The carnival of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, as well as being a festival of national touristic interest, is the most important festival, the most characteristic and certainly the most awaited one throughout the year by its citizens. The official preparations begin really soon, starting from the previous year with the online vote for the theme that will characterize the edition and ending with the construction of the stage a few days before the inauguration, in January. During all this period, although not noticed, there is a great creative ferment that involves almost the whole city: the endless work of creating costumes for all the comparsas and musical groups begins, choreographies and screenplays are prepared for the shows, carnival rides are set up for the parade and many new songs are written. All the artists have been preparing for months with great passion, are they extras, murgas, aspiring Reinas or Drag Queens.
“Magic and fantastic creatures” was the chosen theme for the year 2018 and the playbill, with which we won the competition this year, has literally papered the whole city for two months! Our dragon has become a symbol of this carnival, the fantastic creature par excellence we have chosen to represent the world of magic and fantasy.
The carnival is such an important event that the celebrations throughout the islands last for almost two months: that of Las Palmas in fact, from January 26th to February 18th, is followed by that of Maspalomas, which will end this weekend, almost at the end of March; at the same time other municipalities of the island, such as Telde, Galdar, or Arucas, organize their carnival edition and the celebrations continue almost up to Easter. It is hard to explain the feeling that people feel for this party: the carnival is actually celebrated in many Spanish, Italian and European cities, each with its own traditions and its own peculiarities. The only way to fully appreciate the differences with the European carnivals and the similarities with those of South America you just need to visit Las Palmas de Gran Canaria during the celebrations.
Every year a public figure is chosen by the municipality to “inaugurate” the carnival with a speech of auspicious presentation, a so called pregón, which in recent years takes place in Plaza de Santa Ana, in the historic district of Vegueta. Kike Perez has been the pregonero of this year, a comedian from Lanzarote and famous throughout Spain, who presented himself on stage with a wonderful costume completely realized in body painting technique. With his speech on the carnaval pride inspired us the first of a series of characters illustrated trying to capture the best moments of this long-awaited carnival.
The scheduled shows
During the following days, various competitions included in the program of the municipality start, such as the gala of the Gran Dama, the gala of the Reina Infantil and of course the gala of the Reina del Carnaval, aspiring to the throne throughout 2018, as well as the Drag Queen gala, the most spectacular show and the only one broadcasted live on national television.
We can’t forget to mention the canine contest too, where master and dog dress up in harmony, or the extras competition, where the imagination and the spectacularity of tricks, clothes, plumage and colors each year tries to impress more and more, and obviously the murgas competition can’t be missed!
The murgas competition
The murgas, typical figures of the Canarian carnival, consist of male or female choral groups, characterized by the same disguise and armed with a very long and incredibly ironic repertoire of satirical songs, generally on a political and social background. The musical bases are usually taken from very famous songs to which the murgas replace their lyrics. The typical instrument of the murguéro is the kazoo, originally from the chirigotas of Cadiz, played in sync with the rhythmic base of the song. Generally, these groups are made up of 20 people but they can even go up to 30. The strangest thing about their competition is that every murga has half an hour of performance in which to sing a couple of (very long) songs and a closing one. Among the murgas of Las Palmas Carnival some have become almost an institution, because they have appeared at almost every edition for over 20 or 30 years with a large number of followers.
The street carnival
The carnival here in Canary islands is not just a holiday season for children and young people, but really involves people of all ages, who make up and disguise themselves at least for a day or a night of extravagance and madness. In fact, while eating a tapa at the harbor market or in the district of Vegueta you may see couples and whole groups disguised in tune with the funniest and most strange costumes, some have now become inevitable at every carnival! Among the typical characters of the last editions we have discovered and illustrated the “Tontobabas”, a friendly trio of guys dressed up as ugly and dull young people, recognizable by their coarse clothing and the slime that hangs from their mouth.
Chirimurga del timple
We have also had the pleasure to come across the renowed Chirimurga del Timple a couple of times, famous for showing up for the third consecutive year on the streets of Gran Canaria with a costume and a repertoire designed and prepared ad hoc for each edition.
The name and concept of chirimurga originated from a stylistic mix between the chirigotas, the choral musical groups typical of the Cadiz carnival, and the typical Canarian murgas.
If the first year they disguised as bodyguards (Los guardaplasmas) and the second as elders (Los muy yayos), this year the new formation of nine members presented a simple but incisive disguise as street sweepers of the municipality (Los que hacen la calle), launching a very important message for the city: enjoy the carnival, but please recycle and keep the city clean!
On the notes of “Despacíto” by Luis Fonsi, the video sponsored by the municipality soon became viral for the imagination and the irony of the text sung to the rhythm of a song that really we all listened to.
We have dedicated a drawing to them, as always in memory of all the fantastic creatures that we discovered in this carnival.
We are very grateful to all the friends of the Chirimurga del Timple for having returned our gesture with a fantastic gift: the CD with the repertoire of this edition, the pins and their official kazoo in typical Gaditan style (ed. Of the city of Cadiz). Hooray!
Among the various shows that you can attend during the day there is the one curiously dedicated to the carnival of Los Indianos, i.e the carnival celebrated in the typical manner of the island of La Palma: all are dressed in white in the typical Canarian style and launch talcum powder up to completely whitewash all the streets of the district of Vegueta. This event is obviously nothing more than a small celebration compared to the celebrations of the official carnival of Los Indianos on the island of La Palma, where the whole island seems to emanate clouds of white powder visibles from satellite!
Gran Cabalgada and Entierro de la Sardina
The day certainly most awaited by the inhabitants of the island however is that of the Gran Cabalgata, i.e. the parade of the carnival rides (more than 100!), from one part of the city to another, from Vegueta to the Castillo de la Luz, a party that begins at five o’clock in the afternoon and continues throughout the night involving thousands of people parading, dancing, drinking and partying. We have been there, disguised as elves with less than an hour of preparation, thanks to our creative tricks…
Unfortunately, this year the climate during the carnival was not very stable and due to the rain several shows has been necessarily postponed; despite this, the organization has been able to conclude the carnival according to the program, celebrating what they call “entierro de la sardina”, i.e. the final evening where men are used to dress up as widows (or basically women) and a giant sardine parades for the streets of the harbor district up to reach the ocean and be burned there, sanctioning the end of the festivities and the arrival of the period of Lent.
In the next edition we hope to show you more details of this incredible festivity and as always we won’t forget to bring our little illustrations in order to decorate the most particular anecdotes of the Canarian culture that we will discover next.