The Carmen Festival in Tenerife
or: They know how to throw a party in Puerto de la Cruz
The main festivities of Carmen Festival in Tenerife pay tribute to the Gran Poder and the Virgen del Carmen, the patron saints of the town.
A wide range of typical activities are organised in the course of the month, but the undoubted highlight comes on the second Tuesday of the month – this year July 17 – when the Virgen del Carmen (pictured above) is paraded through the narrow cobbled streets before being loaded on to a boat and taken out to sea.
The day draws huge crowds, as witnessed in the picture below, with families camping out overnight around the little harbour to ensure they get the best places.
It’s a typical Canarian family day, with all generations joining in the fun.
Similar celebrations are held all over Tenerife at around the same time but few are as spectacular or as moving as the processions in Puerto.
In addition to her many duties, the Virgen del Carmen is the patron saint of fishermen and the local fisherfolk consider it a great honour to be chosen to carry the enormous statute down to the harbour for her annual outing.
As they stagger and sway through the streets under the weight of the figure, the fishermen are hemmed in by hordes of onlookers desparate not only to see the spectacle but also to try to touch Carmen for luck.
As Carmen arrives at the harbour to be carried down to the water’s edge, the temperature of the occasion rises sharply as her progress is marked by the singing of Ave Maria.
It’s a moment charged with high emotion for the by now tens of thousands of people packed around the harbour, clinging to the sea wall or watching from the crowded balconies of the surrounding high buildings.
The statue is eventually lashed to a simple fishing vessel that looks as though it will sink under the combined weight of Carmen and her enormous entourage (see below) and the party edges its way through scores of tiny boats packed into the harbour as tightly as proverbial sardines.