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The Romeria: Oxcarts, Costumes & Music

Posted by canarybird (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 22, 07 at 18:22

On June 17th the town of La Orotava on the Island of Tenerife held the annual procession of farmers and field laborers, known as the Romeria de San Isidro Labrador y Santa Maria de la Cabeza. This is an old tradition dating from the 2nd half of the 17th century and although it is celebrated worldwide and in the other Canary Islands, the procession of La Orotava is known as one of the best, being very well organized and attended with great enthusiasm by the local townsfolk. In the narrow streets, the townhouse balconies are draped with shawls, carpets and colourful banners

and the sidewalks are lined with folding chairs for spectators in anticipation of the long procession to come.

Although I had attended other romerias in past years, I had never seen the one held in La Orotava, a beautiful old town located ten minutes away by car from our home. So after I had a conversation with our gardener, Antonio, a local man, he offered to drive me on June 17th, the day of the Romeria, to the countryside assembly area high above the town where for two hours before the procession began to wend its way down into the town I could watch and photograph the preparations. There were over 87 "carretas" or little covered wagons being assembled into their places in the parade, each with its pair of oxen tied to a wall or waiting patiently with a keeper.
..

The participants were dressed in their traditional costumes, the "trajes de mago", formerly the dress of of the country folk. Each town has a distinctive colour or pattern in their dress. The black embroidered vests corresponded to the town of La Laguna, whereas the bright red vests signified the wearer was from La Orotava.

Once the procession begins to move, the strict dress code prohibits the participants from wearing watches, sunglasses or other modern adornments which are not in harmony with the traditional costume. These items are removed and tucked away while passing the inspection and control stand.

Each of the carretas or carts is profusely decorated with the fruits of the earth and country kitchen: bunches of bananas, large carrots, giant loaves of bread of all shapes, flowers, wheat stalks, grapes and barrels of wine.
Mounted outside on the rear of the cart is a working brazier or grill, in styles which show the imagination and building capabilities of the cart owner.

Even at 11 am when I arrived many of the braziers were lit and sausages, pork chops or kebabs were already sizzling away. The interiors of the carts were fitted with benches or seats where family members could sit. In some cases a grandparent or child was already eating a small bocadillo (baguette sandwich) or sipping a drink of wine or water.

The rest of the interior space was typically loaded with guitars, baskets of hardboiled eggs, bread rolls, fruit, potatoes for grilling, bananas and other food items which were meant to be consumed not only by family members in the ensuing 8 or so hours that it took for the procession to reach its end but also for passing out to the crowd of bystanders lining the streets. I was offered pieces of hot sausages and small bocadillos spread with chorizo.

Reaching out to me from a high cart, a young boy passed me down a hardboiled egg. One thing I didn't get to taste was the wine which was also beginning to flow. One interesting accessory to the traje de magos costume was a small wineglass in a leather holder worn on a string around the necks of the participants. Great idea I thought.....you always have your own wineglass ready for any offers from a passing wine barrel.

I took a couple of point and shoot digital cameras and several memory cards and spare batteries. I was hoping to make candid street photos as discreetly as possible, where both the camera and I were unnoticed. And I also wanted to use the QT movie capabilities of the little cameras to make a few clips of the music and dancing. There was ample opportunity to make use of a videocamera as the musical groups (called "rondallas" in Spanish) gathered and began to rehearse as the 1 pm time to begin the parade drew near. Here the girl in the centre is playing a stringed instrument called a banduria, whose sound is an integral part of Canary music.

Unfortunately that's just when I found I'd completely exhausted all my memory cards and batteries in both cameras. I did manage to record a few seconds each of a couple of musical groups though.

I walked down to the beginning of the procession once it started to move and saw the wooden flute and drum groups near the beginning, following the colourful streamers of the maypole where dancers weaved in and out around the pole while heading the procession. There were even a couple of camels but I didn't get to photograph them.

After that I caught a taxi home. It was such an enjoyable experience that I intend to repeat it again next year. But I'll be sure and take enough memory cards, batteries and maybe even a new little video camera to ensure that I don't miss anything next time.

