but the most important event takes place in Puerto de la Cruz.
This year the main affair will be celebrated on 16th July but for the past two months meetings have been taking place to organise not only the poster but the flotilla of boats – it may look like chaos but it is organised chaos.
So for those would be revellers what is it all about? – In a nutshell the town honours not only the Virgin but Gran Poder de Dios (the image that is in the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia) and San Telmo, the patron saint of Spanish fishermen. A wide range of activities are organised for the month long festivities known simply as the July Fiestas.
Although there will be several events taking place in the lead up, the people of Puerto start in earnest the evening before the main event when stalls are set up to sell food and drink, notably sardines and beer. I have heard it called the ‘Sardines’, but not sure if this is being confused with the burning of the sardine which is at the end of Carnival. Of course starting early is just an excuse for bands to belt out music and the partying to commence.
On the day of the procession, you need to grab your spot early if you want a good view as thousands of people gather around the harbour, hanging over the edge or watching from the surrounding buildings.
Although the premise is to honour the saint the reality is a great excuse for getting wet. The brave try to master the traditional greasy pole competition, just one of the events of the day while others don´t need an excuse and just jump straight in.
Undoubted the highlight comes when the Virgen del Carmen and Saint Elmo are paraded through the narrow streets from the parish church to the port for their annual outing before being loaded on to a boat and taken out to sea. Before the figures go on board a flock of doves are released then they are off…. to sail along the coast accompanied by dozens of fishing boats.
The fiesta continues with a firework display and then the crowds transfer to the streets where locals and visitors share the great atmosphere of another wonderful Tenerife fiesta.