Our guest writer and Madrid expert used to live in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. Yes, Lauren Linzer is a party woman and luckily for The Spain Scoop, caroused for days at Carnival and survived to write about it.
By Lauren Linzer
The thumping bass of speakers is growing closer to my window as I lie in bed, recovering from last night’s celebrations. It’s the month of Carnival here in Gran Canaria and the festivities haven’t taken a moment’s break all weekend in the capital city of Las Palmas.
Each week, different towns around the islands have their weekend for the main event. This weekend, the capital city is the place to be. Between a slew of parades, street carnivals, and outdoor concerts by day, and the preparation of elaborate costumes, extreme street parties, enormous botellón, and nonstop fiesta by night,there is no way to experience it all.
Carnival is a celebration that began in the Roman period as a way to celebrate and indulge before the sacrifices of Lent were underway. Now this time-honored tradition is celebrated all over the world. Each country, city, and pueblo has its own tradition that is practiced, by some, for the entire month of February and into March. This year, I was fortunate enough to make it back to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, in time for the city’s highlighted weekend of Carnival celebration.
With all the action pouring into the week, I only could muster enough energy to participate in the merriment by night. We ventured out, each of us elaborately prepared from head to toe in detailed costumes, ready to party on until sunrise. The main street was transformed into a rolling discoteca (nightclub) with gutted out buses and 18 wheeler truck beds converted into nightclubs on wheels, blasting party tunes to the crowded streets of people, who danced behind the slow moving caravans. An endless stream of coaches carried on for hours, with revelers throwing out handfuls of confetti, joyously sharing the excitement with partiers like us down below.
We moved on to a local pub, packed with Spaniards dressed in the most creative attire imaginable: a group of marionettes and paratroopers, fortune tellers attached to their tables and a man with arms five feet long filled the bar. The theme of Carnival in Gran Canaria is cross-dressing, and I have never seen so many men dressed like women in my life.
From here we switched locations to a huge plaza that was full, shoulder to shoulder, with young people participating in botellón (this is a popular Spanish custom of gathering in the street with drinks and friends before moving to a bar or nightclub). There was no music, no entertainment; just hundreds, maybe thousands of people shoved into an open space, drinking and laughing, talking and enjoying.
To my dismay, this was not the end. In the wee hours of the morning, we finally embarked on the main event. We arrived at the Nautical Club, a swim and boat club by day and the heart of Carnival’s festivities by night. Thousands of costumed people danced and sang under a massive clear structure, with colorful lights beaming overhead, raging on with no end in sight. Any hint of sleepiness I may have been experiencing faded away as the energy of the crowd had me bouncing to the music, the locals around me joyously singing along to the blaring Spanish tunes.
This was all Saturday night. We pressed repeat and experienced it all again Monday; different costumes but the same routine. For Las Palmas, this was the grand finale, but for weeks to come, in other parts of the island, things were just getting started. This is ubiquitous throughout the islands and throughout Spain. It’s no surprise to me that for a country that takes such great pride and care in traditions and fiesta, Spain boasts some of the most exciting and lively Carnival celebrations that the world has to offer.
You’ve missed the 2012 celebrations but can plan to be on the Canary Islands next year for this wild fiesta. Book flights to Gran Canaria from mainland Spain out of Madrid or Barcelona.
Related Spain Scoop: We love the islands.
Lauren Linzer, from Raleigh, North Carolina, gave up the day to day grind of corporate sales to embrace life in Spain as an English teacher and travel writer in Madrid. She is the author of Eleven Eleven, a travel blog sharing personal accounts of life on the road and living abroad. Read more about her experiences at: http://linzersadventure.blogspot.fr/