Every five years, in June, July and August, Santa Cruz de la Palma celebrates the Bajada de la Virgen de las Nieves, its most important celebration in honour of the Patron Saint of the island, the Virgen de Las Nieves. This celebration repeats the order given by the bishop Bartolomé García Ximénez in 1676 to take the Madonna of Las Nieves in procession from the Church of Las Nieves to the town centre to implore her to end a devastating drought which had destroyed harvests and killed people and animals. In gratitude for the end of the drought, it was decided that this celebration would be repeated every five years from 1680 onwards.
The heart of the Bajada de la Virgen is split up into two weeks: the so-called Semana Chica and the so-called Semana Grande. The former begins on the last Sunday of June, with the Romería. It is when Palmeros, wearing the typical costume, carry the 42 pieces of the silver altarpiece from las Nieves church to El Salvador church, where the Madonna will stay for nearly a month. During this week, some events such as the Pandorga, an evening parade reserved for children along the dark streets of the downtown carrying candle lanterns of different colours and shapes (stars, dragons, cars etc.), accompanied by the music of a band.
The so-called Semana Grande begins on the second Sunday of July and it encompasses the highlights of this celebration, including the parade of the Mascarones (Gigantes y cabezudos), that is, big-headed dolls representing different characters such as the Bruja (witch), Luna de Valencia (the Moon) or the Biscuit. On Wednesday, they perform the Minué or a 18th century dance dating from 1945. It was introduced to replace a dance of children. Every year it has different music, composed by the Palmeran Luis Cobiella Cuevas.
However, the highlight of the festival is the Danza de los Enanos, born to honour the Virgen de las Nieves. It dates from 1833 on occasion of the celebration of Corpus Christi. Don Manuel Díaz (born in 1774 and dead in 1863) priest of El Salvador church, who was very open-minded and fond of celebrations, made sassy devils of modeled paper for this dance. Félix Martín Pérez, teacher of Escuela de Artes y Oficios de Santa Cruz de La Palma, went on using this material in this century. In the last editions of Bajada de la Virgen, plastic fiber has been used instead.
In 1905, Miguel Salazar, a merchant and person in charge of organizing this event, had a brilliant idea of introducing a transformation: in the first part of this event, men sing and dance dressed as monks, Japanese, seamen, astronomers, students, Greeks etc. In every Bajada both the dance and the song has to be different. On the contrary, the polka that accompanies the Danza de los Enanos in the second part of this festivity has always been the same, composed in 1925 by Palmeran Domingo Santos Rodríguez. In just a few seconds, the choir transform into enanos (dwarfs) and dance the fast and thrilling polka played by the Banda de Música Municipal de San Miguel (the San Miguel Municipal Music Band). The enanos will dance all night along the cobbled streets of Santa Cruz de la Palma, which are packed with spectators. Their last dance will take place in front of the Barco de la Virgen, at La Alameda, early in the morning, under the first rays of the sun. And they will say goodbye for five years.
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