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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween in the Canary Islands

Halloween on the Islands of the Dogs?

This article says that "the streets of the islands see more and more children each year in costumes of horrible witches, ghosts, monsters, black cats, vampires with sharpened teeth and widows with huge wigs ... with blood stained clothes, drawings of spiders' webs, lips and nails painted black. The dear little children of the Canary Islands become a part of the dismal antithesis of the colorful and fun Carnaval. They don't have much idea of why they are celebrating it, but by the look and the result, it can't be anything good."

I'll spare you the history, but for those who may not know, the opinion is that it is just a commercial event. Well, it is, isn't it? And, worse that it really is becoming linked to the occult, death and truly sinister things. Meanwhile, this article in Canarias 7 describes how the Irish bars in the south of Gran Canaria are preparing to celebrate this Anglo-Saxon tradition. No doubt, those in the south of Tenerife will be doing likewise.

Here, although Halloween is a relatively new arrival, November 1st is celebrated as the Día de Todos los Santos (All Saints Day), when it's customary to visit the tombs of one's departed, clean up a bit and replace the flowers.

Por qué no a 'Halloween'

Monday, October 30, 2006

Eqyptian Artist to Design Carnaval Posters

ABC report that Egyptian artist, Karim Rashid (website), is to design the posters for Tenerife capital's Santa Cruz Carnaval 2007. Fiesta organizers announced that they have entrusted the work to the international industrial designer.

Rashid, who lives in New York, was born in Cairo in 1960 and educated in England, Canada and Italy. He's known for a style described as "sensual minimalism" (he also designs a line of upmarket "erotic appliances") and has worked with Giorgio Armani, Tommy Hilfinger, Prada, Lacoste and Yahoo.

Some of his most representative works are the decorations at the Marimoto Restaurant in Philadelphia, the Hotel Semiramis in Athens and the Hotel Nooh in New York. His recently published book entitled "Design Your Self", explains how to improve all areas of life. (Now, even how to party!)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tenerife, the best Carnaval in the World

Originally uploaded by laurenz.
Those of us who live in Tenerife already knew that, of course, but the Santa Cruz Carnaval received outside confirmation of its excellence this week from the US Spanish language celebrity news and gossip magazine Fama, report ABC.

The magazine called our Carnaval "the most spectacular and safe" of all those celebrated and because it has become an important springboard for artists to launch their careers in Spain. The magazine awarded the prize to the councillor responsible for the Tenerife Carnaval, Bruno Piqué, at an event celebrated at the Betsy Ross Hotel on Ocean Drive on Miami's famous South Beach on Wednesday.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Fiestas of Los Remedios 2006 in Buenavista

Central BuenavistaNot a week goes by without a fiesta somewhere around here, it seems, and events for Los Remedios 2006, the annual fiestas, probably the last of the "summer" festivals locally, in honour of the town's patron, kicked off last night. The main events are coming up on the 24th, the eve of the fiesta on the 25th.

Next Saturday, October 21st, is the night of the Gala Election of the Queen of the Fiestas. During this gala, dance troupe, D’Anitra, will perform, there'll be humor from clave de ja and performances by singers, Nauzet and Mayelin.

(There's some quite well known names there, if you are familiar with local TV, which is an impressive lineup for a pueblo of this size and, leads me to believe that most of these events will probably be televised on one or other of the local channels.)

On the 24th, Las Libreas, the unique dance from the El Palmar valley takes place at 7 p.m. At 8 p.m. is the eve mass, followed by the procession of the sacred image of the Virgen de los Remedios through the customary streets of the town, at the end of which will be a grand exhibition of fireworks. This will lead on to the cavalcade of floats decorated by the residents of the town and the whole night will be topped off with a verbena - best translated as an all night street party with dancing.

On the 25th, the day of the patron, the town hall will receive the Queen of the Fiestas and her court at 11 a.m. After the reception, they will make a floral offering in the church of Los Remedios and attend mass for the patron of Buenavista. After, yes, another mass at 7 p.m., there follows a concert in Plaza de Los Remedios, by the municipal band. (They are very good actually.) At 9 p.m. the central scenery will be taken over by a Festival of Art, with a concert from The Original Big Band.

