Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Queen of the carnival, surrounded by bright, colored lights
Queen, Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (2006)

The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Spanish: Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife) is held each February in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital of the largest of the Canary Islands, and attracts people from all over the world.

It is considered the second-[1][2][3] most popular and internationally known carnival, after the one held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Partially for this reason, the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is twinned with the city of Rio de Janeiro.[4][5][6]

In 1980, it was declared a Tourist Festival of International Interest by the Secretary of State for Tourism. The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife aspires to become a World Heritage Site,[7] as a declaration of its status as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO would promote the festival internationally. In 1987, singer Celia Cruz went to the Carnival Chicharrero with Billo's Caracas Boys; attended by 250,000 people, the concert was registered in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest gathering of people in an outdoor plaza to attend a concert.

The festivities on the streets of Santa Cruz de Tenerife start on the Friday before Carnival with an opening parade, which reaches its height during the night when thousands of people in fancy dresses dance until the early hours of the next day. The party continues night after night until Ash Wednesday. That day, people of Santa Cruz de Tenerife celebrate the "entierro de la sardina" (burial of the sardine), and with this event the carnival is officially over. However, the party starts up again the following weekend, known as the weekend of the piñata.

The festival has two parts: the official Carnival, and the Carnival on the street. The official carnival has more than a hundred groups, including murgas, comparsas, rondallas and other musical groups. The street carnival is more loosely organized, and comprises the people celebrating on the streets. Thousands of people come each day to the streets to participate, most of whom wear a disguise in accordance with Carnival tradition.


Large group of musicians in red clown costumes, in front of a gazebo
NiFú-NiFá Carnival orchestra

The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife has been celebrated since the time of the earliest European settlement, and possibly earlier. In 1605 Gaspar Luis Hidalgo alluded to the habit of reversing the sexes in dress. Early written references date from the end of the 18th century, in the writings of visitors. The journal of Lope Antonio de la Guerra Peña in 1778 includes a dance held in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where he then talked about comparsas (bands playing conga music). In 1783, the Corregidor reported the use of masks "being banned by royal instructions". In practice the ban was not carried out, and a carnival feature was the mixing of the masked upper class with the common people.

Governmental ban

During the dictatorships of Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923–1935), and General Franco (1940–1960), the Carnival was known as "winter holiday" as a ruse to circumvent the ban that had been enacted against it. Despite the ban, the festival continued to take place in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Cádiz, Spain. In 1954 with Los Bigotudos (today known as Afilarmónica NIFU-NiFá) performed the first murga (musical theater).

Promotional posters

Since 1962, a poster for each year of the Carnival has been created. Artists such as John Galarza, Gurrea, Javier Mariscal Dokoupil César Manrique Cuixart Pedro González, Fierro, Paco Martinez, Mel Ramos, Enrique Gonzalez, Maribel Nazca, Elena Lecuona and many others have contributed to their designs. For the 2009 Carnival, it was proposed that an open competition take place for participants to design the official poster for that year.

Traditional events

The main venues for Carnival competitions and the election of the Queen have been the Teatro Guimerá (until 1985) and the Plaza de Toros (1986–1988) Its central circular stage was decorated with a silver crown in 1986–1987 and a golden crown in 1988. Additional venues have included the Plaza de España in 2005, the Centro Internacional de Ferias y Congresos de Tenerife and the Esplanade of Parks in 2008. Since the construction of the Centro Internacional de Ferias y Congresos de Tenerife, additional Carnival venues have varied.

In recent years tickets for several events (especially the Final Murgas Adultas Contest and the Gala of the Queen) have sold out completely (over 20,000 seats) between 15 and 60 minutes after tickets go on sale. The Gala of the Queen, with a stage spectacle that crowns the first lady of the Carnival and groups awarded for their efforts, is broadcast each year by a national network for the entire country and broadcast via satellite to all continents. Networks covering the event include RTVE, Televisión Canaria, Antena 3 Televisión, Canal +, Galavisión and Telecinco.

Capital of Carnival

In May 2000, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife became the Carnival Capital of the World and headquarters of the 20th Convention of the Federation of European Carnival Cities (FECC). The convention, held on the island of Gran Canaria, featured appearances by Carnival performers and concluded with performers from the Carnival of Las Palmas.


Carnival Poster 1976 on a tile located on Constitution Avenue (Santa Cruz de Tenerife).
Carnival Poster 1992 on a tile located on Constitution Avenue (Santa Cruz de Tenerife).
The singer Celia Cruz was always a great promoter of the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. In 2004 was declared by the city as "Queen of Honor of Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife".

Noise complaint

In January 2006 a group of neighbors in Santa Cruz de Tenerife filed a complaint with the Board of Administrative Disputes, supported by eight community buildings and ten residents of the area known as the "ring" (the middle of the festivities). They asked for suspension of the Acts of Carnival in the city center. Several volunteer groups decided in the lawsuit to seek damages. The City Council awarded at least 180 million euros to cover collateral damage. Finally, according to the ruling "the generic request for suspension of the carnival is in no way excessive and could be subject to a full assessment. It is obvious that the carnival is composed of a plurality of events, the adequacy of social discomfort and noise both have separate ratings according to the social reality of the time that the rules must be applied for, as the public prosecutor warns, not all such actions have the same capacity to undermine fundamental rights and therefore that in no way justifies the request for suspension of Carnival because of the violation of fundamental rights." The order added that the neighbors broke the principle of good faith by failing to notify the Town Hall before the Carnival and submit a comprehensive plan, leaving the door open to further demands. That year a storm also struck Tenerife, delaying Carnival plans.

