The Magic of Tenerife - issue #3
February 1st, 2011


This is your genial webmaster John with the latest Tenerife Information Centre Newsletter!

In this month's issue, we'll be taking a look at:

- The Festival of Candlemas
- The First Weeks of The Carnival
- What are Murgas and Rondallas?


The Festival Of Candlemas

The first feast day of Candlemas happens on February 2nd (the other is in August) and is an extremely important day in Tenerife. This is because the saint associated with this celebration is Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, or "Our Lady of Candelaria", who is the patron saint not only of Tenerife, but the whole of the Canary Islands.

Dating back to pre-conquest times, the first mass held for the Virgin of Candelaria took place in 1497. Today, there is a pilgrimage each year to the town of Candelaria and its magnificent Basilica. This building was erected in 1959, to replace the original, built in 1526, that was destroyed by fire.

The original statue of the Virgin, a figure of a woman with dark skin, holding a child in one hand and a candle in the other, was first discovered (according to legend) lying on a beach at Chimisay in 1392. This statue was lost in 1826, when a tsunami carried it out to sea. The present statue is a faithful copy.

Behind the Basilica, you'll find the Cueva de Achbinico, or "Cave of Achbinico" (also called Cueva de San Blas). This dates from the time of Tenerife's original inhabitants, the Guanches, where they worshipped the Virgin. Nowadays, pilgrims visit the cave and place candles and leave messages to Tenerife's patron saint.


The Magic of Carnival

The world famous Santa Cruz Carnival begins in February and continues right through till March the 13th.

The Carnival events taking place in February are mainly contests, concerts and mini-festivals. The main part of the event, the bit that everyone's familiar with, kicks off at the start of March.

Things get underway on February the 10th, with the presentation of the candidates for the prestigious position of Carnival Queen, taking place at the Teatro Guimerá.

Over the next three days (Feb 11-13), there is the contest of children's murgas. The next four (Feb 14-18) sees the adult murgas contest, the final taking place at the CD Tenerife football stadium.

Thereafter, up to February the 27th, there are various contests and competitions - rondallas, the Canción de la Risa, or "song of laughter", comparsas, costumes and choreography.

Two elections also take place (the Queen herself not being elected until March). The first is on February the 20th and is to choose the Child Queen. At the other end of the scale, there is the Queen Mother (known, in Spanish, as Reina de la Tercera Edad, or "Queen of the Third Age") and this election happens on February the 24th.

So, all through the second half of February, anticipation is building towards the spectacular parades, partying and dancing that the Carnival features in March - but more of that next month!


What are Murgas and Rondallas?

If, by any chance, you've looked up the Santa Cruz carnival on the web, you may have seen these words mentioned quite often, in terms of there being competitions involving them. But what the devil are they?

Well, a Murga is simply a group of people performing a type of musical theatre. Consisting of up to 17 people, they are all dressed gaudily and perform a suite of songs on a particular theme. The singers are generally male and the vocal performance is, let's say, raucous. Accompanying them will be a small group of "musicians", banging or shaking percussion instruments.

The Murga contest is considered very important and great prestige goes to the winner.

A Rondalla is nothing more than an ensemble of musicians - but with certain criteria. The main body of the group consists of players of instruments from the guitar family. In Spain, this is typically the guitar itself, the mandolin and the lute. In addition, there are usually one or two singers, plus some percussionists.

Although groups of stringed instruments were prevalent in Spain as early as the 16th century, the Rondalla itself only dates from the early 19th century.

Since its origins in Spain, the Rondalla tradition has spread to other Latin American countries. How these groups came into being in the first place is largely a matter of conjecture, but one theory is that they were street musicians - buskers, if you like - trying for donations from passers-by.


If you like this ezine, please do a friend (and me) a big favour and forward it to them.

If a friend forwarded this ezine to you and you like what you read, please subscribe by visiting The Tenerife Information Centre.

Comments? Ideas? Feedback? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this ezine and tell me what you think!

This is John signing off. See you next month!

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