The seventh edition of the Buenavista Song Contest will also take place, where, they say, "music fans will interpret well known themes live." During this week and a bit of fiestas, there are other concerts, painting exhibitions, sports competitions, cinema, parades of costumes, festivals of folklore and of classical music and a day dedicated to kids and old folk - to round it all off with something for everyone.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Water In the Canary Islands

Galerías de agua

Years ago, on a trip to the Bananera Jardines del Atlantico - a park constructed from an old banana plantation in the Valle San Lorenzo in the south of Tenerife - I learned how water is obtained on this island via galerías (underground galleries) in the mountains, which was explained by the use of a working model of the island.

In an article from locally "adopted son", historian and University Professor, Manuel J. Lorenzo Perera, we learn a little more about this process of obtaining water from these underground sources, with photos of the gallery in the El Palmar valley in area of the aptly named Monte del Agua (Water Mountain). This is also the area that contains and you can visit, some of the island's only last remaining bits of ancient laurisilva (subtropical cloud forest endemic to the islands).

Many people, including locals, do not know that there are no rivers from which to obtain fresh water on these islands, nor do they know from where the water is obtained. Nobody explains that you shouldn't fill the bath, nor run the shower or tap for a long time, out of respect for this scarce and difficult to obtain resource.

Perera calls the water trade "Un negocio doblemente subterráneo" (A doubly underground business), given that it is where it physically takes place and the manner in which, in days of old, that it was managed. The two men who are pictured in the article are amongst those who had worked in this dangerous business, wading about in water with no boots, no safety equipment, no work contracts, no health or accident coverage and in an atmosphere full of dangerous gasses.

Most of the galleries in Tenerife were opened during the 20th Century and are horizontal tunnels, orientated to extract what has always been a scarce and precious resource. The galleries vary in length, between 1,000 and 2,000 meters, which were excavated - with dynamite and hand tools - 3/4 of a meter, or a meter at most with an experienced worker, during the 8 to 12 hour working day. It wasn't until the 1950's, when any sort of mechanization was introduced.

For many young men in this area, working in these water mines was the only employment available to complement working the land for subsistence. It was an unknown world worked, in blood and sweat, in deplorable conditions, by these authentic hombres-topos (mole-men) down in the dark tunnels.

In those days, the water was not a matter for the local council either. Once it was excavated, it was channeled to a "trusted source" who then saw to distributing it, via private "shareholders", to the enclaves they considered convenient.

These labour conditions explain why throughout the history of the galleries, quite unsurprisingly, there have been numerous grave accidents: loss of limbs, loss of partial or total hearing from the blasts and even the death of some miners.

It is therefore unsurprising that when the gallery of El Carmen in Las Portelas here in the El Palmar valley was first opened, a niche was constructed to the right-hand side of the entrance, in which was placed a small image of the Virgen del Carmen.

Outside the gallery there is a rosebush of small roses and every day, the daughters of the miners would take roses to offer to the virgin, when they took food to their fathers, both to protect their ancestors and so that we never lack the water of life.

(With tap water still being declared unsuitable for drinking in various areas, including this, because of elevated levels of fluoride - something one can be a little more tolerant of knowing how lucky we are to get any water, under these circumstances - perhaps it's time to go up the hill and check that the virgin has enough roses?)

El agua en Canarias. Un negocio doblemente subterráneo

Never Better than Washed By Hand

Yesterday was the scene of one of the more unusual cultural events in the area of Los Lavaderos (The Laundries) in Santa Cruz, Tenerife. The Residents Association of Los Lavaderos, organize, every October 12th, an event which harks back to the time when women of the area spent their days doing their washing and that they took in to do for other families and, including the laundry for those who came into Santa Cruz port on ships - by hand in the public washing facilities. A tradition that goes back to the 19th Century, but which was still being carried out as recently as the 1970's.

Apparently, it was such a powerful memory in the area that the antique washtubs were reopened, as an exhibition, in 1982, since when the locals decided to make it into this annual event. Though this might seem decidedly third-world, say La Opinión, the women say that they prefer to wash by hand and that the results are far superior to those achieved with any modern automatic washing machine.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How to be a more responsible tourist

Tourism in the south of Tenerife

This initiative was created jointly by the Ministry of the Environment, the Biodiversity Foundation and Spanish airline, Iberia with the object of educating and promoting responsible practices that respect the environment.

