Good Friday in La Laguna, Tenerife

I’ve always imagined Spanish Tenerife to be the party island in parts and old winter sun-seekers in parts. But there is more, surely. It must have a heart and a culture. I am determined to seek out the real local character of this volcanic blip in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa.

So first impressions…..wind in general and wind-turbines in particular. Hundreds of them line the cliffs and highlands on the journey north from the south airport. I suppose if you have a lot of something and you’re stuck out in the middle of the Atlantic then you harness it to your advantage. Boy, do they have a lot of wind and consequently these farms must generate kilowatts upon kilowatts of home-produced energy.

So first stop is La Laguna, the old capital of Tenerife.

….and it’s Easter weekend. The islands were first inhabited by Berbers, Arabs. The Spanish went about colonising the Canary Islands (named after some nasty dog-like animals that lived here…..not quaint, colourful, little flying things) in the latter part of the 15th century, Tenerife being the last one. They established la Laguna as their capital in 1497 in their typical colonial grid pattern with open spaces and wide streets. The town was based on Leonardo da Vinci’s plan of Imalo and was the blueprint for many of the towns in Spain’s new territories in the Americas.

So Thursday evening brings the surprise of Catholic processions through the streets to remind believers of the story of Christ’s crucifixion.

Sombre bands of drums & brass lead slow moving penitents, ankle chains dragging bare feet through the streets of the town and past heaven-dominating churches & derelict ecclesial monuments. Hoods and cloaks disguise men & women who can seek forgiveness for their sins whilst remaining anonymous to friends & neighbours. The ironic thing is that the Klu Klux Klan based their robes on these guys but, in their turn, they were a strictly anti-Catholic organisation.

Good Friday sees the streets full of processions throughout the day. Small ones move out from their churches during their day.

At 5pm they all meet up together, leaving from their mother churches, joining up as one huge, long line of hobbling, hooded, rather eerie individuals led by a swaying marching band in front of a mechanized fibre glass montage of the crucifixion. In the old days a team of men would have sweated the same journey underneath the palette. The day ends with the silent procession at 10.00. Ankles & feet must be sore, but souls must be cleansed, for spectators abingdon participants alike.

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