For most of us a swimsuit and a pair of expanding pants is our idea of perfect holiday garb, but when the people of the Canary Islands celebrate fiestas and romerias their holiday wardrobe is much more glamorous, and it’s full of history.
If you’ve been lucky enough to visit a romeria during your Tenerife holiday then you’ll have seen some of the colourful, often intricate dresses and waistcoats sported by the participants. Each island has its own version of traditional costume, and even within an island there are variations from community to community. In Tenerife traditional dress has evolved over the years, but retains a 17th century feel.
The Canary Islands were at the heart of trans-Atlantic trade almost from the time they were conquered, and whilst local sheep supplied the wool used for the sturdy clothes worn by the majority in their workday lives, linens and silks were imported for the finer details, like the gorgeous embroidery on the waistcoats worn in Tenerife by both men and women.
As was the custom in the 15th century certain aspects of the costume indicated, for instance, a woman’s marital status, or a trim on a cape indicated the precise village the wearer came from. Women covered their heads as a general rule – leading to some interesting hats in some communities.
If you’d like to know more about the dress, or what life was like for the early settlers of Tenerife, there is a gem of a museum in Valle Guerra, in the north east of the island. The museum is housed in a restored villa called Casa de Carta, once the home of a rich family, and now beautifully restored. As well as a display of costumes of the islands, it commemorates other details of every day life, like a wine press; an outhouse with a demonstration of gofio production; and a kitchen which has been preserved so much as possible in its original working order, including a delightful, walled herb garden just outside the back door. It also has charming gardens – the sort of place which makes you want to sit and admire for a while. The garden accommodates a few surprises, souvenirs and examples of island traditions and festivals.
The best way to see the costumes, however, is being worn to the right occasion, of course. Every village has its celebration, and some have two per year, when much of the community turn out proudly in their finery. If you’re staying in the area from Los Gigantes to Callao Salvaje you might check the dates in Guia de Isora or Santiago del Teide. From Costa Adeje or Playa de las Americas, Adeje is the closest village with a traditional fiesta, and for Los Cristianos or Costa del Silencio then Arona. These, of course, are just most conveniently reached; there are dozens more island-wide.
Those long, full skirts, by the way, can be seen at their best when the wearers are dancing, the vibrant colours swaying as they move. It’s worth checking with your hotel to see if there are any folk dance displays in your area. The people of Tenerife love to dress up for traditional occasions, and are always happy to show off their costumes, so don’t be afraid to admire and ask questions, your interest will be welcome.
Category : about tenerife
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