Monday, December 28, 2020

Rural Woman of Tenerife Award 2020

Goats from Teno Alto at the San Antionio Abad fiestas in Buenavista del Norte

The Rural Woman of Tenerife 2020 award recognizes the work of seven women, being dubbed 'The ‘Marías’ of Teno Alto', who have dedicated their lives to livestock and traditional cheese makingThe Cabildo de Tenerife, through the Fundación Tenerife Rural (Tenerife Rural Foundation), awarded its Rural Woman of Tenerife 2020 award to the ‘Marías’ of Teno Alto, in Buenavista del Norte, in the most remote part of the Northwest of the island. Seven women who made headlines when the award was announced. Seven women of whom little is known beyond the village that has seen them born and live in their own way. They are: María del Rosario Regalado or María de Los Dornajos; María del Carmen Verde Martín or María de Las Cuevas; María del Carmen González Martín or María Carmensa from La Tablada; María González Regalado or María de El Vallado; María Teresa Martín Regalado or María Teresa de La Zahorra; María Agustina Álvarez González or María de La Abejera, and María Rodríguez González or María de La Mesita.

The polkadot goats of Teno Alto, which I'm certain belonged to one of the Marias who I used to chat with each year at the livestock fair in Buenavista del Norte

In the supporting report that the Buenavista del Norte Council presented to the Tenerife Rural Foundation to recognize these women from Teno Alto, it is stated that “they should be recognized for their contribution to the maintenance of traditional agricultural practices and the conservation of rural heritage linked to livestock activity, in their long history as cheesemakers and goatherds, all combined with the care and support of their families”. 

The document recognizes the merit that each of these women would individually have to be worthy of recognition as Rural Woman of Tenerife, but at the same time it states that it would be very difficult to “select one of them without naming the others”. For this reason, it was decided to request a group recognition.

These older women, all with a common name, María, are known among their neighbors by the place where they live and for having “all their lives working with goats and cheese factories, using traditional methods of making cheese and cheese, transmitting this knowledge to their offspring”. Although they have not been alone in the livestock business, the council wants to highlight the work of these women, which many times has not been valued, being reduced to the category of family help. Among these merits, we must not forget that they also face the bureaucracy that makes the task more difficult every day and hinders their way of working and producing.

This group of women is part of the legacy of Teno Alto, as their example, work and memory have allowed the transmission of values ​​and knowledge through the generations. They are "women of perseverance and dedication who have lived in a difficult rural environment," where they have had to survive in the face of adversity and who never give up or abandon their lands. Women who have surpassed themselves and who have had to progress without leaving behind the customs and knowledge that their ancestors taught them.

The landscape of Teno Alto

María de Los Dornajos

María de Los Dornajos learned farm work from her parents. Once she got married, she went on to take care of the cheese making while her husband was in charge of herding the goats. At present, she continues to collaborate by transmitting her knowledge to her son Miguel and her two grandchildren, who are now in charge of the livestock.

Maria de Las Cuevas

She has been working in livestock and agriculture all her life, together with her husband, in order to survive. In the area it is known for the production of cheeses, but due to the new regulatory requirements, her family could not continue with the cheese industry and currently they have hardly any livestock.

Maria de La Tablada

Since she was little, she was in charge of helping her mother with the cattle and with the cheese making, since her father emigrated to Cuba to work for many years. When she married, along with her husband, she continued with the same tasks.

Maria from El Vallado

She has been working with goats and making cheese all her life. Although she is not currently involved in the activity, her son has continued the family tradition.

María Teresa de La Zahorra

Like the other Marías de Teno Alto, she has been making cheese all her life. At present she is not engaged in the activity and she no longer has livestock.

Maria de La Zahorra

Like the others, she learned livestock and cheese making from her relatives, in this case from her mother and grandfather. From a very young age she was forced to help by making cheese. Although she recognizes that livestock is a sacrificial activity, she and her husband like it very much because it has been a part of their entire lives. She transmitted her experience to her daughter Ana María, who is the one who carries out the production of cheeses today.

Maria de La Mesita

She worked with goats for much of her life. She was in charge of the care and herding of the animals while her husband was the one who made the cheeses that served them as sustenance.