As is the tradition in many countries around the world, the Canarians love to celebrate Carnivals.
El Hierro being the smallest of the main Islands obviously cannot compete with the spectacles on Tenerife or Gran Canaria. But still loves to celebrate in a more humble way. The locals still have the same enthusiasm as the rest of the Islands but with a smaller population there are quite obviously less participants. The carnivals are always around Lent.
On El Hierro there are quite a few. The main three usually have a parade around the town and always happen in the same order. First is the carnival in Frontera, followed the weekend after by Valverde.And the last parade occurs the weekend after that in El Pinar.
Each is a spectacular blaze of colours, loud music and fun. It is normal for the locals to vote for which theme they want for that year
The Carnival in Valverde always sets off from the car park at San Juan at the side of the sports centre. This is known locally as windy alley because the rest of Valverdecan have a slight breeze and then you arrive in San Juan!Hang onto your hats.
Valverde’scarnival is always led by exotic dances in brightly coloured skimpy costumes.
There are always the Carnival queen and the maids of honour with their fantastic elaborate costumes not far behind. The time the parents and sponsors spend on the costumes must be hours and hours.
Each float usually has its own sound system blasting out music and all are trying to outdo the vehicles around them. To add to the mix the local drum majors/majorettes Tokerotaare making lots of noise. All the youngsters have huge grins on their faces and are quite happy dancing to and fro with their drums.
Then it’s just an explosion of bright and brilliant colours as different groups dress to impress the judges.
The floats come in a variety of shapes and sizes, most I have to say are well past their sell by date and breakdowns on the route are just part of the fun. It’s just a relaxed, friendly electric atmosphere.
As the procession leaves San Juan it takes the main road Avenida Dacia Darias towards the hospital. As they slowly meander there way along the road, different groups join in the fun, be it a family group, the pensioners club, Zumba groups, work mates and clubs of all types. They all bring more vibrant colours and noise to the mix.
It seems that at Carnival time all the men just love to dress up as ladies. Some costumes are quite brilliant. Many hours must go into the preparation of them and you will usually find that they are all in identical costumes. There makeup is usually outrageous and plastered on.
If they see a camera in your hand they all want their picture taking. They will then grab you by the hand and lead you to their friends and demand more pictures of them in various poses. They all talk at once and enjoy each other’s company.
I spotted batman and family, Cruella Deville with some of the Dalmatians. American cheerleaders, (all male), Heidi’s, Trolls and devils. Alice in Wonderland. Mickey Mouse. Decks of cards, fairies, the list goes on.
At the back of the procession as always was an agricultural vehicle. The occupants all dressed as swinging hippies with their CND necklaces and miniskirts with tights. Everyone laughed more at the hairy legs under the tights. And of course we mustn’t forget the donkey being led by this vehicle laden with “Cannabis” sacks (well actually stuffed with weeds).
It seemed to take it forever to reach Calle Santiago were they turned right towards Valverde’s only petrol station. Here more people joined the fun for the last part of the procession up Calle de La Constitución.
All along the route people are stood out on their balconies or rooftops watching the revellers pass. As the procession approaches the Islands Government building dusk is falling and those costumes fitted with lights stand out even more amongst the dazzling colours.
The floats park up here and everyone goes onto Plaza Virrey de Manila.Here they will dance the whole night away.
The week after, it was time for El Pinar’s Carnival. The floats converge near Las Casas and the 5 o’clock start never happens.
The floats and costumes here were different again. The theme this time was children’s comics and toys. Though that didn’t stop “The boys” dressing up as ladies again.
The carnival queen led the procession. Behind followed the Lego people, Mickey & Minnie mouse, Super Mario and his train, Ken & Barbie, Rubik cubes, puppets. Bumble bees, Pirates and many, many more.
Again the colours were vivid and the noise level ear splitting. Everyone was having fun. It crawled along at snail’s pace. There were the customary break downs and no matter how hard the Marshalls tried they couldn’t keep the procession together. After leaving Las Casas it meanders down towards the centre of El Pinar passing the local health centre and petrol station. They stop to dance with some of the more elderly in the crowd and some get assisted onto the floats to enable them a bird’s eye view of the goings on.
As the street narrows more and more seemed to be joining in the fun. It doesn’t matter that the main road down to La Restinga was blocked for a few hours. Who cares its Carnival time on El Hierro and time to chill out.
One of the floats had scantily dressed males on board and has dusk fell and the wind increased they were feeling the chill. They danced with their volcano and wide eyed monster behind them.
The slowest part of this carnival is the last short climb into the centre of El Pinar. The crowd, waiting at the Plaza El Mentidero was large and noisy. They were waiting to see all the floats and participants. As you got nearer the smell of barbequed meat wafted through the crowd. There would be enough for everyone later.
And so the fun continued well into the night.