Tuesday, May 30, 2006

No Passing on Winding Days

Who does these translations? :)

This sign on the road between Buenavista del Norte and Punta Teno, says, boldly: "Road Closed HIGH DANGER OF EARTH FALLING DURING WINDING OR RAINING DAYS"

The road certainly isn't straight on any days, so is that days when you are wound up (as in stressed) or, do they think they mean, no passing on days when you've eaten too many beans? :) The Union Jack is a nice touch tho', just in case you have no friggin idea what they are on about in what language! Earth falling? They mean bloody great rocks!

Great big corporation sign in bright yellow - you would imagine, wouldn't you, that someone would think to have it properly checked - by someone who actually speaks English - before it is put up there at the side of the road, all big and bold, for our pure entertainment.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Folklore, Music and Culture for Canaries Day

Castillo Negro (Black Castle)

The Canary Islands Government, with collaboration from individual island corporations is, for the first time this year, going to bring us a coordinated program of acts to celebrate Día de Canarias (Canaries Day) on May 30th.

During the day of the 30th, Canary Islanders (and visitors) will have the opportunity to participate in an ample program of events related to Día de Canarias, in their place of origin. Events will include tastings of the local gastronomy, folklore, music, arts & crafts, literature, cultural items and native sports. In Tenerife, the location for these events is at the Castillo Negro (Black Castle) in Santa Cruz. Events are programmed to begin at 16:00 hours. Various workshops, aimed at youngsters, will run until 20:00 hours.

The Castillo de San Juan is the best preserved on the island. It was constructed in the first half of the 17th Century and reconstructed in 1765. Popularly known as the Castillo Negro (Black Castle), because it is adjacent to La Caleta de Negros (Black Creek), the circular castellated building has volcanic masonry in tones of grey and is very close to the Parque Marítimo "César Manrique".

Also on May 30th, six local newspapers will be distributing a book, entitled, "Conocer Canarias: Mil preguntas y respuestas para disfrutar" (Get to know the Canary Islands: One thousand questions and answers to enjoy), which summarizes the attractions of the islands as well as their cultural heritage and history. The price of the book will be a token 1 euro.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Where does the name Tenerife come from?

Snow capped Teide

A visitor asked this question, so here's the answer: "Known to the Romans as Nivaria (from the Latin nix, nivis, "snow"), a reference to the snows atop the volcano known as El Teide, Tenerife bears a name that is also a reference to this volcano and was used for the island by the Guanches of the neighboring island of La Palma; “Tene” signifying “mountain” and “ife” white (the “r” was added by the Spanish). To the natives of Tenerife, however, the island was known as Chenech, Chinech or Achinech." Source: Wikipedia.

May 30 Celebrates El Día de Canarias

Flag of the Canary Islands

One of the next major anniversaries in the Canary Islands is the annual celebration of "Canarianess" that takes place every May 30th.

As every year, there will be various acts of celebration from the private to the institutional and including a varied menu of sporting, musical and cultural offerings. The most important, however, of this year's acts will be the plenary session anticipated to be celebrated in the Chamber on May 30, for the approval of the project of reform of the Statute of Autonomy.

El Día de Canarias (Canaries Day) celebrates the anniversary of the first session of the Canary Islands Parliament, which took place on May 30th, 1983, ten months after the publication of the Estatuto de Autonomía (Statute of Autonomy) in the Boletín Oficial del Estado (Official State Bulletin).

The Statute, published on August 10, 1982, gave the Canary Islands greater powers of self-governance and recognition on the part of the Spanish Constitution of the concept of "Canarian nationality". This had been the aspiration of the Canary islanders since the days of the Second Republic, however Civil War and Franco's regime intervened and it took 46 years before an Autonomous Government in the Canary Islands became a reality.

There have been profound changes to the politics, economics, society and culture of the islands in these last 23 years. At the end of 1982, the islands had 1,431,045 inhabitants, which, 20 years on had risen to more than 1.8 million. (It is estimated that numbers now to have reached 2 million.)

The community budget multiplied by 36 in those first two decades and production per capita had multiplied almost five times.

