A child, dazed and open-mouthed, observes the harmonious sound of the bells of the church of San Bartolomé in tejina. The song he sings catches his attention, very different from the rest of the year. The ding dong of the bells is now more musical and even catchy. His mother lifts him up among a tide of people dressed in yellow, green and orange so that, among the crowd, you can enjoy with all your senses every little detail of the most important tradition of your town. The sound of the bell tower soon merges with the cheers and chants of the several thousand tejineros who congregate in the town square to recover, after two years, the festival most loved by all: the Tejina Hearts.
Unique in the world and lived with fervor by all the neighbors from the earliest childhood, the centenary tradition of the Hearts seems to have survived the feared passage of time without major changes, which surprises even the most veterans. “Future generations live it even more,” says María Isabel Molina, from Calle El Pico, who explains how surprised she was when the great enthusiasm of the young people achieved that, for the first time in history, the image of San Bartolomé to the square in 2019. “It was very exciting.”
Even in schools in the area tradition is encouraged. In schools they are prepared with small handmade hearts or the details of this tradition are explained to them, so that it continues to endure over time and is celebrated with the same intensity. Also, the little ones can enjoy their own party. The Little Hearts, manufactured by neighborhood children, will also hit the streets next weekend. “This helps a lot to get them involved from a young age,” explains Molina.
Two years after the covid forced the tradition to park, the mayor of La Laguna, Luis Yeray Gutierrez, is pleased with how the neighbors have made an effort to return the splendor to the Hearts. “The roots of the people in this festival is very important and makes anyone’s hair stand on end,” highlights the alderman. However, he admits that for him it is a day of “mixed feelings” for all those tejineros “that we have lost in these two years of the pandemic.” That is why this celebration has also become a day to honor “all those people who are so important to the people.” The comment of a woman in the middle of the crowded Plaza de Tejina sums up the success and the fulfilled expectations of the party. “Chacho, there is no room for more people here”. An appreciation that his companion points out by ensuring that “everyone has come, everyone.” In fact, there are several thousand that fill every last corner of the church square. And it is that the traditional offering for Saint Bartholomew does nothing but gain followers. It is not surprising, because above all, Tejina breathes respect, affection and the desire to have a good time. Children and adults enjoy the festive atmosphere proudly displaying a shirt or hat that indicates the street they will defend during the traditional pique, one of the most characteristic elements of this lagoon festival.
The neighbors highlight the fervor with which the new generations live this popular festival
the color of my team
The colors of these garments – yellow, green or orange – reveal which side they will support during the offering and the rest of the day: Calle de Abajo, El Pico or Calle de Arriba. “Salta pa’ llá,” a woman dressed in green jokingly blurts out to a relative who is dressed in yellow. He gives her a mischievous look to later smile and merge with her in a hug that recalls the camaraderie that prevails in Tejina.
The residents of each street are in charge of preparing one of the three hearts that are offered to San Bartolomé in front of the church. The heavy structures –weighing almost a ton– have a singular cross shape dressed with two hearts adorned with fruits, flour cakes and flowers. Their weight forces them to be carried on the shoulders of at least 25 people, on a walk from its streets to the church square. They are accompanied by their respective parrandas singing traditional songs during two or three streets of the town, but changing the lyrics in an effort to praise the great work of their respective Hearts. To mark their pace, in addition, strident flyers are thrown, something expected by many. “It’s about time we had some proper fires,” says Dailos Reyes, a young man from Calle de Arriba, who is also pleased that other lost traditions have been recovered this year, such as the water festival.
From the time each Heart departs from their neighborhood until they are removed from the square (and without fruit or cakes next Tuesday) the parrandas sing their songs alluding to the rest and they usually improvise responses to those sung a few minutes before. This is the moment of greatest rivalry, the supporters of each of them enjoy the lyrics of the songs, and encourage their party.
There are several thousand people who enjoy this inescapable event in the calendar of celebrations
The time of the offering
When they arrive at the square, after a long walk, the drums and cheers gain strength and the most awaited moment begins for all the residents of the municipality, the act known as the Offering to San Bartolomé that takes place at the doors of the church. It is then that the three great Hearts rise above the square adorned with flags and strategically oriented towards their respective streets. In this way, they show the saint his best clothes and proudly show the rest of the town the work they have done for months. Work that for some has been somewhat more difficult. “It has cost us a lot to find pears this year,” recalls Molina. The neighbor from El Pico admits that they had difficulties finding fruit of the same size to fill the rim of the hearts. But finally, everyone in the neighborhood is very happy with the result.
There, in the center of the square, the Hearts will remain on display until today, when the so-called Descuelgue is expected to begin, another of the phases into which this popular festival is divided. In Hearts there is no winner or prizes for the best – or even the juiciest – structure. In fact, what prevails above all else during the days that the festival lasts is the “joking”, as José Ángel Dorta, from Calle de Abajo, points out.
The party continues throughout the day, afternoon and night. And even two days later. When the sun begins to go down, around 6:00 p.m., the Battle of Flowers began, a parade full of music, color, floats and choreographed dances in the heart of Tejina. With the night, the neighbors return to the church square where they can enjoy the beauty of this unique and fun tradition through music.