Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas in Tenerife - The Poinsettia

Poinsettia and cactus growing side by side

The first sign of Christmas each year in Tenerife (ignoring the commercial aspects that are creeping ever earlier into the largest stores on the island, as they are everywhere else) is the appearance of the flores de pascua or poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), that typically Christmas plant, native to Mexico and Guatemala.

Poinsettia bushes of considerable size have now also made themselves at home all over the north of Tenerife, so it's well worth taking a trip to see them. You don't even need to leave the main roads, unless you want to.

Meanwhile, parks, gardens, squares and town streets, will begin filling with  specially cultivated poinsettia plants between now and Christmas - 106,430 of them in the capital, Santa Cruz, this year alone - that set the scene perfectly.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Protected spaces in Tenerife

Protected spaces in Tenerife

A fascinating image - especially to those who still think that Tenerife is just a "resort" (the British press mainly) - is this diagram, showing the different kinds of protected spaces in Tenerife. Now, I will add the qualifier "in theory", but lets not get into a lengthy argument on how effective protections are.

For the most part, these are areas where you won't find much in the way of building, beyond already existing villages and, hopefully be unlikely to do so for the foreseeable future, while the flora, fauna and landscape come first.

The diagram shows the various designations, which I'll translate for those of you who are interested, from the Teide National Park, which is surrounded by an even larger Natural Park area, inside which is Mount Teide, itself declared a Natural Monument (you can see many other, smaller Natural Monuments).

Beyond that, there are various other areas of Protected Landscape, Integral Natural Reserves and Special Natural Reserves, the two Rural Parks, plus a myriad of other small sites of scientific interest dotted around the island.

Much more variety than you might have imagined, I think.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Literal place names in Tenerife

Map of Tenerife prior to the Spanish conquest

Many of Tenerife's place names (such as those shown on this map) date back to the time of the Guanches, before the Spanish conquest. Names like Adeje, Güímar, Tacoronte (a toponym of Guanche origin, believed to be derived from "Tagoror," meaning "place where the Council of Elders meets") and Tegueste are still used for town names today. Others, like Taoro or Daute, are still in use for naming businesses in their respective areas, however, the literal meanings of these are not always apparent.

Guanche language being extinct, there aren't that many Spanish-Guanche dictionaries, much less any meaningful Guanche-English vocabulary.

We know that Tenerife bears the name that was used for the island by the inhabitants of the neighbouring island of La Palma; “Tene” signifying “mountain” and “ife” meaning white (the “r” was added by the Spanish). The natives of Tenerife called the island Chenech, Chinech or Achinech."

There's still much debate over the naming of the islas canarias (Canary Islands) themselves, but, it occurred to me when I spotted an item pointing to an Atlas of True Names that there's much more fun to be had translating the literal meanings of some of the Spanish place names on the island:

Starting with The Christians (Los Cristianos), which is probably most familiar with visitors, so named because, missionaries had visited the area and converted the locals, before the rest of the island.

The Giants (Los Gigantes), as we've said before, get's its name from the giant 300-600 metres cliffs after which the town has been named.

Roque de Garachico
Roque de Garachico
Tradition says Garachico is part Guanche from "igara" meaning island and part Spanish, "chico" meaning small, thus Small Island, referring to the Roque de Garachico, the rocky outcrop just offshore.

Many place names start with Saint "San", usually referring to the one chosen, for some reason or another, to look after the area. Find out when that saint's day is and you'll also have a clue as to when there might be fiestas to watch.

Some names sound positively exotic or hopelessly romantic in Spanish, where their literal meanings in English sound rather banal or positively trite.

Playa De La Arena means "Beach of the sand" or Sandy Beach. A bit obvious but at least it does have sand, albeit black, unlike the Las Arenas (The Sands) beach at Buenavista del Norte, which consists almost exclusively of rocks!

Buenavista de Norte itself sounds so pretty in Spanish, whereas the English equivalent "good view of the north" - 'coz it had a nice, fertile, look about it to the incoming colonizers - just doesn't evoke the same feeling somehow.

The Silos (Los Silos)' uninspired name first appears in 1509, when agricultural activity required the construction of grain silos to store cereals there.

While, The Tank (El Tanque) takes its name from the irrigation tank or reservoir, the remains of which can still be found in Tanque Bajo.

Several places were named in direct reference to the events of the Spanish conquest. The Royalists (Los Realejos), recalls the faction camped in the low area of the town during those events. The Victory (La Victoria) refers to the one won by the Spanish there in 1494, while The Slaughter (La Matanza) refers to the terrible defeat the Spanish suffered in the first battle. (Although like most history, as you can tell, it was written and the names given, by the eventual winners!)

Holy Cross (Santa Cruz) is so named, because that is where conquistador, Alonso Fernández de Lugo planted a cross (the very one is still kept in the church, Iglesia de La Concepción) in the name of the Catholic Monarchs.

Port of the Cross (Puerto de la Cruz) was formerly known as "Crossport" and the main square there is the Plaza del Charco, a very picturesque sounding name that literally, becomes the rather dull, Puddle Place.

Less obvious - though potentially even more entertaining to the puzzled, casual onlooker - are the reasons (which we cannot explain) for naming The Silent Coast (Costa del Silencio), when it has the noisy airport so close.

... nor The Biscuits (Las Galletas) or The Overcoats (Los Abrigos).

Armed with these examples and a little mischievous curiosity, you can now go forth around Tenerife's towns and villages, streets and plazas and wonder how they came to be called what they are and, what they mean literally.

A few more literal place names: The Lagoon (La Laguna), Candlemas (Candelaria), Passion Fruit (Granadilla), Willow Tree (El Sauzal), The Rosary (El Rosario), The Sand Dune (El Médano), Village of Flowers (Vilaflor).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mount Teide world's biggest sea shadow

Teide Shadow

This article on the island (and its Carnaval) in the Guardian, says Mount Teide, "casts the world's biggest sea shadow." And this is confirmed at Volcano Teide, who tell us that, "... the shadow of Teide is the largest shadow in the world projected onto the sea."