In 1982, the Canary Islands received some 3 million tourists per year. Twenty years later, this had risen to around 10 million, providing 70% of the archipelago's income, valued at 24,553 million Euros.

El pleno sobre el Estatuto, el acto más importante por el Día de Canarias

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The 22nd Palma Canaria Norte Rally

Surprise road closure

You may not believe this, until you live here, but you just never know what you are going to wake up and find on any given day - like that the end of your road is blocked off because a rally is going to be whizzing past all day, not more than 50 yards away - as I did yesterday, Saturday, morning. Nope, nobody told us residents in advance. What if we'd had plans to go out? Had no food in the house? Or a medical emergency? Tough bloody shit!

Actually, I wasn't really complaining, because I didn't have plans, quite enjoy motor sports or any event that comes to me, but truly, the first I knew about it was when I saw these barriers being put across and a small van from TV Channel 6 at the junction.

We haven't had the rally come through the El Palmar valley for five years, so I was told (really was it that long?), but I clearly remember last time. Then it had started before I woke up. In other words, it woke me, with the noise of cars and the dog, who spent the entire time barking and hiding, until I dragged her down to see that there was nothing to worry about. So, yesterday, I decided to take preventative measures. Fastened the dog's lead firmly round my waist, grabbed the camera and joined the growing crowd (about 20 people, but that's 19 more than one usually sees round here) of rally afficionados.

They drive too fast to catch 'em!

The other spectators were definitely kitted out properly for the event. 

Also I'll take a moment to tell you all about the marshalling and safety on this rally. Maybe the bloke who put the barriers across had this job, but not so's you'd notice. I kept slightly more than a dog's lead length back from the line of the curb, but we were all the wrong side of the barriers, there were people sitting on the metal crash barriers, others walking across the road, along the side of the course - the road you see that has no pavements. In other words, totally uncontrolled mayhem, as is typical on these islands.

Half way into frame

We only stayed about an hour. By this time, the dog had stopped trying to dash back up the hill every time a car came. In fact, she was just bored and eventually sat down, but as I turned to climb back up the hill, there sitting waiting for us, perfectly relaxed and laid back, not more than 10 yards from the crowd, the road, all the screaming rally cars ... were these two lads. Their sister was there with them too, so I think I can confidently claim to have the only silly CATS on the planet who chose to watch a rally.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Garachico Remembers its History

Garachico from behind the Parque Puerta de la Tierra

"A community which doesn't know its history, has no future", commented Garachico's mayor, Ramón Miranda, during his speech at Friday's inauguration ceremony.

On Friday, Garachico commemorated the 300th Anniversary of the eruption which had destroyed the town's port and, on Monday, Miranda, who has been mayor of the town for 11 years, will celebrate his 43rd birthday. How do I know this? His mum told me!

The suits arrive for the inauguration of the obelisk. Left to right: Mayor of Garachico, Ramón Miranda; President of the Canary Islands Government, Adán Martín and Councillor for Roads and Transport, Lorenzo Dorta.

Figuring it was unlikely I'd be around to see the celebrations at the next centenary, I decided I had to go to Garachico on Friday afternoon. As there were to be scenes taking place in the port, the car park there was closed. The other car park, at the football ground, was marked for coaches only and, after a round of all the back streets, I was nearly ready to give up, when someone left and I grabbed the space between the park and the sea front. It was a gift and situated right by the park where the events  were about to begin.

It was already past six p.m., but on my way to go to the obelisk for the inauguration, I'd seen Doña Lola standing outside her restaurant, Casa Ramón, on the Calle Esteban de Ponte. As I've eaten there  regularly for years, we're on chatting terms, so I stopped to say hello. Not that I needed to worry, because late is normal here and, even after I had climbed the steep hill behind the Parque Puerta de la Tierra to where the obelisk has been placed, there was still only the local TV and press in attendance. Plenty of time to take photos and have a chat to the camera man, while we waited for the suits to arrive.

The President gets waylaid for a chat before proceedings commence. Former mayor of Arona, now councillor for Cultural Affairs of the Tenerife Cabildo (Corporation), Miguel Delgado (on the right).

