The Corpus Christi Red Carpet on Tenerife

It’s June 1936. Francisco Franco is Governor General of the Canary Islands and is in La Orotava watching the Corpus Christi procession as it passes over the floral works of art.

Well known as a dissenter, Franco has been posted to the furthest and quietest outreach of Spanish governance to keep him out of harm’s way. If only they’d known then that most powerful of idioms – keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. The authorities are expecting trouble, there have been whispers of an assassination attempt and the Guardia have a heavy presence, their cars parked beneath the magnolia frontage of Casas de Los Balcones. In the event, the procession passes quietly without incident.

Fast forward 75 years and on the 30th June 2011, the alfombristas of La Orotava will unveil the 106th carpet to be constructed in the Plaza Ayuntamiento (Town Hall Square). During its existence this most fragrant of Canary Islands traditions has seen some important feet passing over its cobbled streets, not least those of the Corpus Christi procession to whom it owes its existence.

Rolling out the carpet
The feast of Corpus Christi had already been celebrated for over 300 years in Tenerife, predominantly in La Laguna where the day was marked by theatre, dancing and traditional games as well as pious acts, before the first petals were ever laid in La Orotava. The honour of being the first is attributed to Leonor de Castillo Monteverde who, in 1847, thought it would be a nice idea to decorate the road outside her home for the Corpus Christi procession to walk over. So successful was Leonor’s idea that the practice quickly spread to other parts of the island and her descendants still complete that section of road outside her home today.

In their 164 year history the La Orotava flower carpets have only twice been suspended, once in 1891 and again in 1897. Last year, despite the persistent rain that marred the whole proceedings, the people still turned out to make their flower carpets and to ensure that their 120 year unbroken record still stands.

The La Orotava Town Hall tapestry
Despite the popularity of decorating La Orotava’s streets for the procession, it was to be almost 70 years after Leonor’s radical gesture before the Plaza Ayuntamiento stained its face in the name of religious devotion.

The Corpus Christi procession began passing through the Town Hall plaza in 1913 but it wasn’t until 1919 when Felipe Machado and Benítez de Lugo took it upon themselves to carpet the square in flowers and vegetation that the tapestry tradition began. Before then, the only time the square had seen decoration was in 1905 when a floral carpet tribute had been laid to honour the Spanish Navy ensign.

On the 21st May 2011, work began on this year’s tapestry, the theme of which is the 26th World Youth Day which will once again bring the Pope to Spain. This year’s design will use 21 different colours to create 20 individual tapestries as a nod to the 20 years that this particular group of alfombristas have been the creators of the carpets and the latest generation of artists to continue the ethereal tradition that has characterised the town for so long.

The La Orotava Corpus Christi flower carpets take place on 30th June 2011.


Stunning Sand Carpets & Wrath of the Titans in Tenerife News of the Week

Tenerife Magazine’s round up of some of the most interesting news stories of the week in Tenerife.

The theme for La Oratava’s Corpus Christi sand tapestry

The theme for the 2011 sand tapestry in La Orotava on 30th June will be ‘Dios nos entrega a su hijo Jesús` which loosely translated means ‘God gives us his son Jesus”. The incredible tapestry made from soil and sand from Las Cañadas del Teide traditionally features a religious theme but usually includes a contemporary slant which often delivers a surprisingly emotional impact. La Orotava council are applying to UNESCO for World Heritage status which, as anyone who has witnessed this very special celebration, is an accolade that is long overdue.

A busy summer scene for Tenerife
It’s just as well that Tenerife is blessed with numerous beaches of all shapes and sizes as space on them could be at a premium this summer. There are an estimated 400,000 more airline seats heading our way during the sizzling summer months than last year.

Parque Marítimo in Santa Cruz to reopen
Great news at last for the troubled renovation of Parque Marítimo in Santa Cruz. It looks like all systems are go and the swimming pool complex will reopen to the public in all its full glory on the 1st of June. It’s also good news for those sun-seeking cruise passengers arriving at the port who once again will be able to bask in the capital’s sunny weather without having to spend precious time catching a bus or taxi to Playa las Teresitas.

Keeping cosy in La Laguna bus station
La Laguna isn’t exactly the warmest place on Tenerife to begin with and waiting for the guagua at the bus station is like braving the Siberian wastelands in winter wearing shorts and a T-shirt. That might sound like an exaggeration until you know that Manuel Ortega, general co-ordinator of Tenerife’s transport department, suggested that it was easier to catch flu inside the station than outside it and that waiting there could be fatal for children and old people (admittedly he might have meant the Spanish meaning rather than it was likely to kill you…but who knows). Apparently the culprits are the electronic doors which are positioned in such a place that every time they open (every other second) icy blasts of cold air grab the opportunity to rush in and harass travellers. To rectify the problem which has had passengers up in goose-pimpled arms, the offending doors will be replaced by swivel doors to keep the cool winds at bay.

