Thursday, November 30, 2006

Canaries Population Growth in 250 Years

Population statistics

Data from a study published by the Instituto Canario de Estadística (ISTAC) (Canarian Statistics Institute), reveals that, in the last quarter of a millennium, the overall population of the Canary Islands has multiplied by thirteen.

The study shows the growth in the Canary Islands' population since the first modern census in the history of the archipelago, the Census of Aranda in 1768, the first which counted all of the members of the population and not just heads of families.

At the time of that 1768 census, there were 155,763 people living in the Canary Islands. By 1797, the number had risen to 173,865. At the beginning of the 20th Century, in 1900, it was 364,408, which has risen to almost two million today.

An interesting piece of side information we can derive from this, is that with 283,931 "outsiders" (142,375 from other parts of Spain and 141,556 foreigners) living in the islands in 2001, the remaining population growth of 1.3 million over the last century must be due to the expansion of the "native population" itself and, firmly refutes the widely held belief that immigration alone is responsible for the explosion.

Tenerife and Gran Canaria have always been the most populated islands of the archipelago, with Gran Canaria occupying first place between 1940 and 2001.

Historically, La Palma had been the third most populated island and, had remained so until as recently as 1998, when Lanzarote took over that position.

The most populated city, since 1768, has been Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, except in 1910, when Santa Cruz in Tenerife took over the title briefly. The second most inhabited city was La Laguna, in Tenerife, back in 1768, Telde in Gran Canaria from 1787 to 1842 and Santa Cruz in Tenerife from 1857, until the present day.

Santa Cruz' population, back in 1768, had numbered a mere 7,399. By 2005, it had multiplied almost thirty times to 221,567. The population of Arona, in the south of Tenerife, has multiplied by almost 38, from 1,516 in 1768, to 57,445 in 2005.

Whereas, in more rural areas, such as in the municipality of Buenavista del Norte, which had begun with 1,376 inhabitants in the 18th Century, had merely quadrupled its numbers to it's highest point of 5,664 in 1996. Since then, the population has actually been slowly dropping, to 5,300 in 2005. In some rural districts on the island of La Gomera too, the population has only doubled in those 250 years.

Despite the population growth, the number of homes only multiplied by 9.6 in the 233 years, from 57,218 in 1768 to 552,497 in 2001. The average size of family has dropped from 4.2 in 1842, after reaching a peak of 4.8 in 1920, to 3.1 in 2001.

Meeting of Saints in Tenerife

Ermita de San Roque

Garachico's celebration this year of the 400th Anniversary of devotion to the saint, San Roque, protector against plagues, has served as an excuse to bring together an exhibition of protecting and healing saints that are venerated in the Canary Islands.

The exhibition, which is open until Sunday, contains 56 pieces of iconography.

San Roque (Saint Roch), San Sebastián (Saint Sebastian) and San Lázaro (Saint Lazarus) are the three healing saints (Holy Helpers) most venerated in the Canary Islands and images of the three are found all over the archipelago. However, there is a prevalence above all others for San Roque in Garachico, which arrived in the municipality after an epidemic of plague between 1600 and 1606.

The figure of the saint that has been venerated in Garachico for four centuries provides the focal point of the exhibition, Roque de Montpellier, along with iconography of the various "saints of the plague", figures of San Roque from all around the islands and of other, associated, guardians of health.

The exhibition has received 7,000 visitors since it opened on October 20th, which is a record number, given that it is outside the usual cultural circuit. It remains open until Sunday, at Garachico's Convento de San Francisco (Former Franciscan Convent).

Reunión de santos en Tenerife

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Where to Sample Tenerife Wines

Originally uploaded by _Marcel_.
This year's new wines from the north of Tenerife were presented yesterday at the old winery, the La Casa del Vino "La Baranda" in El Sauzal. The premises are housed in a traditional large Canarian house that is also a wine museum, open to the public, where you can learn all about wines and winegrowing in Tenerife and sample the product. The museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

This year's harvest from the Icoden-Daute-Isora wine region was 48.74 percent larger than last year, with this region alone producing 1.3 million kilos of grapes; 843,939 of them white and 477,984 of them red this year. There are 900 individual growers and 23 bodegas registered in the region - the most ancient but most recently Denominated of Spain's regions.

Harvests from the Orotava Valley and the Tacoronte Acentejo region also showed increases over last year. Councillor for Agriculture, José Joaquín Bethencourt, has classed the 2006 vintage as excellent, both in terms of quantity and quality.

Christmas decorations Tenerife style

Ribeteo en Azul
Originally uploaded by SergioTf.
Putting up Christmas decorations in Tenerife is almost a case of "guilding the lily": the island hardly needs them, when you consider the possibility of a snow capped mountain, whole forests of "Christmas" pine trees and a plethora of poinsettias growing wild on the island. But still, palm trees with Christmas lights wound around their trunks do also make fantastic, novel additions to the natural decorations.

