The Achipencos and the Arretrancos of Fuerteventura

carrera de arretrancos

Carnivals are the most colorful festivals with the greatest collective joy of the year. They are celebrated in all the municipalities of Fuerteventura. 

Those of Corralejo, Morrojable and Puerto del Rosario are the ones that attract the most public. 

Today we focus on the Achipencos regatta and the Arretrancos race. Two unique events, hallmark of the carnivals of Puerto del Rosario, and with more expectation throughout the island. 

Thousands of people gather each year in the capital of Fuerteventura to enjoy these two acts.

The Arretrancos race 

carrera de arretrancos
carrera de arretrancos

The arretrancos are brightly colored rolling vehicles. They are made by hand and compete, among themselves, in a crazy race through the steepest streets of Puerto del Rosario. 

The arretrancos roll thanks to the inclination of the streets and the ingenuity of their builders, for this reason it is essential that they have a steering system, as well as a braking device. This way they avoid any injury to the participants themselves and to the spectators. 

The use of any mechanical, electrical or combustion traction or propulsion element is not permitted. Despite this, they reach great speeds. At the end of each section, braking is achieved thanks to an artificial and padded retention system. Although the intrepid pilots do not usually suffer serious accidents, the use of gloves, knee pads, elbow pads, helmet, etc. is mandatory. They also have to be dressed up, of course!

Carrera de arretrancos
Carrera de arretrancos

To celebrate the arretrancos race, the capital city council closes the streets through which the arretrancos compete to traffic. This year it will be through León y Castillo, Virgen del Rosario and Teófilo Martínez Escobar streets. 

People who come to see the race walk the streets where the arretrancos  are going to be launched. The main objective of this wandering through the streets is to see the design of the arretranco while it is intact. They also take the opportunity to look for the friend, family member or acquaintance who has gotten into the hilarious adventure of being a builder and arretranco pilot. During the day everything is laughter, gossip and effusive greetings. 

The point where the spectators are most concentrated is in the final areas of each section. Everyone is waiting to see if the arretranco and its pilots reach the finish line in one piece.

Where does the name arretranco come from? 

carrera de arretrancos
carrera de arretrancos

Arretranco is the derivation of arritranco, a word that came from Cuba at the end of the 19th century. Pérez Galdós defined it as “an old or useless thing”. Over the years its meaning has been expanded. Now it also serves to define an unimportant, useless, or despicable person. Also to the immoral woman or of dissolute customs…

As a curiosity to comment that we can see, only in the carnival environment, the word arretranco also written with K (Arretranko). This is because there was in Lanzarote, since 1974, a male murga: “Los Arretrankos”, with its female version “Las Arretrankas”. The habit of seeing arretranco written with k, for so many decades, has caused some confusion even in Majorera institutions, which write arretranco with both K and C.

Achipencos Regatta 

Regata de Achipencos
Regata de Achipencos

Despite its youth, just over two decades, the Achipencos regatta has become one of the most important events of the Majorero carnival. Thousands of people, arriving from all over the island, come to the promenade to participate actively, or as spectators in this extravagant event. The Achipencos regatta is another crazy race, this time by sea. Its origins go back to 1998 when the carnival-gastronomic group, ” Así Andamos “, devised an original act that would differentiate the carnival of Puerto del Rosario.

Regata de Achipencos
Regata de Achipencos

This regatta has become one of the hallmarks of the capital’s carnival. Achipencos are gadgets made with all kinds of elements, usually recycled. Its builders try to make it float and even sail, many without success. Here lies the grace of this hilarious event.

In its elaboration, parts of conventional boats cannot be used, not even surfboards. Any propulsion system that could be harmful to the environment is also not allowed. The crew members must propel their achipenco with their hands, with oars or handmade paddles. 

Regata de Achipencos
Regata de Achipencos

The Achipencos walk between laughter, masks and applause, the 1.5 kilometers that separate them from the finish line: from the commercial pier to the beach of Los Pozos. Many Achipencos do not get past the first breakwater. 

The regatta is usually held on the first Sunday of Carnival so that, in case it has to be suspended due to bad weather, there is still Carnival Tuesday to do it and that the laborious work of making an achipenco is not in vain.

In recognition of the work of many months, the city council awards several prizes to the ships that reach the finish line with their crew members. They value originality and creativity, no prize is given to speed or to the first to reach the beach. 

Achipencos
Achipencos

The prizes are usually: 

  • To the best set, costumes, originality, etc. 
  • To the most original and innovative propulsion system. 
  • To the best “achipenquil” group built and manned by children under 14 years of age. 
  • To the best individual and collective costume. 

Where does the word Achipenco come from? 

Regata de Achipencos
Regata de Achipencos

Achipenco, in the carnival context of Fuerteventura, is the acronym for Hydrodynamic Carnival Device Driven By Non-Polluting Energy Obviously. Now, the rich Canarian language includes the word achipenque archipenque, and even archiprenque as: junk, thing of little value, dilapidated or poorly formed house or cave. Also poor and uncultivated land.

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