Descent of the Virgen
Once every five years Santa Cruz de La Palma dresses up for a little over than a month to celebrate one of Canary Islands most attractive dates: the Descent of Virgen de las Nieves. An extensive program of playful and spectacular acts fills the streets and squares of the city, in a celebration that brings together people from all over the world.
The Descent of Virgen de las Nieves has its origin in a profound religious fervor shown by the Marian image; people from La Palma appealed to the Virgin to help them out when they suffered with volcanic eruptions, droughts, plagues, famines, fires or shipwrecks, nothing escaped its power. Bartomlomé García Ximénez, bishop of Canary Islands, established that the Descent should be held every five years, it wasn’t until 1680 that its first edition took place. After several years of complex evolution, the Descent has changed part of its activity program as well as its celebration dates until reaching its current state. The preparatory actions for the Virgin transfer from its sanctuary to the heart of the old city take place in the first half of July.
The “romería” or the Descent of the Silver Throne by the royal road of El Planto are worth mentioning for the presence of traditional music, clothing and gastronomy. The Pandorgas Parade with thousands of wooden and coloured paper lanterns are illuminated by candles is relevant to the festivities.Some typical local characters such as Biscuit, las Mendoza, la Luna de Valencia or el Asmático also participate in the celebration.
The Dance of Acrobats simulates the fantastic world of circus exercises with the performance of young people engaged in contortions, pirouettes and pranks that suspend the hearts of the spectators. The festival recreates the elegance of the eighteenth-century rococo: 24 young couples dance in melodic tunes of the minuet, a piece created for the occasion by local musicians. The Allegorical and Triumphal Chariot, of deep Baroque roots, preaches the Descent, in textual creations also music by the secular cast of authors of the island or linked to it. Magic is reserved for the number par excellence of the festivities, which popular knowledge has ended up becoming a sign of identity, is certainly the Thursday show of the Great Week: The Dance of the Dwarves. Before the attentive gaze of the surrounding ones, who crowd on the sidewalks, a group of men dressed each time with a different allegory (Vikings, cardinals, minstrels, etc.) interprets an initial dance; in brief seconds, men become tiny dwarves who dance to a fast choreography; then the applause of the public, who attends astonished to the sagacity and mischief of the Lilliputian characters. Finally the entrance of the Virgin in the city, the second Sunday of the month, is celebrated with all solemnity with dialogues, praises and liturgies. After a little less than three weeks in the Parish of El Salvador, the Virgin returns on August 5th to her Sanctuary of the Mount an La Palma will wait for another five years to her return.