Also amongst the party of dignitaries and their entourage was former mayor of Arona, now councillor for Cultural Affairs of the Tenerife Cabildo (Corporation), Miguel Delgado. It is possible that from my days working for the local press that, if he has a really good memory, he might know my face, however, I was still surprised that he said hello to me. The President smiled at me (I expect he smiles at everyone) and Ramón Miranda nodded, which is no surprise, since we've coincided at numerous events in the town before.

There was not a particularly huge crowd at this point; a few locals, maybe half a dozen Germans (tourists, rather than residents, from their attire), but considering how much English pirates and merchants had to do with the growth of Garachico back in its early days, a blinking disgrace that I appeared to be Britain's one and only representative.

A classic obelisk, before the unveiling. The detail shows the symbol of a phoenix rising from it's ashes. The real surprise comes after dark.

What was said in the inaugural speeches, was, as one would expect, pretty obvious stuff, but I am glad I had been there, because now the obelisk means something more to me than a mere pointy thing on a cliff side. I also made a point of having a few words with its designer as the party made its way down to the next event in the Plaza.

Dignitaries line up once more for the presentation of a sand carpet, made by alfombristas from La Orotava.

The next event was the presentation of a sand carpet outside the Casa de la Piedra (former mansion of the Counts of La Gomera), with the saint, San Roque, whose worship is celebrating its fourth centenary and a scene depicting the eruption.

The Mayor of La Orotava, who had been hired as the comedy turn, I think, spent some time proudly recounting his recent visit to San Antonio, Texas. It has been much criticized that 140 kilos of Teide soil had been transported across the pond for that particular event, but one thing I did learn from this speech is why. Yes, they do also have coloured sands in the United States. What they did was to mix the two as a symbolic mixing of the people from the Canary Islands and the United States. Considering how immigration is constantly making headlines in both locations, this symbolic act now looks well timed.

Isaac Valencia Domínguez, La Orotava's Mayor, was explaining how the sand carpets, which are an annual feature for Corpus Cristi, are made to be walked on. Ramón Miranda took the microphone at the end of the discourse to say, "Don't even think of walking on the carpet!" It was to remain in place over the weekend so that more people could see it and he didn't want anyone walking on it until Monday. As soon as we all moved on to the next act, I notice that barriers were quickly placed around it, with police hovering nearby.

Inside the former Convent of San Fransisco, Juan Carlos Carracedo, Scientist in charge of the Volcanological Station of the Canary Islands, in La Laguna, Tenerife, takes another opportunity to assure us that there is no need to panic about volcanoes.

The next part in the proceedings was what I had been looking forward to - the opening of the exhibition in the former convent. Questions that have been circling in my head for years have revolved around, where did the lava go, how big was Garachico's port before it was filled in, which bits of land weren't there before the eruption and, indeed, which buildings in the town had existed before or were built after. I didn't quite get all of the last question answered, yet, but there was enough information, maps, photos, etc., to answer the rest.

Route of the two lava flows of the 1706 volcanic eruption in Garahico.

The image shows the two major lava flows that affected the town. The green one, at 9 p.m. on May 5th, 1706 was the one which filled in the port. You can see from the dotted blue line shown on this image of a modern aerial photo, overlaid with the paths of the 1706 lava flows, where the limits of the former deep water port had been. Just to the left edge of that blue dotted line is a square dark green patch: that's the Parque Puerta de la Tierra.

You can clearly see the pretty large piece of land outside of that dotted blue line, marked "Antiguo Puerto" - meaning Old Port, which now houses about four streets in either direction, another plaza in the middle of those streets and all of the jetty and current port of Garachico - all are built on land that, before the 1706 eruption, had not existed.

The second lava flow, shown in yellow, which occurred at 8 a.m. on May 13th, 1706, came right into the town, but (some would say, miraculously) skirted around the former convent in which were were standing. (Circled and labelled "ESTA AQUI" (You Are Here))

Several of us were doing the same thing: comparing maps to photos to our own knowledge of the town, retracing the blue dotted line on photos with our fingers and exclaiming in similarly coloured words about the extent of the difference. Apparently, no lives were lost in the catastrophe, but it still sends cold chills down one's spine, though it is impossible to imagine how the inhabitants really must have felt.

