The fiestas are another of the town’s great attractions, besides being an unmistakeable expression of popular culture and feeling.
Firstly, we must make mention of the Carnival – held in February - which , like that of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is the most famous fiesta and of most interest to tourists. As a result of the international fame achieved by this annual celebration, Puerto de la Cruz and the German city of Düsseldorf have a Carnival exchange which has been going on for 25 years.
The Carnival, the great winter fiesta, deserves a chapter of its own. The origins of Carnival lie in the pagan festivals prior to the Christianisation of Europe. They were rituals intended to release the lowest passions and instincts of the human soul, repressed during the rest of the year. These heathen rituals were to be mingled with the religious feasts of mediaeval Italy , giving rise to Carnival, one of the most widely-accepted popular festivals in the world. The Tenerife Carnivals, just like those of PCR, have a cosmopolitan character imposed by the idiosyncrasies of the town where they are held. The festival tradition in PCR was interrupted during the years of Franco’s dictatorship , but even it was incapable of keeping at home the restless masked revellers who continued to do honour to Puerto’s festive spirit every month of February. The Carnival takes over all the town’s streets, where the townspeople immerse themselves in its delirious atmosphere. The first Carnival Pageant was held in 1910 when the recently formed Tourism Committee in collaboration with the “Arautápala” local newspaper, decided to organise a Pageant like those in the French town of Nice. In the procession, in which the townspeople of Puerto as well as the British and German communities participated, stood out above all the six floats which represented Columbus’ sailing-ships, Great Britain, the Zeppelin, a Swiss landscape, a Canary basket and a basket of flowers. The festivities started with dancing on Carnival Saturday in the Taoro Hotel and the Círculo de Iriarte and Nueva Unión social clubs which lasted until the small hours of Sunday. From that moment on, the Pageant has been repeated throughout the years. The “Murgas” – groups of all sorts of people from every area of town – rehearse their songs daily, managing to blend their many and varied voices into an ordered, enthusiastic chorus. The lyrics of their songs tend to be satirical, even scathing, and the melodies are “borrowed” from current pop songs or South American or Caribbean beats. The “Comparsas”, on the other hand, are mixed groups of dancers who take their inspiration from Rio de Janeiro’s Samba Schools . Their parades are greeted with admiring glances for the splendour of their costumes which are designed anew every year to outdo the others in the contest, to the delight of visitors. Every year the start is signalled by the Election of the Carnival Queens and Carnival ends with the symbolic Death and Funeral of the Sardine.
One of the local holidays with the longest tradition is the Exaltación de la Cruz [Glorification of the Cross] on the 3rd May which coincides with the commemoration of the town’s founding. On this date it is customary to adorn the Crosses and Chapels with flowers.
In June, on San Juan [Saint John’s Day], bonfires are lit and, in the harbour, flocks of goats are washed, a reminder of ancestral customs harking back to the Island’s aboriginal inhabitants.
In July is when the Patron Saint’s Day is celebrated in honour of the Gran Poder de Dios and Nuestra Señora de la Virgen del Carmen [the Might of God and Our Lady of Carmen]. These are the town’s major festivities. A highlight of the programme of traditional ceremonies is the Embarking of the Madonna. Worthy of mention is the International Model Aircraft show.
A curious and original celebration is the “Tin Can” Fiesta in honour of San Andrés [Saint Andrew] on 29th November when the opening of the wine cellars and the sampling of the new vintage is celebrated by dragging all kinds of metal pots and cans through the streets.
The Feast of Saint Andrew is the last one in Puerto’s festive calendar. It is celebrated on 29th November and it is related to the opening of the wine-cellars and the tasting of the new vintage. In PCR, as in the other towns and villages in the north of Tenerife, it is customary to “run with the cans”. On Saint Andrew’s Day, young and old fashion a string of cans from pots, pans and other household articles, held together with wire and wooden sticks. On occasions, a group of youths will drag even an old car chassis or domestic appliances through the streets of Puerto , causing an infernal din. The festivities are concentrated in the Plaza del Charco, where visitors can sample delicious roasted chestnuts, salted fish, and sweet potatoes washed down with the young wine to ward off the night’s chill. Throughout the night, the young ones play tricks on the unwary, tying their strings of cans to cars parked near the Plaza.
Another important event, more cultural than festive, is the Canary International Ecology and Nature Film Festival, going on for its 14th anniversary.
- Fiesta in Spanish denotes not only “Fiesta” or festivities, but also a Public, Local or Religious Holiday, on which there may or may not be activity in the streets.