Santa Cruz de Tenerife 
The Canary Island Capital of Carnival for the year 2000

May  2000 (Find more fotos at

“We want our message of culture and peace with all the world to be heard…
“Fulfilling the City’s goal of providing healthy entertainment for everyone…“to follow your imagination is important... “As Cicero said: ‘Be laughable and the world will love you.”
Opening Ceremonies at the Four Great Legislative Halls of Tenerife for year 2000 Foundation of European Carnival Cities Convention 

Make a note, as the Capital of Carnival for the new millennium has a long name: The City of Santa Cruz on the Canary Island of Tenerife in the Country of Spain off the West coast of the continent of Africa. Best remembered simply as Terrific Tenerife, the host City of the 20th Anniversary Reunion of the Foundation of European Carnival Cities (FECC) the oldest and most respected Carnaval organization on the planet.

The Spirit of Carnaval prefers host cities whose reflection appears daily from a great body of water within its borders. Rivers, lakes and coastal cities have often been the main reason settlers would choose a spot to begin building permanent the first settlements that later become the central city. 

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 Port cities like Santa Cruz add the spice of multicultural exposure creating a more worldly culture with rich textures.
  Tenerife’s lavish Carnival traditions have taken the best elements from Brazil, the Caribbean, Latin America, Spain and Africa to produce a spectacular season of joy which proudly claims it is as good as it gets. Actually, in modesty, they will allow that Rio Carnival may be #1, but they are a close second.

Political Intrigue
As borders dissolve, the impetus for new cultural initiatives seeking to recognize and promote the “cultural heritage” of great people’s festivals grows. The greater interest of City government and institutions in the health and prestige of their people’s event was much in evidence at this FECC convention which counted 8 Lord Mayors among its 200 plus participants. 

One of the largest and most spectacular Carnivals in Europe belongs to Viareggio a seaside resort on the Northwest coast of Italy known for its giant paper mache float parades on the four consecutive Sundays before Ash Wednesday. The long time FECC member along with most of the FECC – Italy membership had split to form its own group. In addition, the cradle of the original Carnivals 2100 years ago, Patras Greece wished to found a new Carnaval group with fellow Carnavals on the Adriatic Sea. While many reasons were cited, it was clear that new funding opportunities becoming available for collaborative cultural initiatives from the growing European Union (EU) was the major impetus behind the splinters. 

The best evidence was an extraordinary FECC Presidium session that needed to consider over sixty measures submitted by member Cities, Carnaval clubs and individuals. 
“A lot of amendments have been tabled here. Common interest must be primal. I repeat I am sure we will enter the new millennium prosperously” said President Henry van der Kroon as the session concluded. Still many individual members were not so sure as they prepared for critical votes at the upcoming General Assembly. 

Charismatic, energetic and the father Henry van der Kroon is a larger than life leader with a great passion for instilling the respect and adoration Carnavals deserve as special cultural heritages. Much of this role is ceremonial, requiring constant travel to Carnavals throughout Europe and the Americas. President van der Kroon is a natural as Carnaval emperor wearing the distinctive FECC uniform and jewels with the unique pointed white cloth hat which best resembles a royal crown. President Hank’s presence can change media coverage from a short announcement to a front-page photo and the FECC logo is proudly displayed on the dozens of Carnaval brochures brought by delegates. 

The energetic and dominating personality of Mr. Van der Kroon has great interest in promoting the Carnaval Spirit and his ability to easily elicit a hearty FECC cheer of “Yasou, Yasou, Yasou” is unmatched. These gatherings are called retreats and run for one week with many sight seeing excursions and social events because he wants FECC members to relate to each other as family.

Yet there is plenty of work to be done because in today’s world if you are not moving ahead, you are falling behind. Most of the FECC participants are leaders who will report on their trip to their organization back home. However there are substantial long-time members from Carnaval clubs in Germany and Holland who bring their spouses and mostly socialize with others in their native tongue rather than English. Their role is the subject of the controversial constitutional amendments, which will soon come forward at the General Assembly scheduled at the beautiful resort like Hotel Mencey, the convention headquarters.

Tenerife Tourism: the time has come 

“The time has come for Santa Cruz to reappear on the tourist circuit.” begins Mayor Miguel Zerolo Aguilar. 

His downtown Santa Cruz de Tenerife is bustling with new civic improvements, a new theatre, streetcar line, roadway tunnel and new ornate paving to compliment colonial architecture, wide plazas with fountains and dramatic sculptures. The streets gently slope to the port offering exhilarating views. 

The Cities 210,000 residents and visitors can enjoy a wide variety of climates and ecological zones. Many of these can be observed on a trip to “the tallest mountain in Spain,” Mount Teide (3,719 metres) which becomes snow covered in winter. Very good local wines and specialties dominate the Spanish cuisine. Tapas, outdoor dining and international restaurants without so many chains make Tenerife food a treat. 

The most popular hub serving the Canary Islands is Madrid, a 2.5 hour flight. Connecting from the Americas generally requires an overnight airport stay and we picked Barcelona, This is the spectacularly beautiful port City that introduced Peter Minshall’s Trinidad Carnival artistry to billions at the 1992 Olympic Games. 

The City of Santa Cruz de Tenerife shares much in common with the most famous small Carnival City of all: Port of Spain, Trinidad. Both are trading and cultural centers with dominant ports surrounded by neighbors whose main industry is providing beach resorts for tourists. Both tropical climates are able to avoid becoming too hot, giving you the extra lift one receives when fine Spring like weather shines on your day. Most notably both Tenerife and Port of Spain are planning to increase hotel rooms substantially in the next decade.

