During the 40 days leading up to the Christian Lent period, the carnival takes over the island. For 10 days, the streets are filled with costumes, parades and parties. The masquerade is the most daring and intrepid party in Lanzarote. It is a time of laughter, dancing, singing, jokes and warmth, alcohol and a lot of partying. Many imitate to perfection present day characters such as the popular Chiquito de la Calzada and Chiquilikuatre. During this festival, you might encounter Prime Minister Zapatero or the exact replica of José María Aznar or even, Charlot, Groucho Marx or Jim Carey from the movie Ace Ventura. However, watch out-evil characters can also make an appearance. It would not be strange to find Adolf Hitler, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter or Freddy Krueger sitting right next to you sipping a drink.
The main carnival in Lanzarote takes place in its capital, Arrecife. Despite all the costumes, the laughter, the dancing and the singing until dawn, the carnival festivities still maintain some kind of order. This comes in the form of a float parade. It’s 5pm on carnival Monday, with Tuesday being a holiday, and if all goes as planned, children and adults flock to the streets in masks.
The procession crosses the city to the sounds of salsa and bachata rhythms. The traditional dancing bands, comparsa groups and batucada rhythms get going as they wait for the chiringuito refreshment stands and festivities to start. And of course, more fun, laughing, dancing, singing and joking for everyone, alcohol and partying. Everybody just feels like kissing, loving, dancing and hugging… You can’t write about the carnival, you just have to live it!
The Friday prior to this crazy Monday, the city started off with a disguise party. It has a similar dynamic but involves more open spaces. You do not need much to take part, any type of cloak will do and if you can add a mask you’ll be more than ready to go. The festivities take place on Friday and Saturday night in the capital city, Arrecife, next to its seafront avenue and fairground. The Drag Queen contest is held on Sunday as a little taster before the biggest march of all. During the week, there is also the murga competition with bands of street musicians and the comparsas exhibition. The murga groups make fun of the political class of Lanzarote. It is a space for social and political critique, during which the local politicians in the first row of the audience are often subtly reprimanded several times.
Just like in the rest of the municipalities (Haría, Yaiza, San Bartolomé and Costa Teguise), the carnival in Arrecife is known for its excellent security and safety measures. In more than a century of celebrations involving crowds of people drinking in the streets, there has not been one serious incident reported. It is all about having a good time, and everyone is in the mood to kiss, hug and love.
Party animals never want the carnival to end. However, all good things have to come to an end and the fun is interrupted with the burial of the Sardine, an old tradition of burning a sardine in public two days after carnival Monday. Another parade, which in this case has to do with mourning and sadness, crosses the oceanfront avenue in Arrecife until the purifying fire goes out and gets rid of all vices, debauchery and feelings of lack of control that come out during the festivities. This ritual symbolizes the return to order and regeneration. Let’s get back to normal life now, the one we live all year round. We will cry and pray that the time passes quickly until carnival is back next year. Oh, carnival, carnival, carnival, we love you.
Arrecife´s Carnival 2012 (from 10 to 22 february). Puerto del Carmen´s Carnival 2012 (from 23 to 26 february). Haría´s Carnival 2012 (from 08 to 11 march). Playa Blanca´s Carnival 2012 (from 09 to 11 march). Teguise and Costa Teguise´s Carnival (from 01 to 04 de marzo).