Features » Twitters from Spain
WEAR WHITE AND THROW TALCUM POWDER!
Barrie Mahoney / 2012-02-25 18:05:04
I am not a violent man, and I detest violence of all kind. However, I do make an exception for just one day each year in the Canary Islands - Dia de Los Indianos (Day of the Indians).
As many Canary Islander residents and visitors already know, Carnival is celebrated with a passion in every major town in each of the seven main Canary Islands, with the main celebrations taking place in the capital cities of the islands. These celebrations take place between January and April each year with the actual dates changing according to when Easter is celebrated; this is most annoying for holidaymakers, but take that issue up with the Vatican! The forty days before Easter, known as Lent, have always been marked by the Catholic practice of giving up meat.
So the fiesta of Carnival that takes place just before Lent begins on Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. Carnival means ‘goodbye to flesh’ in Latin and became a time for a wild party, and yes, I do mean wild! There are references to Carnival in island government records as far back as February 1556, but the fiesta has grown from strong influences from South America and the Caribbean, as many Canarians left the islands after the Spanish Conquest seeking work or their fortunes in the newly discovered lands of the Americas.
Some islanders were forced to leave their homes in the Canary Islands by the Spanish government, as it wanted more people to settle in the Spanish colonies in the Americas.
Later, many Canary Islanders returned home, having made their fortune, dressed in Cuban-style white panama hats, and carrying large suitcases full of money. These newly wealthy emigrants were so full of their own self-importance, bragging about their riches, that they became the target of Carnival jokes. On the small Canary island of La Palma they hold a unique fiesta called Fiesta de Los Indianos - The Festival of the Indians - and now often called the White Party. On the Monday before Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras, the city of Santa Cruz de La Palma celebrates Los Indianos Fiesta.
This is a celebration of those who emigrated from the island many years ago, particularly for islands in the Caribbean and South America and then returned having made their fortune. The fiesta is a representation of people wearing white suits and costumes of an earlier colonial period; some portray the wealthy and some are their servants. The parade takes place through the streets of the capital to the sound of Latin American music. The main event of the day is the Batalla de Polvos de Talco when bags of talcum powder are thrown at anyone standing nearby.
So, by the end of the battle, most people have white hair and faces, as well as white clothes. The traditions of this important part of La Palma’s Carnival have been ‘borrowed’ over the years and now play a full part in the Carnival activities of the other Canary Islands. On Carnival Monday, the streets of Santa Cruz de La Palma, as well as Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, will fill with thousands of white-clad revellers and huge clouds of talcum powder in this eccentric celebration.
Now, that is what I call a real fight and, hopefully, no one gets hurt! Maybe I should suggest this to the United Nations as a way of settling international disputes.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his latest book, ‘Threads and Threats' (ISBN: 9781843866466) © Barrie Mahoney