Endorsed by the trial and appeal of the fashions of the century, the construction of the Circo de Marte in Santa Cruz de La Palma came in 1871 as a response to the spatial needs that fans of the world of cockfighting had been demanding for a long time. In addition, in its original conception and in future destinations, the new building will also know how to complement the growing enthusiasm towards other entertainment of a different aesthetic and spectacular nature projected in the society of Palmense in the 1800s: the fantastic circus universe —with the equestrian festivals, the acrobatics and magic tricks—, literary evenings, concerts and ballroom dances, the latter with notable attendance at New Year’s Eve, Carnival and other key dates in the urban festive calendar.
The name of Circo de Marte comes precisely from this gallistic devotion of the clappers of the capital, divided into two parties: the Upstairs or Franciscan and the Downstairs or Dominican. The birds, trained according to the rules established by the game, engaged in a fierce fight that could end with the death of one of the opponents. The layout of the decahexagonal floor plan, in imitation of the Roman coliseums, establishes a parallelism with the warrior performance of these other beak and spur gladiators who, not in vain, are known in gallistic slang as fine roosters.
Between 1914 and 1918, the first relevant rehabilitation of the building began, sponsored by Silvestre Carrillo Massieu (1857-1931), its new owner. Under the technical direction of the master builder Eladio Duque Batista (1869-1929), the old Circus of fights, dances and other entertainment adapts its facilities with a preference for theatrical activity. To do this, the primitive floor was converted into a stall and, to house the stage box and the rest of the compartments of the new premises, walls aligned with the urban layout (Virgen de la Luz, Viera and Apurón streets) were erected. Following the constructive structure of the Italian theater, the plant reproduces the horseshoe scheme. Among the decorative elements, the frame of the embouchure stands out, where the plant and geometric motifs of modernist aesthetics also know how to combine with other more complex iconographic solutions. Thus, the front is dominated by the city’s coat of arms, with a brilliant version in which the archangel seems to move his feet to dance. At the extremes, other representations allude to the outstanding role that music and theater (both in their scenic and literary dimensions) will play from the remodeling of the work.
A few decades later, the business disposition of the Baudet saga from Tenerife, experts in the world of dramatic and cinematographic entertainment, came up with a new contribution that increases the usual musical, dance and dramatic program of the Teatro Circo de Marte, incorporating the projection from cinema films to billboards, rehearsed however long ago. The acquisition of the property by the City Council of Santa Cruz de La Palma in 1981 will return to the Theater its scenic vocation, interrupted to carry out the last restoration and rehabilitation works completed in 2008. In the meantime in 1997, the Teatro Circo was recognized as a monument or ‘Bien de Interés Cultural con categoría de Monumento’.
The new stage tower, the renovation of the technical means, the updating of the infrastructures and other formal changes make the Teatro Circo de Marte a place that has managed to maintain the historical dignity of its functionality for shows.
English adaption of a text originally written in Spanish by Victor Hernandez Correa.
Calle Virgen de la Luz 5
38700 Santa Cruz de la Palma,
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
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