Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, La Morenita, the black Virgin Mary, is the patron saint of the Canary Islands with a dedicated public holiday in Tenerife in February. She is also specifically the patron saint of the town of Alcalá, which has its Virgen de Candelaria fiestas patronales in August, famous throughout Spain and beyond for its día grande on the 15th (separate post HERE), with a fireworks display that is the best on the island after only the famous Los Realejos competition of the streets in May (link).

candelaria2016 (300 x 417)The 15th of August, however, is also a public holiday for Asunción (Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven), and the focal point of the celebrations is the veneration in Candelaria itself of the Virgin in her personification as La Morenita. The town and its Basilica are one of Tenerife’s “Essentials” – link – and the celebrations on the 15th involve a Mass televised live from the basilica attended by the great and the good, including Spanish royalty either in person or by representation, and, on the evening of the 14th, at 7.30pm, a famous re-enactment of the discovery by goatskin-clad guanches on a Güímar beach of the original wooden icon identifed as a personification of the native goddess Chaxiraxi. She it was who was transformed into the Virgin Mary when the Spanish conquered the Canaries in the second half of the 15th century and brought Christianity with them.

The tradition remains in the re-enactment, and it is hugely popular, drawing massive crowds. Indeed the whole celebration in Candelaria draws groups of walkers from all over the island, who come over Teide, mountain paths, minor roads, and even along the motorways, to Candelaria in a famous and much revered pilgrimage. The full programme for this year’s fiesta is available HERE. The video below is from Canarian television of 2014’s enactments.



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