Do you know me, mask?
Who do you want to be? What do you want to laugh about? The time has come for satire and the imagination. The houses smell of cinnamon and lemon. There are traces of glitter everywhere, pieces of fabric in every corner. The most transformative party in the world is about to start.
Do you hear that? Tucu, tucu, tucu… tucu, tucu, tucu! That’s the sound of the kazoos, the drums and the batucada bands. They’ve been rehearsing for months to get ready for this moment.
Ever since December, WhatsApp groups have proliferated, each with a single mission in life: to coordinate the manufacture of the group costume for Carnival, an art with delicious side effects, such as the drinks and snacks shared while finishing a costume or while waiting for the glue to dry.
People of all ages dig through their closets and search through their drawers looking for all the artillery they need: make-up, wigs, fabrics, capes, hoods, cardboard, glue, cork… Almost any material is welcome. A costume always works best if materials are reused and if you use your wits instead of your Paypal account. 😉
Not one, not two, not three… Eight!
Each of Lanzarote’s seven municipalities propose different allegories or fantasies that the population accepts or ignores with great grace.
This is what this year’s busy calendar looks like:
- Arrecife → from February 15 to 26 (comics)
- San Bartolomé → from 23 to 28 February (pirates)
- Tías (Puerto del Carmen)→ from 27th February to 1st March (the Lion King)
- Haría → from March 5 to 8 (happy 1920s)
- Teguise → from March 13 to 15 (Bollywood)
- Tinajo → from March 13 to 15 (aromas of the Far East)
- La Graciosa → from March 20 to 22 (Bollywood)
- Yaiza (Playa Blanca) → from March 19 to 22 (jungle)
There are daytime and evening activities; contests for costumes made from sheets, trap concerts, folklore, festivals… tradition and modernity. In Lanzarote, the Carnival is small (no crowds) but very, very intense.
Those who know how to enjoy Carnival best and most are over 60 years old and prepare for these dates thoroughly: dreamy costumes sewn and embroidered, good home cooking for late night snacking to alleviate the fatigue caused by high heels and orchestras… Some perpetuate the tradition of opening the doors of their homes to neighbours and relatives to invite them in for a serving of sancocho stew, Carnival cakes, fresh cheese or a glass of wine. El Almacén de Arrecife – the epicentre of Canarian avant-garde cultural life in the 1980s – still hosts some of the best parties.
Los Diabletes: races in Villa de Teguise
If you’re in Teguise and you hear a distant metallic rattle, smile… and then run away!
The sound of the clanging bells is followed by one of the most ancient traditions of the Canary Islands: the Diabletes, characters that hide behind an ox mask with goat’s horns and chase anything that dares to share the street with them.
Be careful, because they make good use of their garabato (stick with a sack) and they don’t hang around thinking about it. They don’t distinguish between travellers, locals, big or small.
The chroniclers say that this tradition is related to the first black and Moorish slaves to arrive in Lanzarote. In the peaceful Plaza de San Francisco, in Villa de Teguise, a beautiful work of art by Lanzarote sculptor Rigoberto Camacho pays tribute to these dancers who play at embodying evil.
During these days the Sociedad de Teguise is hosting a workshop making devil masks. There are no places left, but on March 13th the masks will be displayed to the public.
Los Buches in the port Carnival
In the Port of Arrecife, there is no daytime Carnival without Los Buches. This Marine procession is the essence of the port’s festivities and accompanies their Habaneras with comic blows given with large, dried and inflated fish stomachs.
The parranda sings seafaring songs accompanied by timples, guitars and foritos (accordions), covering their faces with a mask of painted wire mesh. They wear scarves around their shoulders and woollen hats with coloured ribbons on their heads, a vest and white gloves.
The old Buches were banned in 1936 during the Francoist dictatorship. This prohibition also removed the name “Carnival”, replacing it by authorized and controlled “Winter Parties”, in which “Misses” were chosen and “social” events were celebrated. In 1963 a group of citizens of Arrecife brought Los Buches back to life, a tradition that dates back to the 19th century and is based on the obvious seafaring origins of the city of Arrecife.
As the song goes: ” February has arrived bringing the sailors, and the fish stomachs are inflating for Carnival”, reminding us of the transformation that the port underwent with the arrival of the sailors to enjoy the party.
Glossary so you won’t miss a thing
Just like in Cadiz, Verin or Rio de Janeiro, in Lanzarote the Carnival is awaited with great expectation and celebrated with unbridled joy, whatever your age.
The mantra of the great Celia Cruz (“Hey, no need to cry, because life is a Carnival and life is more beautiful while singing “) is reproduced at top volume and every day is celebrated.
These are the basic concepts that every traveller must have clear in their minds to enjoy the party:
- ¿Me conoces mascarita? (Do you know me, mask?) This phrase has been pronounced Carnival after Carnival, challenging, fun, always from someone hidden behind a mask. If you know who’s behind it, say his or her name. If not, this might be a good time to meet someone new.
- Murgas. Carnival groups that perform satirical songs giving free rein to irony and parody – a great way to exorcise the dramas of the day.
- Ventorillo. A stall that is set up during the celebrations to serve food and beverages, formerly decorated with palm leaves.
- Comparsa. Dance and music group essential to every Carnival – rhythm, laughter, glitter and shine. Batucada. Percussion group that drinks from African and Brazilian roots.Gala drag queen. A transformational, colourful, musical and deliciously histrionic spectacle.
- Coso. Big parade in which all the Carnival groups participate. The whole universe fits onto one float and acquires the shape of a spaceship, elephant or monster.
- Funeral of the sardine (or the gachinango). A beautiful fish built on a human scale – painted lips included – is carried through the city and burned on a huge bonfire. People come to the street ceremony dressed as widows, widowers and mourners. Carnival is bid farewell by jumping and dancing until the very last second.
In the neighbourhoods and villages of Lanzarote there is still the custom of going from house to house dancing and celebrating this maelstrom.
Humour, caricature, death of stereotypes, relief, fun as a group… We’re running out of space, time and adjectives. Go play at hiding your identity on the street. We’re waiting for you, mascarita!