The wrath of Ben Magec
The filming of Wrath of the Titans, the follow up to Clash of the Titans, has come in for criticism from Canarian ecologist group Ben Magec for potentially disrupting the breeding patterns of the endangered fish eagle (aka osprey and guincho). Filming is currently taking place in the Teno region of Tenerife where the island’s few eagles live and breed. Apparently “Many’ people have asked Tenerife’s Government and the film production company not to go ahead with shooting scenes in that area and an online petition has been set up to call a halt to the titans in Teno. It may be an admirable cause but Ben Magec’s site is missing the sort of detail that helps readers make an informed decision about how real the threat is. For all we know it might come from the fact that Mrs Eagle is too busy watching Sam Worthington in a leather skirt to get involved in a bit of love action with Mr Eagle.

The warmest April since 1950
Spanish Meteorological Agency AEMET have said that April 2011 was the warmest since 1950; a fact that might surprise some visitors to the south of Tenerife during that month. However, although the weather was warmer (by 4C in Spain, but only 1C in the Canary Islands) and rainfall was close to average figures, in actuality rainfall in southern parts was substantially higher than average (up to three times as much in the Canary Islands) whilst in northern areas it was lower.

Santa Cruz Tourist Bus
The Canarian Confederation of Young Entrepreneurs aren’t happy with the route that the city’s new tourist bus follows as it doesn’t stop at enough shopping areas. They want the route to be changed so that it includes more commercial areas. Maybe we’re missing the point here but we thought the idea of the tourist bus was to show visitors the cultural and scenic highlights of Santa Cruz and not the best place to pick up a little black number for the dinner dance on board their cruise.

And finally the TIT (This Is Tenerife) of the week award goes to…Icod de los Vino and environmentally friendly concrete.
Icod de los Vinos claims that it will have the most ecologically friendly avenue in the Canary Islands…by covering Avenida Chincanayros in concrete. However, apparently this is special concrete called Ecogranic which also goes by the name ‘green concrete’ because it possesses ‘special qualities” that neutralises pollutants and emissions from cars by up to 56%.
Incredibly one of the selling points pushed by the company that created Ecogranic is that if you covered a football ground with this concrete it would eliminate the contaminates produced by 4000 cars over the course of a year. It’s a horrifying thought but Ecogranic sounds as though it really could give politicians licence to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. Here’s another suggestion for a green and ecologically friendly avenue ““ pedestrianise and use more grass and trees.


Headline Tenerife ““ The Week in News to June 13

Tenerife Magazine’s round up of some of the most interesting news stories of the week in Tenerife

Flowers in the Rain ““ Corpus Christi in La Orotava 2010
The unthinkable happened. After a blisteringly hot day previously, the weather turned fickle and rained incessantly on La Orotava’s Corpus Christi parade. The only water the flower carpets are normally drenched in during the day of the flower carpets is the spray from alfombrista’s watering cans. That changed this year as the heavens opened for the first time since 1942 and even prayers to the local saint, San Isidro Labrador couldn’t work miracles and stop the rain.

However, you’ll notice from the picture of this year’s main flower tapestry in full sunshine, that here at Tenerife Magazine we can.

The Sweet Smell of Santa Cruz
It was good news, bad news time this week for visitors to the capital Santa Cruz. The good news came as a representative of the Dirección General de Calidad del Aire del Gobierno de Canarias announced that the oil refinery CEPSA was going to implement plans to eliminate up to 90 percent of the sulphuric odours emanating from their refinery. The bad news was that
we’ll no longer be able to blame that unpleasant smell in the car as we drive into Santa Cruz on CEPSA for much longer.

The Demolition of Tenerife’s Coastline
Anyone living near the coast on Tenerife must be going through very nervy times at the moment. Thirty houses on the coast in Arafo and Güímar are due to feel the wrecking crew not so much knocking on their doors as knocking down their doors to make way for improvements to the seafront at Playa de La Viuda and Play de Lima. Apparently part of the improvements will include a nice new promenade for people to stroll along. How lovely for them and much more important than having a house to return to at the end of their stroll.

Double Park to Your Heart’s Content on Tenerife
A slip up of banana skin proportions was revealed this week when a draft for a new traffic law had the complete opposite of the effect it was supposed to have. The law was intended to make it easier for police to tow away cars that violated parking regulations, but instead was worded in such a way that meant that only town mayors and not the local police had the power to authorise gruas to tow cars away.