Whist decorations are yet to go up in some smaller towns and those in homes are not traditionally put up until December 8th, the Immaculate Conception, local press report that the street lights are up in the capital, Santa Cruz. If you are just visiting, you will probably find it much more pleasant and convenient to go there by bus, as will become apparent.

This year Buenavista del Norte will be holding it's first Concurso de Escaparates (Christmas Window Dressing Contest) among the shops in the town. One of the changes in recent years here is that there are now enough, lively enough shops to hold such an event. When I first came over to this side of the island, Buenavista had merely a handful of dusty old establishments, generally devoid of customers.

Christmas Concerts in Tenerife

Christmas Concert
Originally uploaded by *Harmony*.
The concert pictured was held in the church square in the resort of Los Gigantes in Tenerife, but you will find free concerts in many places on the island on the days leading up to Christmas and even on Chiristmas Day itself. Even if the music is not to your usual taste, the standard of playing is usually very high and the combination of it being live and the atmosphere of the event - especially given the holiday - make these concerts a really enjoyable night out.

The most famous is the annual free, open-air Concierto de Navidad (Christmas Concert) given by the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra, on the evening on Christmas Day itself, in Santa Cruz. (+/- 9 p.m.) This is usually located in the Plaza de España, but since that area has been undergoing a complete reformation this year, it may be elsewhere nearby this year. It is a tradition that draws a crowd of thousands, is also normally televised and, is followed by a grand fireworks display.

In smaller towns, such as in Buenavista del Norte, the municipal band also puts on a free concert in the evening of Christmas Day, every year. This one is indoors in the cinema in the main street and, afterwards, just about everyone gathers in the square to chat, have coffee - still warm enough outside - and generally mingle.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

One Year On: The Day That Delta Dawned

Delta Dawn
Dawn sky over Tenerife on Monday, November 28th, 2005.

Today is the first anniversary of Tropical Storm Delta that whipped through the Canary Islands on November 28th and 29th, 2005. Later denominated as an Extratropical Cyclone, though the precise distinction in terms is lost on the "ordinary folk" of these islands. Whatever it was, we remember it for the wake of damage it left, valued at $364+ million, with 7 deaths and 12 disappeared.

Delta was the worst storm that these islands have suffered and local media cannot help but comment on it again today and point out that residents in the Canary Islands still live with the fear that that something similar could happen again. The question of course, is whether these islands are prepared, if such a storm should hit us again.

Despite the alerts, nobody took it seriously enough and, therefore, for the most part, Delta took the Canary Islands almost completely by surprise. Some 200,000 people in Tenerife, the hardest hit, were left without electricity, a number of whom were also without water and, some of those lacked these basic services for up to a week.

Many point to the lack of provision for such emergencies in the archipelago, remembering that most of the population was left without electricity at some point and that there were no generators on the islands to cope with the situation.

Many of the population were left without water, most of us suffered damages and loss of electrical appliances, frozen food had to be thrown away, agriculture and business suffered huge financial losses, yet, so far, there has been no indemnification.

Electric tower fallen. Photo: Mataparda

One of the most impacting images was that of the fallen electrical pylons, found to be in an "elevated" state of oxidation.

Several towers were brought down by the high winds alongside the TF-1 motorway, causing chaos, not just with the electrical supply, but also with the traffic.

Finally, yesterday, the parliamentary commission set up to investigate the response to Delta, decided unanimously, that responsibility for bad management falls jointly upon both central and Canary Islands administrations, as well as the electricity company, Unelco-Endesa, for the weaknesses in the Canarian electrical supply system.

Some are interpreting that decision as good news, but I think my friend Bernardo Sagastume at ABC gives us the best analysis on the subject, saying that, "those culpable ... are various and, at the same time, nobody."

That was my reading of it too: the commission has been seen to have done it's job, just about, but it carefully avoided upsetting anyone in particular. That is hardly the way to make changes that will really improve the situation for the future.

In particular, the commission's report does recognize that the electrical pylons were in a poor state and only capable of half their designed capacity - for which Unelco was sanctioned - yet, the conclusions of the report fail attribute blame on Unelco for the resultant, prolonged, up to seven days, power outages in Tenerife.

Only the politicians themselves seem to be satisfied with the outcome and, as one would expect here, they also seem to have spent time arguing over what to call the storm, some claiming it was really a hurricane of force 3 or 4. (Like we care?)

Central to the issue, of course, is whether the storm should be termed "de fuerza mayor" - what English speaking insurers, even atheist ones, call an "Act of God" - because from that depends who (if anyone) will pay out to those affected.

