Today is the big day of the August festivities of the Virgin of Candelaria, although everything, like last year, will be summed up in the Mass of Bishop Bernardo Álvarez this afternoon, with a reduced capacity and with hardly any pilgrims in the Basilica and in the square, which will not step on the Patroness of the Canary Islands due to the sanitary restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Despite this, the mayor of Villa Mariana and the entire government group have managed so that such an important date remains present in the hearts of the Canaries, now more than ever, with the detail of having presented the poster and the town crier of the festivities in Gran Canaria. An idea that he intends to repeat in other Islands to further emphasize that La Morenita has been the heritage of all Canaries for 500 years, when it was shared by Guanches and conquistadors and Chaxiraxi became Candelaria, the dedication that announced with its light the arrival of the Mr.
-How did the idea of offering Pepe Dámaso be the town crier and present that act in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria?
“It all started from the initiative that we have taken up from the Consistory to have the sculptural mural that Pepe Dámaso projected for Candelaria back in 2004. At a time of review of our strategic planning and development of the municipality, and in the of Canarian culture and identity, we have resumed conversations with the artist in order to materialize in a short period of time both the mural and the distinctive elements of the Camino Viejo de Candelaria, the pilgrimage path to the encounter with La Morenita. We consider that we had an outstanding debt with Pepe and with his art after so many years. Throughout this process, he goes as a pilgrim, as he defines himself, in his particular path of meeting with his venerated Virgin of Candelaria, Patroness of the Canary Islands, who unites all the Canarian people, a fact that he has insisted on remembering in each one of the celebrations in which he has accompanied us as a town crier, at the opening of his exhibition La luz del Peregrino, at the screening of the documentary in which he stars, El vaho en elmir, and as the author of the party’s poster.
-Then, it is possible to rotate that presentation of the festivities to other Canary Islands and delve even more into the patronage of the Virgin in the Archipelago …
“Indeed, it is a decision that we have already made based on the experience we lived this year with the presentation in Gran Canaria, both of the poster and the town crier. We have always believed in the regional and even international dimension of the Festivities in honor of the General Patron of the Canary Archipelago and this is a way to make it visible. The intention is to rotate each year and visit each island to publicize the poster and the respective town crier or proclaimer ”.
-For these times, without being able to do great acts, it is clear that the work has been intense to keep the flame of the August festivities lit, even if it is virtually.
“Since last year we have been forced to innovate and readapt the format of the festivities without losing its essence and without ceasing to take care of the most deeply rooted traditions in the municipality and that identify us as Canaries. I believe that the proposal that we have made from the City Council for the entire Canary Islands has been successful, although we continue to perfect every detail. The most important thing is that the meaning of this celebration is taken care of and the intimate feeling that attracts each person to make a pilgrimage to Candelaria and meet the Virgin is respected. This year we invite again that faith be lived throughout the year and not concentrated in a massive way on the main days, because we are still facing a complicated situation from a health point of view and we must be very cautious and responsible . We have committed ourselves to promote this meeting with the Patron through the media so that it reaches all those places where a canary resides who feels devotion to La Morenita ”.
-To the own sanitary restrictions because we are at level 4, the heat wave has now been added this weekend. One more reason to influence the recommendation that pilgrims stay away from the Basilica, that they follow the events on television.
“Yes, the alert was declared on Friday and that contributes even more to our message that the pilgrims stay at home this year or come to Candelaria more widely, because the Virgin will be at the altar until the eighth of the day. 22 and that they do not use the trails, which have already been closed since Friday and even more so will remain closed due to the high risk of forest fires. I appeal to everyone’s responsibility to avoid crowds, both Catholics and those who live the Virgin as a cultural devotion, something that we must take care of and respect ”.
– Does it surprise you, by the way, that the Hindus are the largest, almost 90%, of the mantle donors of La Morenita?
“I think they resemble some image of their country, a maternal figure who protects them. They feel enormous devotion to her, and hence these continuous donations ”.
