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.