The ten recommendation for sustainable tourism are:

  1. When you plan your trip, choose providers that offer guarantees of quality, respect for human rights and the environment.
  2. Use natural resources, such as water and electricity, with moderation. Remember that these resources are scarce.
  3. Try to minimize the amount of rubbish you produce. They are a source of contamination.
  4. When you do have to dispose of an item, do so in the cleanest manner available at your destination.
  5. In natural spaces, ensure that the only tracks you leave behind are the ones from the soles of your shoes.
  6. If you visit fragile environments, such as coral reefs or forests, find out how to do so in the manner which causes the least possible impact and does not degrade them.
  7. When buying gifts and souvenirs, look for products that are an expression of the local culture. These favour the local economy and cultural diversity of the places you visit.
  8. Do not acquire flora and fauna that is protected by the Convenio de Comercio Internacional de Especies Amenazadas de Fauna y Flora Silvestres (CITES), nor products derived from those species. It is an offence and contributes to their extinction.
  9. At your destination, take pleasure in getting to know the culture, customs, gastronomy and traditions of the local populations. Respect them and approach them: they have much to show you.
  10. Try to contribute with your presence towards the development of a responsible and sustainable tourism, making a healthier and planet with more solidarity.

Following these ten recommendations the tourist contributes towards the conservation of the biological richness of the earth and improves the opportunities for many peoples' development.

Turistas más responsables

Happy 40th Birthday Playa de las Américas

Playa de las Américas aerial view

For some, Playa de las Américas, is the concrete carbuncle stuck on the bottom of Tenerife. For others, it's just a good place to have a holiday with sun, sand, sea and everything else beginning with an "S". It's got sophisticated with 5 Star hotels and a golf course and, should mature now that the resort is celebrating its 40th Birthday.

Diario de Avisos tell us that the urbanization of Playa de las Américas was born in 1966, fruit of a partnership between the late Rafael Puig, his son Santiago and, Antonio Domínguez. In 1965, Luis Díaz de Losada, on Domínguez' orders, got in touch with Rafael Puig, a Catalán industrialist, with the object of seeking financing for the creation of a tourist center on land that Domínguez owned.

At first, recalled Santiago Puig, in an interview in 1986, "it seemed like a crazy idea". Only 20 years before, Playa de las Américas was virgin territory, without beaches, nor banana plantations, nor palms. Roads, water and electricity were nonexistent.

Why did they decide to go ahead and invest, despite this? The very same reason that the resort keeps on attracting holidaymakers - the marvelous climate. So, on June 21st, 1966, Playa de las Américas S.A. (S.A. is like Inc. or Ltd.) was formed.

The article also explains how the area, initially planned to cover 5,000,000 square meters, with a capacity for 50,000 hotel beds, was developed in stages.

The first and second phases, in the municipality of Adeje, started from where the hotel Gran Tinerfe is today and ran to the Barranco de Troya in the center of the resort. The third phase, in Arona, ran from Las Veronicas to the Hotel Europe, then on to Los Cristianos and was, finally, to extend from the motorway to Chayofa.

Plans were passed in 1971, but later 1,000,000 square meters were declassified. The idea was to build a Garden City in that last area, which, says Santiago Puig, "is an ideal area for it and very necessary in the present day."

In 1966 Adeje's annual budget was just 500,000 pesetas (3,000 Euros / £2,000 roughly), while the budget in Arona was 1,500,000 pesetas. Forty years later, thanks to tourism, the combined annual budget of these two councils is estimated to be around 24,000 million pesetas (144,000,000 euros / £96,000,000).

Image: Wouter Hagens [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tragic Day In the Canaries for Motor Sport

Yesterday was a tragic day for motor sports in the Canary Islands yesterday with the death of two drivers, one during yesterday's Subida a Tamaimo (Tamaimo Hillclimb), in Puerto Santiago, close to Los Gigantes in Tenerife. This event is acknowledged as being the biggest mountain rally competition in the Canaries and regularly attracts not only the top drivers from around the archipelago, but a few from the mainland too.

Thousands of fans witnessed the fatal accident on the second kilometer of the Tenerife rally, when Raúl Javier de León (35), from Los Menores in Adeje, lost control of his red Citroën ZX on a curve and crashed into a concrete wall. Raúl was thrown towards the windshield and died immediately from the blow to the head.

Día trágico en Canarias, con un piloto y un copiloto muertos

Video: Homenaje a Raùl de León