Posts Tagged ‘crucifix’

Dressed cross in Los Realejos Alto on 3rd May 2008The opening shot across the bow comes with an ear-splitting explosion out of which a magnificent glistening gold crucifix forms and hangs in the firmament above the church square. The crowd draws its breath in a gasp and the fading crucifix is replaced by a fiery row of red and silver fountains above which barrages of colour explode across the night sky in rapid fire. Vivid sunbursts spread like blossoming stains; tiny whorls race around the firmament like tadpoles released into a stream; shooting stars run amok in psychedelic rain and scatter gun air bombs rip through our ears and vibrate the windows of the houses.

Last weekend was Fiesta of the Cross; a traditional fiesta dating back to the conquest in 1496, during which every cross on the island, from the humblest wooden crucifix placed in the open window of a small cottage to ornate gilded processional crosses carried on the shoulders of devotees, is decorated with flowers, candles and incense.

In Los Realejos Alto in Northern Tenerife, the day is traditionally rounded off by Europe’s largest firework display. Originating from the rivalry between two firework factories in the municipality, one aligned to Calle del Sol, the other to Calle del Medio, the 3rd of May displays take the form of pyrotechnic aerial skirmishes between the two streets and the still, black, night sky provides the battleground on which the factory armies of Los Realejos wage war with their gunpowder cannons.

Europe's biggest firework display in Los Realejos on 3rd May 2008When the first display finally subsides the rival street retaliates. But the still night air contrives to hold the smoke pall hostage and much of the display is lost within its murky mass; it’s a dastardly ploy, perfectly executed. Though the sky blazes red and pulsates with the beat of the strobe-lit explosions, all that can be seen from the little church square are fiery comets which thunder from behind the veil and hurtle towards the earth; tantalising glimpses of clouds of gentle fairy dust twinkling behind the haze and slender ribbons of jewelled lights suspended above the valley for what seems like an eternity.

Silence falls and the smoke cloud drifts painfully slowly across the plaza where we’re standing and where crowds are now converging to watch the finale. With all eyes trained on the football stadium, we wait, and wait…and wait. After an hour of silent skies, the cold night air of Los Realejos Alto in early May starts to diminish enthusiasm for the contest and people begin to drift away, unsure of what has happened to the final battle. I head back to the car and join the queue for the motorway, the air conditioning turned to warm for only the second time in the car’s four year life.

All the way home I’m accompanied by the air raid soundtrack of the delayed final denouement and in the rear view mirror I can see the night’s bloodstained front line.
In Tenerife it seems, even a war succumbs to the ‘mañana culture’.

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On Good Friday I decided to watch the Holy Processions that take place in the old capital of La Laguna.
On an unseasonably hot afternoon, I arrived in time to see the first Brotherhood emerge from the Church of La Concepción and was immediately taken aback by the site of their robes which included pointed full-face hoods with eye holes rudely cut into them; the sort of garb usually associated with the Ku-Klux-Klan.Semana Santa

The Holy Processions in La Laguna are not on ‘the tourist trail’ and very few of the island’s annual visitors witness them. As a result there were no crowds and I was able to stand right alongside as each Brotherhood slowly walked past, their robes sometimes in rich hues of blue, red or purple and sometimes in plain white or black. Between them they carried heavy processional crosses, torches ready to be flamed once darkness began to fall and incense burners which they swung from side to side filling the air with a musky scent. The local people who gathered to watch, watched in silence.
Towards the end of the procession, three of the most devout Orders walked barefoot, one of their number carrying a full size crucifix on his shoulder and all of them were chained at the wrists and ankles, the heavy links scraping along the ground behind them, rhythmically breaking the silence.

Worn as a way of concealing their identity in order to avoid praise for their piety and devotion, the robes evoked strong emotion in me; not the anger that rises in me when confronted with images of the Ku-Klux-Klan, but of equal force and opposite nature; I felt a lump in my throat which was hard to dislodge.
Hatred and love – one symbol with the power to evoke them both in equal measure

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