Specifically too, the estimated damages reported earlier and mentioned in the reports at Wikipedia (English | Spanish), were all well in excess of $300 million (228 million euros at today's rate). Nevertheless, the commission has now valued the global damages caused by Delta at merely 41.7 million euros ($54.8 million).

As to the future, the new president of Unelco, José María Plans, says that energy distribution has improved from the "critical" state it was in a year ago, but the archipelago continues to require new power stations to diversify risks.

We all hope that there will never be another storm of the like of Delta in the Canary Islands, but merely hoping would be foolish in the extreme. Unfortunately, from these conclusions, Canary Islanders are still left merely hoping that what the authorities might do to prepare, if it does occur, is enough and in time.

La ´comisión Delta´ confirma la debilidad del sistema eléctrico
La ’comisión Delta’ reparte las culpas entre Endesa y toda la Administración
Hace un año el Delta "nos destrozó"
El día en que el Delta rugió (With photos)
Tormenta Tropical Delta
Tropical Storm Delta (2005)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Canaries & Caving

Teno Caves

Asking someone whose claustrophobia is so acute that she doesn't even like to close bathroom doors, about caving is probably not going to the best source on the subject, however, since it was suggested that I may be able to help and today, I received another enquiry about caving in the Canaries, I'll do my best to point anyone interested in this activity in the right direction.

It seems logical that there must be a whole world of caves to explore in the Canary Islands, since the aboriginal inhabitants, the Guanches, preferred dwelling in caves. Cave homes still exist in some areas and had remained in use in many other places until the relatively recent past as this photo - Cuevas-vivienda en Tenerife - shows.

The typical situation was to use the caves on the sunny side of a valley for habitation caves and those on the shaded side for burial caves. Often, but not always bodies were mummified. In 1526, a man named Thomas Nichols explored a cave containing approximately four hundred mummies. In 1770, a cave containing 1,000 mummies was located between the towns of Arico and Guimar in Tenerife and, in 1773, a smaller mummy cave was found.

These volcanic isles have no karst caves, but several lava tubes and a huge amount of mostly artificial volcanic caves. Whilst some caves have been turned into tourist theme parks, many others are not accessible to the public, so expert guidance should be sought before rushing here to explore their murky depths.

Caves in Tenerife

There are many caves around the area of Güímar, such as, "The Cueva del Cañizo, an aboriginal cave that was the summer residence of the Menceyes (Chiefs) of Güimar, is in the ravine. It gets its name from the network of tubes inside it."

Once thought to be the largest volcanic cave in the world, is the extraordinary Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind), near Icod de los Vinos in Tenerife. There are guided tours available.

One of the most famous caves of Tenerife, writes Jochen Duckeck at ShowCaveBlog, is the Cueva de Bencomo in La Orotava. Although this was once the residence of the Guanche "Mencey" (Chief) Bencomo and has been declared a cultural interest site, he says, "Currently the cave is in use as a goat pen and any content of archeological interest is protected by a 40cm thick layer of packed goat excrement."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Canary Islands Prepare for Royal Visit

Originally uploaded by Donmatas1.
Last year on November 22nd, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain choose to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the popular monarch's accession to the throne with a visit to Tenerife. This year, on that same important date, the King and Queen will be back in Tenerife to mark the 100th Anniversary of the very first visit of a Spanish monarch to the islands, that of King Alfonso XIII, in 1906. Although the program, facilitated by the Canary Islands Government, could change for "possible complications of security", says the report, the King and Queen will arrive in Tenerife on the morning of Wednesday, November 22nd, for a five-day visit to all seven of the Canary Islands and will have "lots of contact with the street", i.e. public.


In Tenerife, the King and Queen are set to visit the Canary Islands Parliament and then to inaugurate an exhibition of images at the headquarters of the CajaCanarias bank in Santa Cruz, entitled, "Imágenes Reales" (Royal Images), organized to celebrate the centenary of Alfonso XIII's visit. They will then visit the El Polvorín center in the district of Taco, before going on to La Laguna - by tram - to visit the Royal Sanctuary of the Cristo de La Laguna (Figure of Christ). In the evening, they will meet with representatives of various institutions and organizations related to immigration, before dining with the President of the Canary Islands, Adán Martín.

Los Reyes tendrán la oportunidad de estar con toda la sociedad canaria

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Canary Malmsey to return after 300 years

Monument commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Wine Rebellion of 1666 in Garachico

The government of the Canary Islands is hoping to project a different image of the sun-kissed Spanish outpost by resurrecting the fortunes of a wine whose qualities were once lauded by Shakespeare and reputedly drowned the brother of a medieval English king."