 The Tenerife Carnaval

The Tenerife Carnaval includes giant Caribbean style costumes often worn by Queen contestants as well as some of the many Rio style samba schools. Great passion is put into Carnaval singing competitions between costumed groups of as many as fifty members. Murgas are a unique local Carnaval art form made up of groups specializing in humorous diatribes whose performances can be legendary. Famous ones like Murga ni Cpico Ni Corto and NiFu – Ni Fa get government help maintaining year round headquarters. This is first a street Carnaval with many sound trucks doubling as floats.. 

The people of Tenerife are also very proud of their tenaciousness in maintaining their Carnaval traditions despite the ban by the dictator Franco whose death in 1976 allowed the named Carnaval to be used officially instead of “Winter Fiestas.” European elegance has been maintained with much detailed and extravagant costuming and a Grand Carnaval Ball tradition.

There are smaller Carnavals on the other six islands and the one Tenerife keeps a close but confident eye on through daily papers and TV is nearby Las Palmas ( ).
Damaso Areaga Suarez, conference host and Tourist Authority VP ( ) when asked to comment agreed there was a healthy competition similar to Madrid and Barcelona but added “I have been and there is really no comparison.” He did grant that the Las Palmas Carnaval drag queen contest was famous and good.

International Festivals: a ticket to the global economy

Among visitor professionals it is well established that the most cost-effective way to promote your City is with a great festival. Getting great word of mouth is as much art as science but smart leadership can take your event far as it attempts to build on past success from the prior year. 

Rjeka Croatia is the upcoming host of the fall FECC 20th birthday known as the Dies Natalis (Oct 6th to 8th). This Carnaval City on the Adriatic sea stands out from among its many new Eastern European FECC Carnaval Cities as the most dedicated to the pursuit of raising consciousness amongst FECC members. Rijeka Lord Mayor Vojko Obersnel is has joined an impressive team led by governing FECC Board Member Boris Klimko as they seek to ensure another record FECC turnout for a Gala dinner which will feature an address by Croatia President Stjepan Mesic. Another prelude to their traditional 10 day Carnaval of masks which is broadcast live on the web. ( )

Croatia’s Carnaval is young but growing. The Grand Parade has a standing invite to for touring Carnaval groups to appear and receive 2 nights accommodations for participants while the Gala Ball the previous night has grown to become a must night for the growing international community calling Rjeka home. 

A fascinating trend emerging from the many interesting carnaval presentations was the accelerating global growth of Rio Samba Carnaval. Samba Mundial ( ) , for the first time ever, brought together sambistas from all over the planet to perform in the momentous Sambodromo Parade of Champions on after Carnaval Saturday. The effort is lead by the dynamic Alessandra Pirotelli from the Beija Flor family who has become a full-time Carnaval ambassador and FECC-Brazil President. Harri Engstrom from Helsinki Finland Carnaval (   )
is celebrating its 10th year of growth in June as it struggles to win the hearts of a culture who has never paraded. Most ambitious was Samuel Abbou who was attempting to get a long awaited Paris France Carnaval off the ground by beginning with a children’s Carnaval sponsored by the schools teaching the science of rhythm through percussion and finishing with a December parade in the Twileries. 

GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Foundation versus Cities

Proposal from 10 members to move individual membership out of the 1 vote (Cities receive 20 votes =“A” membership) “C” category to a new “D” category with no power to speak and vote in Official meetings. “

Ton van Meerveld, the new FECC President of the Netherlands was the lone forceful speaker against the prior resolution---it had passed overwhelmingly. It required at least one “A” membership for a national section and would most impact Holland where a few locally oriented clubs had dominated the FECC for years. 

Following acrimonious comments from the German delegation President van der Kroon (who pointed out that his name was not on the controversial proposal) suggested a compromise where individuals could create a membership Manfred Supe with rights equal to City membership. Manfred Supe, former International Board Member speaking for the recently deceased FECC-Germany President, rejected the concept saying
“ the issue is making individuals second class members.” 
He asked all members to recall their promise to uphold the bylaws of the organization and that this change was an attack on the very foundation of the union and would likely split the group.

Leif Hallberg from Norrköping Sweden whose many years as FECC VP of Conventions put him in best position to gauge the feeling of members in the room expressed hesitation for the measure. This would be the most favorable comment heard. 

Most convincing was 15 year member Dr. Heriette Dorion-Sébéloué of Paris and Guyana whose color photo had graced the cover of El Dia ( ) following the opening ceremonies. She spoke articulately in French, one of the 4 allowed languages. Speaking twice as the rules of order allowed she asked for more careful consideration of a change that might break apart the organization. Little feedback from members had been solicited prior to the vote.
“While it is true the name of the organization ends with Cities it begins with foundation and the unique place Carnavals held as people’s festivals was being attacked. “ she said

Let the record show the measure was defeated with no votes in favor.

All agree that greater professionalism is the future of the FECC, yet its mission is not to become a trade association serving the needs of festival producers. Also the fundamental of healthy competition between Cities and clubs is going to remain as long as there is that special passion for Carnaval which can approach religious fervor at times. 

Patras Greece, home of the original Carnaval and the first six FECC conventions wishes to lead a new Carnaval organization. Victoria Agelopoulou and Vaugleis Politj from the Carnaval have come to ask the blessing which is not going to be forthcoming. They offer to foster dialogue with two other giant float Carnavals which charge admission, Nice France and Viareggio. Vaugleis who commands the
largest float hanger in the world believes his initiative will mean more for everyone. These are indicators of an organization with a great future.

The next FECC Convention will be in St. Petersburg Russia in June 2001 and feature the Carnaval itself. Follow the countdown at or for more information. will be covering the historic 21st St. Petersburg Carnival Conference. We were also at the 17th Reunion in Aruba
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