The good news, thanks to wonga provided by the La Caixa foundation, is this exhibition will now be permanently housed in this former Franciscan Convent for all to see.

There was also a conference, entitled, "Garachico The Eruption of 1706", starting at 8 p.m., but no matter if I would understand it and would undoubtedly learn a lot from it, I thought it was going to be a bit heavy going after an already long day and decided to skip that and headed for the kiosk in the Plaza de la Libertad for a coffee before setting off home.

However, on the way back to the car, I spotted Doña Lola, still standing at the door outside her restaurant and we ended up chatting, about this and that, for another hour or so.

Various people came and went asking if the kitchen was open (there is definitely a lack of eating places open in the evening here) and a couple more, known to the proprietress, whom she was happy to serve with a glass of wine and tapas of fresh goat cheese.

During this time too, the streets began to fill with life; a melee of spectators as well as actors and extras in all kinds of historical costume; the street theatre, with Punch and Judy style puppets arrived in the Plaza de Juan Gonzalez de la Torre and dusk befell, which afforded us a grand view of the obelisk's secret. It throbs. Er, I mean, it lights up from inside and pulsates with a red glow at night, symbolizing the volcanic eruption.

Knowing that I had been up to the inauguration and presentation, Doña Lola was asking me who (of the dignitaries) had been present. As I began rattling off the names, she asked, "You do know that Ramón Miranda is my son?" I didn't. I do now. LOL!

Energy flagging, I didn't stay for the fireworks or the rest of the theatre. Some of these events required invitations, which I did not have and numbers of spectators were already showing themselves to be much higher than anyone expected. Some 5,000 people (not bad for a town of c. 6,000), were there to watch events, according to the local police.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, the most inopportune shower in the last 300 years threatened to put out the fires of the man-made, simulated eruption. As El Día reported the next day, "Three centuries later, the rain appeared without warning, perhaps because it had a debt owing to the town it was unable to help in 1706."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Theatre, Music and Fire to Commemorate the 1706 Volcanic Eruption in Garachico, Tenerife

Garachico's Puerta de la Tierra (literally, Door to the Land). This stone structure was designed to control passengers and goods that came in and out of the port. It dates back to the very origins of the Port of Garachico itself." [Ref] It now stands in the Puerta de Tierra park that is behind the Plaza de Juan Gonzalez de la Torre, and a very good distance more, back from the water's edge.

This year of 2006 is certainly a year of commemorations in Garachico. The town has just celebrated the 400th Anniversary of worship of San Roque. "Worship of this saint is related to the general jubilation of the local population at recovering from an outbreak of bubonic plague, in 1606, that had ravaged the town of Garachico for five years." Now, is the turn of the third centenary of the Eruption of Trevejo (1706), which on May 5th, 1706, among other things, put an end to the commercial growth of the ancient port.

At 18:00 on Friday, an obelisk is to be inaugurated in the Puerta de la Tierra park to commemorate the eruption of the Trevejo volcano 300 hundred years ago and which will be the beginning of a program that will move on to the square, Glorieta de San Francisco (between the Hotel La Quinta Roja and the Town Hall) at 18:45 for the presentation of a sand carpet made by alfombristas from La Orotava.

Afterwards, at 19:15, in the Mencey Romén hall of the former Convent of San Fransisco, an exhibition, 'Volcanes en el Oceáno' (Volcanoes in the Ocean), under the auspices of Juan Carlos Carracedo, Scientist in charge of the Volcanological Station of the Canary Islands, in La Laguna, Tenerife, with aid from the La Caixa foundation.

The main dish of the celebrations is 'Palabras de Fuego y Agua' (Words of Fire and Water), a show of theatre, fireworks and music, directed by Ernesto Rodríguez Abad, with collaboration from the school of music and folklore groups from the area.

The show, with a cast and crew of 80 people, starts at 22:00 and aims to recreate the volcanic eruption from elements that are between legend and reality, offering a passage back to Garachico of another era, away from the tragedy that it is going to survive.

