The Las Palmas Carnival
In February every year Las Palmas goes carnival crazy for three whole weeks. The Las Palmas carnival is one of the biggest in the world but is still a completely local affair. There are huge street parties every weekend where everybody goes out in fancy dress carrying bottles of rum and Coke and bags of ice and a whole series of organized events, including a carnival queen and drag queen competition and a huge procession with dozens of floats.
While every year has a different theme, with television and Africa being recent ones, everybody pretty much dresses up as whatever they please. The large gay and lesbian crowd comes out in force and the kids get to stay up absurdly late. The weekend street parties are called Mogollones (literally crowds) and are good natured affairs, if a little crowded. Look out for the topless transvestites after about midnight!
Carnival centers on the Santa Catalina Park in the middle of Las Palmas, which fills up with fairground rides and little bars and snack stalls. These are open every evening and well into the night. Just follow your nose to find the smelly but delicious grilled dry squid cooked on mobile carts or stick to purgers and Spanish sausage if you don’t like the look of this local treat. There are plenty of activities for kids and families in the park during the day and in the evenings, especially at weekends.
The old town of Vegueta in Las Palmas host White Night where everybody dresses in local costume or white clothes and throws talcum powder at each other. Visitors can expect to be targeted in a good-natured way, especially if they are not wearing white clothes.
At the end of the three weeks the city pays homage to its fishing history by burning a giant papier-mâché sardine floating off Las Canteras Beach. The women dress up as nuns or widows and so do a large number of the men. Transvestite popes are also a popular costume (it’s a Catholic thing). The whole city gathers on the beach to watch the sardine burn by the light of an impressive fireworks display and then goes out for one final party.
Most other towns and even villages have their own carnival party between February and April. The Maspalomas event is mainly gay and has a pretty raucous procession with lots of feathers and leathers on display. Head to the Yumbo Centre to find the action during the Maspalomas carnival!
Details about the next carnival can be found on the event’s official website at http://www.lpacarnaval.com/v2/.
Image:© 2010 Alex Bramwell