Did you know Las Palmas Carnival is second only to Rio de Janeiro?
It’s almost carnival time again and from the 1st – 23rd of February the capital city will burst open with a colourful celebration of music, dance, Latin rhythms, fantastic stage shows, galas, competitions and general great fun for all of the family.
It’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen and since it takes place in Gran Canaria with its wonderful weather – you can enjoy this winter festival but be dressed up as if you were in the Caribbean in spring.
We caught up with Israel Reyes who’s been the Artistic Director of Las Palmas Carnival for the last ten years. He took time out of his very busy schedule to talk to us about his passion for the Carnival, its history and the important part this celebration continues to play in bringing all members of the community together.
What does your job as Artistic Director entail?
I have to ensure the smooth running of all aspects of the carnival: the competitions, the galas, the street parades, stages, the running of the shows, the scripts – all the direction and production.
What is this year’s theme?
Every year the theme changes and this year it’s a masked ball. In previous years the themes were comics, the sea and television and people make their fancy dress costumes according to the theme.
The stage design is of a Venetian Plaza where the people of the city are invited to join the ball. The measurements of the stage are impressive. 1, 220 square metres, 16 metres tall, 30 metres long and 20 metres wide.
How important is the Carnival for the people of Las Palmas?
95% of the Carnival, the shows and the content is produced by the local communities. Neighbourhood groups spend the whole year buying the material – making the costumes and learning the dance routines or songs for the Murgas (choirs wearing fancy dress that compose and perform songs which parody topical political or social issues). The average age of participants in the musical and dance groups is eighteen years old, so Carnival helps bring people of all ages together.
So, carnival has an important social role to play?
Yes there is a social relevance to Carnival. From the designing and making of the outfits to the rehearsals for the dance and musical numbers. Everyone is encouraged to get involved creating a feeling of belonging and the sharing of a collective dream. People are proud when they appear on stage or see their photos in the newspapers.
During the years of Franco’s dictatorship people used carnival to be subversive. In recent years the Gala of the Drag Queen has increased visibility of the lesbian, gay and transsexual community and through humour, it has encouraged more tolerance and acceptance of these groups.
What will be the highlights of Las Palmas Carnival 2013?
Every day there’s something different. Carnival has something for everyone but the most popular shows are the Carnival Queen Competition and the Gala of the Drag Queen. And because these shows are so colourful and visual they have an international appeal and are televised and broadcast around Europe.
This year has been a challenge as the budget is tighter than previous years but with our great weather and warm welcome, carnival will still be one of the best winter street festivals in the world.
For more information on the carnival click here: Las Palmas Carnival
Have you ever been to carnival? Share you experiences with us here!