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The carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Cadiz

  • Young people in disguise celebrating carnival in the streets of Cadiz © Turespaña

    Young people in disguise celebrating carnival in the streets of Cadiz © Turespaña


"The carnival festivities are a perfect excuse to enjoy yourself to the full in Spain. ..."

The carnival festivities are a perfect excuse to enjoy yourself to the full in Spain. What's more, the carnival celebrations in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Cadiz have been declared Festivities of International Tourist Interest.

The carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is without a doubt the most Brazilian of all the carnivals held in Spain. For one week the streets of the capital of Tenerife are filled with people who have flocked here from all over the world, and the whole city is caught up in a cornucopia of music, colour and fantasy, in an intensely festive atmosphere which has to be experienced to be believed. The island's carnival, which has grown to become one of the largest in the world, is an uncontrolled explosion of high spirits and exuberance which perfectly typifies the essence of this universal festivity: for a few days everything is permitted, and the only rule is to let yourself go, cast aside all your inhibitions and constraints and surrender to the complete and total expression of freedom which defines the Carnival of Santa Cruz.

However there is nothing improvised or disorganised about this seemingly anarchic pandemonium. For several months the local inhabitants of Tenerife have thrown themselves wholeheartedly preparing the floats which are paraded through the streets of the city. These creations feature generous doses of imagination and infectious good humour. They rehearse the songs and music and compose parodies about current political affairs or celebrities. All the carnival groups take part in the opening parade on the first day (Saturday before carnival): street bands with a distinctly Brazilian feel, the typical carnival choral groups formed by both adults and children, street musicians, choirs and of course thousands and thousands of people all dressed up in their costumes. The carnival queen is selected from among the most beautiful young women, whose attractions are enhanced by the gorgeous dresses designed specially for this important occasion. And carnival Tuesday marks the highlight of the festivities with a special enclosure which brings together all the participants. This is the culmination of all that the Carnaval represents for Tenerife: an authentic metamorphosis, a long hiatus in people's everyday routine.

Although the Carnival in Cadiz is in essence the same, and it is celebrated with similar exuberance, this version has various original features which give it its own undeniable personality. Here too there is a long run-up to the festivities, a period of over a month which starts with the Erizada or sea urchin festival, a popular feast with this mollusc as the star attraction, followed by a competition of choral groups and the typical carnival street bands held in the Teatro Falla theatre, which is one of the highlights of the carnival in Cadiz. The various types of typical carnival musical groups all compete in the theatre to come up with the most original and amusing setting for their songs, in both the visual and musical presentation.

Right after this famous competition the streets erupt with enthusiasm, as though the theatre were the last barrier holding back the excitement. The different groups parade through the streets of the old quarter of the city singing the typical carnival songs, tangos, traditional Spanish songs, medleys and pasodobles that they themselves have invented and which always have an element of cutting political and social satire, or a touch of eroticism, all mixed in with generous doses of typical Andalusian wit and humour. Nothing is off limits. But the festivities are not only the province of organised groups; the whole city throws itself into the celebrations, and local inhabitants and visitors alike converge in an atmosphere of riotous excitement and colour, in an atmosphere of complete and total communication. The great parade which takes place on the Sunday known as the “domingo de Piñata” marks the culmination of these spectacular and lively festivities, and is a night of jubilation in which the collective delirium reaches a height of festive, high-spirited and colourful expression.

Imagination, fantasy, vitality, good humour, but also a civic spirit are the hallmark values of these two Spanish fiestas which are admired and envied all over the world.

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