-If it could be measured, what significance does the presence of the Virgin in the municipality have on Candelaria’s GDP?
“If it could be measured, we would be talking about a very high percentage. Of course, for us, the Virgin of Candelaria is inherent to our culture and identity as a people and, for the most part, socioeconomic activity is linked in some way to the Patron. The fact that so many people from different places can be drawn to it is invaluable. At the same time, from the City Council we continue working on the sustainable development of the municipality, betting on projects to improve the quality of life of our neighbors and of the people who visit us. We are redefining our urban development strategy, in which the rehabilitation of public spaces is a priority; Thus, residents and visitors who want to come and meet La Morenita will be able to enjoy our landscapes, our gastronomy, our commerce, our rich cultural offer, etc. We hope that with all this the people who reside in the municipality and those who join us visit us feel proud to be part of Candelaria ”.
-It is you, in addition to the mayor of Candelaria, president of FECAM. Allow me the allegory, do you consider yourself a kind of patron saint of the Canarian municipalities?
“Not at all. I have deep respect for the institution that I represent and for all my fellow mayors and mayors, whom I thank very much for trusting me to preside over the Canarian Federation of Municipalities. The representation that I exercise and my commitment is to defend, make visible and fight to materialize the challenges of municipalism, working as a team with all the fellow mayors and mayors, trying to reach a consensus and unify the criteria for action, while maintaining a deep respect for the municipal autonomy. All colleagues do an intense job, which I refer to as commendable. Without a doubt this is the case, and I believe that it has been demonstrated once again and especially in the last year with the management of such an extraordinary, critical and unexpected situation for everyone ”.
-What personal and family relationship did you have with the Virgin of Candelaria when you did not have political responsibilities; how did you live these parties?
“My personal relationship with the festivities, even if I did not have political responsibility, has always been very close, since during my childhood the month of August was always very special and I lived it with my grandparents and my parents with great enthusiasm. My grandmother was a nougat, with the Santa Rosa de Tacoronte nougats. We woke up very early and saw the pilgrims arrive from all the traditional paths and roads that connect the Island with Candelaria. And I have a very beautiful memory, where everyone united with joy and hope at the feet of the Patroness of the Canary Islands, attending en masse as in previous years, celebrating with great devotion that faith for the Virgin. I will never forget the August festivities in honor of the Virgin of Candelaria from my childhood, since, although I was with my grandparents all year, specifically that month we were together every day. It would highlight the enthusiasm with which the fireworks display was lived. Likewise, personally, I also live with great emotion the procession of the 14th. The neighbors and the different groups that are part of these celebrations joined together and over the years I have grown very fond of it, it is a privilege to be able to live and be part of these festivals as a candelariera and as a Canarian ”.
-When is it scheduled for candlesticks and visitors to be able to enjoy a more accessible, safer and more functional Plaza de la Patrona de Canarias?
“With regard to the actions to improve the Plaza de la Patrona de Canarias, in the last plenary session of July we have already made the entire area where the project will be developed at the disposal of the Cabildo de Tenerife. We are waiting for permission from the General Directorate of Coasts because the works that were carried out some years ago in the area of Paseo de San Blas had to be legalized. We have worked a lot on this project, and we know that the procedures are already in a fairly advanced state, but we are waiting for the corresponding concession to be granted. Once it is obtained, the Cabildo will be able to definitively approve the project and tender the work. We hope that this will happen this year and that we can start the work in 2022. It is true that we are talking about complex works because they involve pipelines that will reach the regional treatment plant, where, in addition, the entire pavement will be renewed, new urban furniture will be installed, it will be a more accessible environment for the people and access to vehicles will not be allowed. That is why we are working on possible sustainable mobility alternatives for the area, all this accompanied by municipal measures so that people can approach safely. We are analyzing the peripheral areas of the town center to enable mobility routes, promoting the use of public transport instead of the private vehicle. The work will last for more than two years and we are already devising alternatives, so that we will acquire new habits and it is here that urban transport on demand will continue to be key, as it already is ”.