On January 20, 2023, Carnival officially kicked off and will last until February 26, 2023!
After the Carnaval de Río de Janeiro, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the second-largest in the world. A grand event indeed, with its own culture and traditions.
Theme and announcement poster
Since 1987, the Carnival in the capital has had a theme. The island's residents can choose the theme through online voting. Based on the selected theme, the competition for the best announcement poster takes place. This year, 2023, the chosen theme is 'New York,' and the honor for the best announcement poster goes to Nareme Melián Mahugo with a colorful poster titled 'Carnival, the city that never sleeps.
The theme not only means that the capital is beautifully decorated according to the theme, but also that all 'Carnevaleros' (Carnival enthusiasts) and Murga groups immediately have inspiration for their Carnival costumes.
The Murga groups are music bands that sing satirical songs about current themes in clown-like costumes, often with minimal instrumental accompaniment. Every year there is also an election for the best Murga group.
Queen of the Carnaval
Of course, no Carnival is complete without a Reina de Carnaval. The most beautiful (young) ladies of the island compete, alongside talented designers, for this royal title during the Gran Gala de Elección de la Reina del Carnaval. The stunning costumes sometimes weigh up to 200 kilos, and are usually equipped with hidden wheels beneath the attire to allow the candidates to gracefully stride across the stage. There are 3 categories: la Reina Infantil, la Reina de los Mayores, and la Reina Adulta (respectively the queen in the child, senior, and adult categories).
We are blessed on Tenerife not with one, but with two parades, the announcement parade and the grand parade. Feathers, plumes, glitter & glamour, all accompanied by delightful salsa music and infectious Ritmo Latino
In addition to all the politics surrounding the Queen Elections, poster, Murgas etc, the 'normal' people also want to party of course. And they can! The week of the official Carnaval, there is little sleep in the capital.
There are several stages spread across the city, so you are spoiled for choice. There is music everywhere, there are street tents where you can eat and drink and there is a great atmosphere. It's just one big street party.
Fun fact: Santa Cruz de Tenerife holds the World Guinness Record for the highest number of people dancing outdoors, a total of 250,000 people. This record dates back to 1987, and at that time, the glorious Cuban singer Celia Cruz graced the stage.
But that's not all: in 2019, the capital actually broke its own record. Unfortunately, there was no notary present to document it, so it didn't count as an official record. The massive turnout was 'a bit more' than expected. During the live performance of the Dominican artist Juan Luis Guerra, a whopping 400,000 people were going wild.
Entierro de la Sardina – Ash Wednesday
On Ash Wednesday, the Viudas Amargas (mourning widows, although they are usually disguised men in black dresses) 'cry' their way through the city. They carry with them a gigantic fish, a sardine (now you know why there's a huge fish depicted on the announcement poster). The fish is made of combustible material and is symbolically burned at the end of the evening, indicating that the celebration is over. Although, over. Because the street parties continue until the weekend after Ash Wednesday. We just can't get enough!
Can I also participate as a non-resident?
Absolutely! Not only are the parades a must-see, but it's really worth coming in the evening as well. Extra buses are deployed, running day and night to accommodate the huge flow of Carnival revelers. The party often starts in the bus itself because passengers aren't really frowned upon for quenching their thirst on the way, and usually, the music is turned up loud. Nothing but praise for the bus drivers of Titsa! On the Titsa website, you can check the additional bus hours in due course. And in the chapter Public Transport, you'll find more information about bus travel in general.
And do I have to dress up?
Yes, I really recommend it. You stand out a lot if you don't dress up, especially if you join in for an evening of partying and dancing. In most 'China' shops across the entire island, you can buy a complete costume, makeup, wigs, and funny hats at a reasonable price. The crazier, the better.
Stay safe and hasta pronto!