Getting anywhere for midday on a Sunday seems for some reason to be a tall order in our house and yesterday was no exception. A late night followed by a late morning and a leisurely Sunday breakfast and before I knew it the clock was scraping towards the eleven hand and Jack was standing at the door rattling the car keys.
We got to the plaza in Tejina just in time to hear the prayer being read over the three Alice in Wonderland hearts as they were held in front of the church to receive the holy blessing.
Then the three teams each hauled their 800 kilo charges towards their waiting wooden cross and the race to erect the hearts began. The insults were a little less vocal than they had been last time we came to see the Hearts of Tejina fiesta, but then looking at the fruity, flowery works of art it was difficult to see how anyone could find fault even though tradition dictated they should.
Within minutes the El Pico heart was being raised onto its cross and
cheering rang out from the crowd assembled around the plaza. Five minutes later the Calle Arriba heart was hoisted leaving Calle Abajo in third place.
Once the hearts were securely fastened to their crosses and the ladders removed, the parrandas struck up and the crowd began to filter towards the bars, fairground, stalls and guachinches. That left space for Jack and I to leisurely stroll and examine these extraordinary, transient works of art.
A virtual recluse from Tenerife guide books (except Going Native of course), Tejina is set in a humid, fertile valley in the northeast of Tenerife in what is known locally as ‘greenhouse valley’. The climate and the rich volcanic earth in this area are perfect for the cultivation of tropical plants and exotic fruits. It’s also where the island’s last remaining rum distillery lies, so unsurprisingly the village is known for its singing.
Yesterday was the Sunday following the Feast of San Bartolomé, the town’s Patron Saint, and every year in the Saint’s honour three local streets construct enormous hearts from the boughs of trees and decorate them in fruit and flowers. The streets are fierce rivals and there’s a great deal of secrecy during the construction of the hearts. When they’re finally revealed and brought to the church to be blessed and then erected onto wooden crosses, it’s traditional for each street to slag off the other hearts and sing (literally) the praises of their own.
The streets each have their own colour and the hearts are constructed to match, using only the best of local produce, which in Tejina means absolute flawless perfection. So El Pico’s hearts are framed by rich green Conference pears; Calle Arriba’s heart has succulent, fragrant, orange pineapples and Calle Abajo’s heart is bordered with enormous, vibrant lemons.
As well as the fruit and the spectacular flower display which tops each double heart, the main body is decorated in tarts; pastry discs on which scenes from island life have been constructed in 3D pastry models. There
are butter churners, grape treaders, fishermen, musicians, woodpeckers, traditional balconies, tajinaste and Drago trees. The detail in the tarts is incredible so you can see the fisherman’s beard, a notebook with writing in it, a fish caught in the nets.
Today the hearts will be de-constructed and their bounty distributed to the townsfolk in an aerial, fruit throwing free-for-all where you risk injury from flying pineapples and pears.
It’s amazing how much beauty is lovingly created on Tenerife only to be destroyed within hours of its completion; flower carpets, sand tapestries and hearts too big for their sleeves.