7 Canarian Carnival Wonders

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Did you know that the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is the second best carnival in the world? Do you know what the burial of the sardine is? And what a Carnival fantasy is? Well, if you want to know why we have the best Carnival in Europe on our islands, read on and discover the most curious parts of our most special celebration.

In this post you'll find:

Carnival Posters

Every year there is a competition or a selection judged by the public or a committee to pick the poster that will represent that year’s carnival. It must reflect the theme of the carnival or iconic symbols of these festivities. Many artists have designed posters for the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival since they were first created in 1965. The aim of this poster is to announce that a the carnival season is about to begin. 

On the official Carnival website you can see a gallery with all the posters that have been made so far. Which one is your favourite?

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Did you know that Canarian Carnivals have a theme? Yes, Carnivals change their theme every year and, moreover, within an island there are as many different themes as there are cities or towns where this type of festivity is celebrated. 

How important is the theme of the Carnival? The theme is chosen almost a year in advance and it determines the stage and street decorations, the Carnival poster, the music and the costumes of most of the people and groups that take part in the festivities. The themes can be something generic like television (2024) or the 1960s (2012), or something less specific like fashion (2007).


Carnival Queens

During the Carnival festivities there are three galas for the election of the Queen: one for children (5-12 years old), one for adults (18-59 years old) and one for seniors (60+ years old). It’s not a beauty contest, because the most important thing here is the “fantasy”. The clothes worn by the candidates are called “fantasy”. They are elaborate compositions made of very different materials that are transformed into structures that need the help of small wheels to move around the stage. These fantasies created by the designers have a name that defines them. Each candidate chooses her own music and has different sponsors to represent her.


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Below are three videos with the complete 2024 galas, so you can watch them and experience a little bit of our Carnival.

Carnival Queen Election Gala (children) (2024)

Carnival Queen Election Gala (adult) (2024)

Carnival Queen Election Gala (senior) (2024)

Burial of the Sardine

On Carnival Wednesday, also known as Miércoles de Ceniza (Ash Wednesday), a peculiar event called the burial of the sardine is held. In every city where there are Carnival festivities, a sculpture of a giant sardine is made using paper, wood and other similar materials. In addition, this sardine is given some accessories that represent the theme of that year’s Carnival. The figure is carried in a ‘procession’ accompanied by its ‘widows’, men and women dressed in black (mourning clothes) to show their sadness for the death of the sardine. It’s a representation of a funeral that ends with the burning of the sardine. Although it sounds a bit strange, it’s one of the funniest events of the Carnival.

Here is a piece from the local news about the burial of the sardine in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 2023.

As traditional as buying the tickets -people start buying them in summer- and the lottery itself, which can be watched on TV, is the spot made to promote this prize. Here you have some of the most iconic ones.

Las Burras de Güímar

In the southeast of Tenerife, there is a peculiar version of the traditional burial of the sardine. This is Las Burras de Güímar, an event that has been held every Friday of Carnival since the early 90’s. It’s the representation of a story that includes witches, angels, demons, fire and a lot of humour. The story is as follows:

In the village of Güímar the farmers have noticed something strange. They have problems with the crops, the animals are frightened and they find signs of witchcraft. A group of witches have transformed themselves into donkeys to live among the villagers and worship the devil. When the villagers discover them, they transform into witches and invoke Satan. These people must fight evil with the help of the bishop and the archangel Michael. When they defeat the demon, they capture the witches and tie them to the sardine, but just before they are burned, the witches always escape so that they can celebrate the festivities the following year.

Here you can watch avideo with some images of this celebration and this story explained by one of the people who took part in it in 2020.


Mascarita, ponte tacón

In the city of Puerto de la Cruz, in the north of Tenerife, they have a curious “sporting” competition during their Carnival. It’s an obstacle course in which only men in high heels take part, the higher the heels the better. 

Enjoy this video in which you can see the spirit of this event. Minute 1:02 perfectly summons the spirit of this race.

Los Indianos

In the capital of the island of La Palma, Santa Cruz de La Palma, they have their own celebration that brings together thousands of people from all over the Canary Islands every year. It’s a celebration where they remember and parody the Canarian migrants in the 19th century, who returned to their islands after living and earning money in Cuba, a territory that was part of what was known as “la Indias occidentales” (the West Indies). These “Indianos” used to brag about their riches, but it’s said that they tried to whiten their skin, which was brown from outdoor work under the Cuban sun, with white powder. At that time, light skin among the Canarians was a symbol of the upper class, as it was the lower classes who, because of their work out in the fields, have tanned skin. 

On Carnival Monday, people dress up in the clothes of the time and completely in white, and a “battle” of talcum powder takes place all over the city, which starts at 12:00 and continues until the early hours of the next morning.

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If you want to learn the most important Carnival vocabulary in Spanish, go to our Key Vocabulary in Spanish for Carnival. Learn new words and practice them with our fun and interactive exercises. 

Drag Gala

Although they also have the traditional Gala of the Election of the Carnival Queen, the most characteristic and popular event of the Carnival of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is the Drag Gala. This is a competition where different drag queens from the island show their talent with shows worthy of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Gran Canaria is a popular destination for the LGTBIQ+ community and this event is a celebration of the island’s talent, diversity and tolerance. 

If you want to see a taste of what drag is all about in the Canary Islands, here’s a video of the 2023 Drag Gala:

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Cultura con Juanjo: the Spanish Podcast Series

Keep learning all about our unique customs and traditions with our own exclusive podcast about Hispanic culture. This time our host Juanjo brings you all about Carnival in Spain. Listen and enjoy!

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