Link to the 100+ photos of my album is below at the bottom.

Here are links to 5 small snippets of Quick Time video I managed to take with my digicams. Although they are sharp and clear on my computer, the quality somehow suffers once they are uploaded to Webshots. The are better when played a 2nd time.

Video One

Video Two

Video Three

Video Four

Video Five

SharonCb

Here is a link that might be useful: Photo Album of Romeria San Isidro


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: The Romeria: Oxcarts, Costumes & Music

Thanks, Sharon! Loved the pics of this traditional procession. I think it is great that they ban the trappings of modern life. The traditional costumes are so festive - love those small straw hats the women are wearing. The children are just adorable.

You really have a wealth of the island culture where you live. I find it very interesting. Thanks for sharing with us.

Teresa


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RE: The Romeria: Oxcarts, Costumes & Music

Thank you for your kind words Teresa....
I know I sometimes manage to let my enthusiasm for recording the local scenery and fiestas go into overdrive and not everyone finds it as interesting as I do LOL. So I do appreciate it when someone takes the time to offer some comments.

I will continue to keep running out with my camera(s) every time I'm able to attend events as interesting and colourful as this was. It was especially enjoyable catching the children being as spontaneous and natural as they can be when they're obliged to dress up in costumes and hang around waiting for things to get underway LOL. That one little fellow with the bent over ears looked so bored as he sat on the bench with the others. I just wish I could find the parents and offer them copies of my photos.

I'm working on putting together two more albums, that of the sand paintings and the flower petal carpets so I'll be posting those in future.

SharonCb


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RE: The Romeria: Oxcarts, Costumes & Music

Sharon, I really enjoy your pictures of your paradise and these were no exception. The pictures of the children were just adorable and your pictures of the carts were better than most postcards! I loved the local color and festivities. Please keep sharing!

Brenda


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RE: The Romeria: Oxcarts, Costumes & Music

Oh it looks like such fun. I love local festivals that keep the old traditions alive. Thanks for sharing. You live in a really magical place!


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RE: The Romeria: Oxcarts, Costumes & Music

Catching up here - how wonderful! Thanks for sharing these Sharon. I'll watch the videos later.

Don't ever worry about posting too much about your paradise - every picture you share is highly appreciated!


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RE: The Romeria: Oxcarts, Costumes & Music

Sharon, there's never too many pictures of your beautiful place.

I especially liked the oxen, the children and the custom of passing out wine and sandwiches during the procession. Here we tend to throw candy at the parades, I like yours so much better!

Annie


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RE: The Romeria: Oxcarts, Costumes & Music

I love it when you post pictures of your island. I always feel as though I've gone on a mini vacation after viewing!

The children are adorable and all of the pictures are so colorful and clear. Thanks for sharing.


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RE: The Romeria: Oxcarts, Costumes & Music

Thanks everyone...I've just (finally) finished sorting and posting the photos of the sand carpet paintings to my website and will make another posting here on the gallery of the links to the photos and my video with local background folk music that I've uploaded to YouTube. This is my first YouTube venture and I see that it would have been better to use the fullsize photos rather than the reduced pics for my video story. The closeup of the paintings are clearer in the still photos. The Flower Petal Carpets will be my next one, which I'm now working on. I love taking photos of the local festivities and customs. Thanks again.

SharonCb


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RE: The Romeria: Oxcarts, Costumes & Music

I've just made this photo series into a little video uploaded to You Tube. Amazing how the You Tube processing can make the photos so blurry as a video though. However I added three pieces of local folk music in the background, one of which is a Canary Island Sevillanas with lots of hand clapping. You can see how hard it is to resist jumping up and dancing when you hear that snappy rhythm. One of the reasons I joined Sevillanas dancing classes.

Here's the link below. (I've posted three videos about Tenerife under my You Tube ID as Shash27.)

SharonCb

Here is a link that might be useful: Video of the Romeria Preparations


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