Various parts of the town have been decorated as a prelude and other events will occur at six points, culminating in the port and esplanade with Entre el Fuego y el Mar (Between the Fire and the Sea). Without giving us more details, they say that during the night, the slopes above the town will "once again burn", just as they had done in 1706.

However, the program of acts for the two centenaries go much further than Friday's events. Amongst others, there will be the congress on volcanology, "Garavolcán 2006", between May 22 - 26; the transfer of the image of San Roque, on August 27, from the Church of Santa Ana, back to its hermitage where a monolith is to be inaugurated to commemorate the fourth centenary of its worship and a congress on "Natural Catastrophes and Society" from the 16th to 19th October. Between the 4th and the 8th of December, the town and port will be the seat of a congress, ’¿Qué es la alegría?’ (What is Joy?)

Fiestas de La Cruz Photos in Tenerife

Found a beautiful set of photos of the Fiestas de la Cruz in Güímar, Tenerife from yesterday, May 3rd, 2006, on Flickr.

Here is just a taster: couple of examples so you know that this set (two pages worth) is a must-see.

And, you don't have to have the slightest interest in the religious aspects to appreciate the talent and work that goes into the huge number of crosses and other floral adornments that are made annually for this fiesta.

The set, which comes from "Mataparda", Jose Mesa, who lives in Tenerife and writes the blog, Liferfe, contains almost 120 spectacularly beautiful images. Click to see them.

Even the cat gets enramado (dressed up in plant material) for the occasion! :)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rancho Canario (Chickpea based Canarian stew)

Rancho Canario

Ingredients: 1/4kg/1/2 lb. of beef, 1/4kg/1/2 lb. of chicken, 1/2kg/1/2 lb. of chickpeas, 100g/3 1/2 oz. of thick noodles, 1/2kg/1/2 lb. of potatoes, 1 bulb of garlic, 1 onion, 2 tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of paprika, a good dash of white wine, oil for frying, pinches of saffron and thyme, a bay leaf (optional),oil for frying and salted (optional) water.

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight, rinse and drain.

2. Put them with the meat in a pan with 2 litres of boiling water. Simmer for approximately an hour or until tender.

3. Peel and dice the potatoes, heat the oil and gently fry with the onion, garlic and coarsely chopped tomato for 2 or 2 minutes.

4. Add the meat and chickpea mix, herbs and wine and simmer for another 10/15 minutes, adding noodles about 5 mins before the end of cooking time.

5. And finally, when the potatoes are almost cooked, add the noodles and leave it all another five minutes.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Fiestas de Mayo in Tenerife

Today is Labour Day, the Easter holidays weren't far back and, neither was the Carnaval, but celebrations are in full swing, yet again, in the Tenerife capital (and other parts of the island), for the Fiestas de Mayo (May Festival) that mark the founding of the city in 1494.

Conqueror of Tenerife, Alonso Fernández de Lugo, planted a cross on the beach where Santa Cruz (the name means Holy Cross) now stands, which gave the name to the town. That very cross is kept in the church, Iglesia de La Concepción and is brought out for the processions for the Day of the Cross on May 3rd.

The Fiestas de Mayo also have an important baile de magos (dance in traditional dress), held on the night of May 2. In 1999, this street party entered into the Guinness Book of Records for the largest number of diners in the open air.

This year, there were thirty-two entrants for the coveted title of Reina de las Fiestas de Mayo, or Queen of the May Festival.

Los Realejos, known as the Spanish municipality with the most fiestas because there is one being celebrated in any one of its various districts all 365 days of the year, also celebrates Día de la Cruz or Fiestas de la Cruz in a pretty big way.

The firework display on the night of the 3rd - performed by the Los Realejos firm of Hermanos Toste is considered one of the best in Europe. Hermanos Toste was formed in Los Realejos, under the name of Pirotecnia Teide, in 1788 by Marcos Toste del Castillo. They still use artisan methods of manufacturing their prize-winning fireworks and the family tradition is passed from generation to generation.