In a country renown for its crazy festivals, on an island known for its love of fiestas, Las Tablas de San Andres is surely one of the wackiest. Don’t let the name fool you – it might take place on St Andrew’s Day, but it’s not at all religious, unlike many of Tenerife’s celebrations, which are based loosely on Catholic philosophy………
That was how I began this post, back in December. The trouble with being “away” for so long is that you forget “how to do it,” write that is. Oh, not the tapping of keys or the putting together of words, but the train of thought, the remembrance of things said before, even the enthusiasm for a place or an event. I wrote a couple of paragraphs back in December, and then it occurred to me to check what I had written the last time, because I knew I’d written about this festival a few years back, and I didn’t want to repeat myself. When I looked, I realized that I had nothing new to say. I knew that I could say it better now (note to self: tidy up that post!), but the information, my feelings, my reactions were pretty much the same.
The beginning of my blogging hiatus perhaps began with this one in 2015. I was already out of love with the perennial round of fiestas which punctuates island life. My relationship with Tenerife, like a stale marriage, lacked sparkle and curiosity, and even love. Predictably, festivals come around, and I enjoy them, but they have all fudged together in my mind. They follow the traditional paths they have taken for decades, and I needed variety. I was finding it difficult to raise enough enthusiasm to go, let alone write about them, which is not to say that you shouldn’t go to them, especially if you are here on vacation. The island does fiestas superbly, they are colourful, friendly, fun and a tribute to island heritage.
Days on Tenerife don’t always end up the way you expect
I want you to take a look at these faces – did you ever see people having so much fun?!
As the final event for me in a week full of the variety I crave, last Saturday night I went to a Senegalese fiesta in the small town of Guaza. Guaza is far from the pretty and traditional villages I often write about. It’s like Blackburn to Hawkshead (and before you say there are nice parts of Blackburn, there are nice parts of Guaza too). It’s little more than a pinprick on the map, but it is functional housing, car show rooms and the Sunday rastro (flea market) rather than tradition and picturesque church spires. It also has a large immigrant population (but not the well-off the retirees or the affluent salesmen from northern Europe who mainly live in the resort areas, but who are, equally, immigrants), and many of those immigrants are from Senegal, which is why the town square there was chosen for this inter-cultural exchange.
I’m wholeheartedly for anything which helps people of different cultures to understand each other, whether it’s Canarian-Chinese, English-Spanish or whatever, but when it comes to Senegalese culture I love everything I’ve ever learned or come across. The very best parties I’ve ever been to were Senegalese, they were the most fun, the happiest and had the best dancing, and all without a whiff of alcohol. Everyone was just high on having fun. This ability to be happy, even in the face of hardships and often without the comforts we find necessary to our contentment in the West, is something we can all learn from. The happiness comes from sharing the good times with the community.
Saturday night’s event was more formal, of course, the local mayor put in an appearance, and the women were dressed to kill. You really can’t get any idea at all from my photos. Either I haven’t learned enough yet, or I need another lens or something, but the photos don’t do justice at all to the amazing colorful and glamorous outfits, quite putting to shame those of us there in our jeans, or sweats or hippy scruff.
We had heard the incessant drumming as we walked along the road at 6-ish, but as traditionally nothing much was happening then. We stood and sat around chatting and meeting up with old friends. The signal that things were about to hot up was when the ladies arrived in their finery, and took their seats forming a circle, with the musicians at the top. Once the first woman jumps up to strut her stuff the proceedings have begun. It’s all totally spontaneous, with anyone totally doing their own thing. At times there was only one person on the floor, other times 6 or 7. The same thing happens when you go to concerts by Senegalese superstars Ismael Lo or Youssou N’Dour, people from the audience just jump onto the stage and dance in an impromptu celebration of just being alive.
Realizing that my limited skills weren’t up to the task, I put my camera away after a while, and just listened and watched and enjoyed. Came the point I always get to, where I realize that I am just grinning ear to ear and can’t stop! It finished way too soon, but I suppose it was a residential area, and remember that in tourist destinations people work all hours and need their sleep. It was only something just after nine o’clock, and I don’t doubt that the best parties were yet to come in private homes! And Senegal shot right back up to the top of my places-I-MUST-visit list!
Cursing my abject failure as a photographer I just skimmed YouTube for a video which might give you an idea of the excitement and the energy, and also a better glimpse of those wonderful chiffons and satins and sequins which make up the fabulous dresses. The one below really is pretty much the way it was on Saturday night.