Apparently if the police tow away your car at the moment, you can insist it’s returned and be reimbursed for any cost ““ yeah right, I’m not going to rush out and test that little claim.

And finally the TIT (This Is Tenerife) of the week award goes to…

The person in the Cabildo responsible for coming up with a bright plan to make the volume of traffic between the north of Tenerife and Santa Cruz flow easier during morning rush hour. Anyone with half a brain could see what the outcome was going to be when it was announced that one of the lanes heading north from Santa Cruz was going to be reversed and turned into a lane heading into the capital Santa Cruz between 6 and 10am on Thursday 10th June.

There were no surprises the following day to read reports that there was absolute chaos on the road between Tacoronte and Los Rodeos (the area where the trial was taking place) with queues stretching back for miles.

Bemused commuters reported that a journey which normally took fifteen minutes took an hour and twenty five minutes during the trial. A big success then.

Why don’t the Cabildo consult someone who actually possesses a modicum of common sense before they proceed with plans that even the residents of Loro Parque could tell them were doomed to failure?


Street Gardening ““ The Corpus Christi Flower Carpets

Ever since Leonor del Castillo y Monteverde decided in 1847 that it might be a nice idea to put some petals on the ground outside her house for the evening Corpus Christi procession to walk over, every June the streets of La Orotava have been transformed into urban floral works of art.
This year the streets are scheduled to blossom on Thursday June 10th.

The show-stealer of the festival is the 850 square metre volcanic sand tapestry which fills the plaza outside the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall). Created from soils collected within Teide National Park, the intricate religious iconography usually commemorates a special event or delivers a powerful moral message and is never anything less than awesome.
But spectacular as it is, the tapestry is not the only display at this vast Tenerife flower show.
The streets that surround Iglesia de La Concepción and form a circuit between the church, the Town Hall and Las Casas de Los Balcones are transformed into beautiful carpets of rainbow coloured petals.
From early morning until after the evening Corpus Christi procession has completed its journey to the church, the whole town is imbued with a fairytale atmosphere of what I can only describe as “˜joy’.

Preparing the ground
Preparation for the day begins months in advance with deciding the theme for the carpets and designing the giant tapestry. At this stage it’s all very hush, hush and when work begins on chalking the outline in the Town Hall Plaza, barriers and screens are erected to keep prying eyes at bay. But by the time the big day draws close, the secret’s out and most of the screens disappear.
If you want to see something really special, head up to La Orotava on June 9th as the master alfombristas (carpet makers) put the finishing touches to their masterpiece; it feels a bit like watching Da Vinci complete the Mona Lisa.

On the day itself, work begins early laying out the streets into grids, each allocated to specific groups, families and individuals, many of whom have had the same “˜plot’ for generations. The Monteverde family still create their carpet outside Casa Monteverde as they’ve been doing for 163 years.

Sowing and growing

The best time to arrive at the Corpus Christi flower carpets is around the midday mark. By that stage, most of the designs have been either hand drawn onto the pavement, or large metal or wood frames have been laid ready to be filled. Sacks lie filled with kaleidoscopic palettes of cut petals and the aromatic seeds which create the town’s very distinctive Corpus Christi perfume, and the streets are a hive of petal and seed laying activity.
Following the narrow one-way route marked out by string barriers, crowds swell as they meander the circuit, experiencing Rolf Harris “˜can-you-tell-what-it-is-yet?’ moments as the designs take shape.

To get the best view of the magnificent soil tapestry, head inside the Town Hall, make your way to the first floor and join the crowds waiting to get onto the small balconies overlooking the plaza.

Feeding and watering
As with all Tenerife fiestas, being a spectator can be almost as exhausting as participating so allow yourself the whole day to enjoy the festive atmosphere. Stalls sell a saliva-inducing selection of goodies to keep the strength up; chocolate coated roasted almonds, candy floss, hot dogs, burgers, chips, ice creams and a huge assortment of homemade cakes, biscuits and sweets.
In between circuits, head to the guachinche beside the Town Hall, take the weight off your feet and enjoy a “˜pincho‘ (savoury pork kebab) with a glass or two of local wine or a cold beer.
While you’re waiting for the final design to finish ““ it’s always the one right outside the Iglesia de la Concepción ““ sit in the small park opposite and avail yourself from its beer tent.

When all the carpets are finally complete, the alfombristas breathe a collective sigh of relief and of pride in the beauty that they have created. With aching backs and sore knees, they enjoy a well-earned glass of wine and wait for the Corpus Christi procession to walk over their carpets, scattering petals and seeds to the breeze.
Flower works of art gone in a few footfalls ““ it seems such a blooming shame.