Malvasia "Malmsey (known as "Canary" in Elizabethan England), a sweet fortified wine made on the islands since the 15th century, was the drink of choice on the British Isles for aristocrats, writers and merchants for more than 150 years, until the trade suddenly ended in the 1680s.". This wine was exported through the north Tenerife port of Garachico and a rebellion, called the "Derrame del Vino" took place in that town on the night of July 3, 1666, in protest against the abusive policies of the British monopoly in the trade. Three or four hundred masked men broke down the doors of the bodegas, destroyed the barrels, spilling the wine and causing "one of the strangest floods in world history", wrote Viera y Clavijo. In other words, the local producers decided it was better to have washed the wine down the drain than to let the British have it for next to nothing. No doubt, we haven't yet been forgiven, but can hopefully now be trusted to pay a fair price.

The "Derrame del Vino", plus other disasters, among them, the 1706 eruption that destroyed the town's port, contributed to the demise of Garachico's fortunes.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Agatha Christie and Tenerife

Anyone holidaying in Tenerife is in better company than maybe they imagined, since the world's best-known mystery writer and undisputed 'Queen of Crime', Agatha Christie, was herself a visitor to the island in 1927. While disillusioned with her husband's infidelity, Christie and her daughter, Rosalind, stayed at the Sitio Litre in Puerto de la Cruz, as guests of the Smith family.

Sitio Litre is the oldest garden in Tenerife, founded in the grounds of a mansion dating from 1730. The English merchant Archibald Little bought the house in 1774 and built The Orchid Garden that is now open to the public. The prominent writer was so inspired by the gardens that she based the plot of her collection of stories The Mysterious Mr. Quin (UK Readers) in Puerto de la Cruz.

The Little family sold the house to Charles Smith in 1856 and the Smith family owned the house until the year 1996. The villa is still privately owned. Sitio Litre is famous for long gone garden parties held there with celebrities like William Wilde and his son Oscar Wilde, painter Marianne North and explorer and botanist Alexander Humboldt.

Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories (Paperback) by Agatha Christie
UK Readers
Sitio Litre has a collection of 350 different types of orchids and an exhibition of several paintings on loan from the Royal Kew Gardens, with whom they collaborate on many occasions.

Another of Agatha Christie's works, "The Companion", is described as a short story about two English ladies who go on a holiday in Tenerife, but only one returns home alive. It is included in Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories (UK Readers). In actual fact, if you read the story (the complete text is online, in Spanish, as "La señorita de compañía"), you'll find that it takes place in Gran Canaria, not Tenerife. However, readers will recognize the typical English ladies of the time, "assisted by their Baedeker guides and blind to everything else." They visit the English library and the Anglican Church, wherever they travel!

Visitors to the grand old resort of Puerto de la Cruz would find neither of those "English essentials" lacking however. There is indeed an Anglican Church, as well as The English Library in the Parque de Taoro (next to a British School).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Tickling clouds to capture horizontal rain

Laurisilva Tenerife

According to an article at La Opinión, the Canary Islands are to patent a system to capture horizontal rain. Yes, you may smile, the term horizontal rain still amuses me too, but it was not until I lived with the phenomenon that I understood how accurate the name is. What we are really talking about is cloud that drops so low that the rain no longer needs to "fall" to reach the ground. It is already there.

Fog is often reported on the north side of Tenerife, but again, this is seldom really fog, but clouds that have dropped to ground level. Indeed, such "fog" (really ground level cloud) played an important part in the events which led up to the collision between KLM and PanAm Boeing 747's at Los Rodeos airport back in 1977.

These mists are also what make the laurisilva - laurel cloud or rain forests - what they are. They once covered almost the whole of Europe in the Tertiary period and small portions of which remain here in the north of Tenerife and on the island of La Gomera.

The water from these brumas (mists), says the article, could help to solve multiple problems of water shortages on the islands; from water to consume in homes in rural and isolated areas, for agriculture, for reforestation, or in prevention of fires.

The idea, apparently, is simple. This water precipitates whenever it comes into contact with any object. Trees do this naturally, capturing and drawing the water into the ground. The system that translates this technologically has already been in use for eight years and has sparked interest in France and the Dominican Republic.

The Canary Island Government's vice councillor for the Environment, Milagros Luis Brito, calls the technology "tickling the clouds" and says that it is capturing up to 1,700 liters of water per day, is more ecological and uses few resources.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day of All Flowers

Originally uploaded by /// i n s i g h t.
The tradition, on November 1, for Canary Islanders to visit the tombs of their departed, flowers in hand, continued yesterday, despite the stormy weather, registering some 40,000 visitors to one cemetery. Without doubt, though, the flowers are the focus of this event and practically nobody turns up with their hands empty, however, many are gritting their teeth over the excessive prices. Flowers for Todos los Santos (All Saints) are being sold at 50 to 100% more than at other times of the year, although the Spanish Federation of Florists say that the wholesale price of roses has reduced by 6%.