The Mataculebra: The Ultimate Expression of Slavery in the Carnival of Tenerife

Originally published on Afroféminas • 


The capacity of Spain to normalize brutal acts with racist content, disguised as alleged anti-racist content never ceases to surprise us. This is the case of the Mataculebra perpetrated in Puerto de la Cruz de Tenerife. This video speaks for itself and we will not say more than that it is a disgusting act of trivialization of the racism and slavery that plagued our ancestry.

It is apparently a tradition that was introduced to the Island and particularly to the northern municipality from Cuba by the Canary emigrant D. Manuel Díaz, known as Manuel Catalina.

His descendants, the Catalinas, continued to represent him in the winter festivals of Puerto Rico, maintaining the tradition until the mid-1980s.

According to a website of the municipality is traditional that the (hold on to the chair):

“The children, dressed in the traditional clothing of the Cuban slaves, dye their faces and hands representing the black chacandela who, carrying a flag and a drum, parade in line under the whip of the mayoral (the only white character), who imposes them to kill the snake symbol of power and evil. Thus they walk the streets singing the first part of the old lyrics of the “Calabason, son, son”. When they arrive at emblematic places, the death of the snake is staged with the second part of the lyrics. After the death of the snake, the money is collected from the spectators to the sound of the drum.”

This act is sold as a mockery of slavery, and it’s true that the origin of its meaning are in Cuba by people enslaved in their parties and celebrations. On Google, you can find photos of children participating in this barbarism in black face. It is rather an apology of slavery and racism, and it trivializes the inconceivable suffering of millions of people. How long will these barbarities continue to exist?

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Black Feminist Collective is an intergenerational community that stands for Black liberation in its entirety, centering the voices of Black feminists and womanists.

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