This decision was appealed by the neighbors before the Board of Administrative Disputes Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Canarias (TSJC), which resolved the violation of fundamental rights by the Carnival of 2006 and 2007. In the legal basis of the fifth sentence, suspending the Carnival was not considered appropriate. However, the TSJC said "in no case" noise at night could exceed 55 decibels and that the City should take the necessary steps to control it while moving (if necessary) "the evening activities to residential areas". On Thursday, 8 February 2007, a judge of the Administrative Dispute No. 1 in the capital suspended night dances held in the center, as they violated the fundamental rights of neighbors. On Monday, 12 February 2007, after negotiation with both parties, the court declared inadmissible the suspension of acts of Carnival in the streets. The reason was that this was already resolved for 2007 by the 2006 ruling of the Chamber for Contentious Administrative Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Canarias.

2007 Holiday Act

On 14 February 2007 the Parliament of the Canary Islands, in an extraordinary meeting, unanimously approved a new law lifting environmental-noise regulations during certain dates at the discretion of municipalities.

Daily events

During the weeks preceding the Wednesday election of the Carnival Queen, there are contests for adults and children comparsas, lyrical and musical groups, rondallas (string ensembles), the Queen of the Elderly, the Child Queen, Song of Laughter and adult and children's murgas. The official Carnival song is chosen, which will be presented to the Queen candidates in the hall of the City Council. Also featured are a choreography contest and a contest rewarding the most original floats and decorated cars. Nearly a month earlier, preparation starts with the official presentation at the Calle de La Noria. Shortly before Christmas, the Carnival poster is released.

Wednesday: Carnival Queen selection

Smiling young woman in Carnival Queen costume
2001 Carnival Queen candidate

The Wednesday before Carnival weekend, the Queen of the Carnival is elected. The event is usually broadcast to the entire country, and abroad by satellite. During the gala, the candidates parade across the main stage. A jury composed of members of the municipal corporation and celebrities chooses the queen; there is also a vote via SMS (short messaging service). After choosing the bridesmaids, the mayor hands the scepter to the winner. Since the costumes are heavy, the candidates rely on wheeled transportation. The costumes are also expensive, so the candidates are sponsored (usually by a multinational corporation with a presence on the islands). The Hogar Canario Venezolano also sends its own Queen and holds a privileged position in the next Announcement Parade. Costumes are usually made of feathers, plastic, metal and paper. The queen is responsible for representing the carnival at tourism fairs as an ambassador for the Canary Islands.

Friday: Announcement Parade

On Friday the Announcement Parade is held, in which all participating groups march along the main thoroughfares of the city announcing the arrival of the carnival. The parade begins at the Parque La Granja, concluding at the Plaza de España. It crosses the Ramblas, Avenida Islas Canarias, Plaza Weyler and Méndez Núñez to return to Las Ramblas, then turning onto the Avenida Anaga and ending at the Plaza de Europa or the Council of Tenerife building. The queen and the bridesmaids (on their own floats) are escorted by the murgas and rondallas. Private carriages also participate in the parade, which lasts more than four hours. That night, the street carnival officially begins.

Carnival Saturday

The Saturday of Carnival is a day dedicated entirely to dance. There are two main venues: one in the Plaza de la Candelaria (which replacing the one in the Plaza de España during its renovation) and one in the Plaza del Príncipe. Depending on the holiday, one or more stages are built in the Plaza de Europa for electronic music, or tents in the Plaza de la Iglesia de la Concepción and the Plaza de Europa feature Latin music. Dances not only cover the three points but all the connecting streets, bars and cars playing their own music. One of the main streets of the carnival is Bethencourt Afonso, popularly known as Calle San José.

Carnival Monday (Lunes de Carnaval)

This is a day of feasting, with performances at the main venues in the capital. Since 2009, the Plaza de la Candelaria is home to the Santa Cruz Dance Carnival, an electronic-music event which in its first edition featured DJs Armand Van Helden, Ron Carroll, DJ Craze, Roger Sanchez, DJ Dario, Real El Canario and DJ Ser.

<span id="Tuesday: The Great Apotheosis "Coso" (Parade)">Tuesday: Grand finale

On Carnival Tuesday a coso (parade) runs along the Avenida de Anaga, marking the official end of Carnival. Again march carnival groups, floats, decorated cars and the Carnival Queens. During the afternoon a show is held especially for tourists arriving by bus from other areas of the Canary Islands.

Ash Wednesday: Burial of the sardine

On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is celebrated "the burial of the sardine". The streets of Santa Cruz are draped in mourning. A giant sardine made of paper is carried in a funeral procession, followed by wailing widows. The Catholic Church is mocked, with participants dressed as popes, bishops and nuns imitating blessings and other religious rites (often accompanied by sexual objects). A few years ago, the decision of the Hall of Santa Cruz de Tenerife to reschedule the burial of the sardine to the following Friday (to coincide with the arrival of a cruise tour of the city) sparked a controversy that led some groups to arrange an alternative funeral for the sardine on Wednesday, replacing the burning of the sardine with placing candles at the monument of the Chicharro in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Piñata weekend

The weekend puts an end to "Don Carnal" until the next year and whose role, especially on Saturday, has grown in recent decades to the point of having internationally renowned entertainment comparable to the Monday of Carnival.


Carnival Queen of Santa Cruz de Tenerife 2009.


The carnival the main festival in the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, has motivated both the city and the carnival itself is twinned with some cities where large Carnival celebrations are held, including;

In addition, it is expected that the Santa Cruz and its carnival twin with other cities where large Carnival celebrations are held, including: New Orleans (United States), Venezia (Italy), Aalborg (Denmark) and Barranquilla (Colombia).


External links

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