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Monday, 28 September 2009

Meeting the Devil

The devil arriving at the fiesta, San Miguel, Breña Alta

La Palma has several fiestas where the devil appears. On Saturday night I went to one in San Miguel, a little village in Breña Alta. It started off like most fiestas - a band playing in the village square, with a couple of kiosks selling drinks and snacks, and a stall selling cheap kid's toys. Then, a little after 1 am, a group of special characters arrived: giants and "big heads" (cabezudos). They're a staple of Palmeran fiestas. The "big heads" are people in costumes including an outsize, moulded head. This lot included a couple of Snow White's dwarves, a wizard, Bart Simpson, and two witches, which is traditional. As usual, the witches had soft plastic sticks to whack people with, which is the bit the older kids love best. The giants are extra tall costumes, maybe twelve feet tall, which must be rather difficult to steer.

The devil, spouting fire at San Miguel, Brena Alta

The whole procession works its way down the hill, until it's below the square with the dancing. Then the devil appears with them. It's a man in a costume including a "big head", with fireworks on his trident and the head. He works his way up the hill again, to just above the church.

Then the cross lights up with fireworks, and the devil promptly scarpers.

And then they light more fireworks, set up to spin like catherine wheels.

Catherine Wheels

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Sunday, 30 August 2009

Fiestas in Early September

There are two nice fiestas coming up at the beginning of September.

In El Paso, the statue of the Virgin of the Pine was carried in procession from the hermitage up in the mountain down to the village. On September 6th, there will be another procession to carry it back.

The Devil's dance, Tijarafe, 2007.

In Tijarafe in the early hours of September 8th, the devil will join the dance. This is a man in a suit covered with lit fireworks, and no, I don't think it's entirely safe. On the other hand, I've never heard of any bad accidents, and it's certainly memorable and great fun. The party starts the night before, of course, with the usual music, dancing, and mobile bars.

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Monday, 8 September 2008

The Devil's Dance

The devil's fiesta in Tijarafe

As usual, the devil paid a visit to Tijarafe's annual fiesta.

It starts off like most fiestas. The village centre is off the main road, and on the way in, I passed mobile bars, blasting out music at full volume. The only surprise was that the music was drum and bass. When I reached the main square, higher up, I found it decorated with white bunting and packed with people dancing to the salsa band. I arrived at 2 am, and the crowd looked like it was just warming up.

Something I always notice at Palmeran fiestas - a lot of the younger people are pretty drunk, but it's very rare to see a fight. In fact I don't think I saw as much as a rude gesture in the hour and a half I was there.

Finally, at about 3:30 am, the giants and big heads appeared. These are standard carnival characters, and they wouldn't excite adults normally, but they're a sign that the devil will appear any minute.

The devil's fiesta in Tijarafe

The band launches into the traditional song, which goes something like, "Tra-la-la-la, the devil's coming soon." And then, sure enough, he appears.

It's a man wearing a metal suit covered with lit fireworks, and he heads straight for the middle of the crowd. Most of the jet is directed upwards, and I don't think you'd get serious burns if you got too close, but most people try to get away (I wouldn't wear your best clothes to this fiesta. I really wouldn't). Of course some people farther away try to get closer, so the result is a lot of pushing and shoving. I was glad to be on the stone wall at the side of the square.

Meanwhile the band is singing, "Tra-la-la-la, the devil's here now," and "Tra-la-la-la, the party's not over yet."

After about five to ten minutes of this chaos, the devil runs out of fireworks and goes away again. And then the crowd thins out pretty rapidly as people go home.

The devil's fiesta in Tijarafe

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Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Devil's coming tonight!

It's fiesta time in Tijarafe, and the devil should join the fun in the early hours of the morning. The Town Hall website says he'll arrive at 4 am. I've only been once in all the years I've lived here, and then the devil was two hours late. But then, punctuality is a virtue, so you can't really expect the devil to have, can you?

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