This is the main altarpiece in The church of Our Lady of Candelaria (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria) in Tijarafe. According to the books, it’s the best baroque altarpiece in the Canary Islands. It’s certainly gorgeous, and huge.
It was made by Antonio de Orbarán, and he worked on it from 1626 to 1628. It cleverly combines niches with statues and painted panels.
The church itself was built around 1530, but various enlargements and renovations went on from 1571 until the start of the 18th century.
Mass is held on Fridays, Sundays and public holidays at 17.30 (in summer, at 18.30) but the church seems to be open most of the time. Take the main road around the north of the island, detour into the centre of Tijarafe (just above the main road) and you’ll find the church easily.
This weekend will see the biggest livestock fair on the island, in Garafía.
Ram with curly horns on show at San Antonio del Monte fair
San Antonio del Monte used to be a village, but the villagers moved away. About the only thing that’s left is the church of St. Anthony and the feast day, with it’s massive fair. Apart from the animals, there’s a craft fair, and of course lots of stalls selling cheap toys, food and drink.
The chapel at San Antonio del Monte
It’s a pretty enough little church, and for most of the weekend it will be crowded with people visiting the saint and touching his belt.
Touching the statue’s belt for a blessing
On Sunday, after the special mass, the statues are taken out to the fairground in a procession, and the priest blesses the animals.
The traditional blessing for the animals
The weather can be baking hot, but as you can see from the photos, sometimes the clouds blow in. It’s a good idea to take both sunscreen and jumpers.
The procession to bless the animals
After the procession and blessing, they have live music and dancing.
It’s the Sacred Heart fiesta in El Paso this weekend, where they make archways and beautiful salt carpets. They start by putting down white salt –kilos and kilos of it from the salt pans in the southern tip of the island. They carefully put a stencil on top, and spray on the various colours until the design’s complete.
They also make wonderful archways, similar to those in Mazo. More details and photos at this page.
Burr marigold (Bidens alba) alo known as Amor secalo with Colias crocea butterfly
My father was a botanist, so he really looked forward to his first trip to La Palma. One of the plants he most hoped to find were burr marigolds – Bidens alba. But he later said he was trying not to hope too much in case he was disappointed.
That made me laugh, because they’re an extremely common roadside weed. In fact they’re a right nuisance for exactly the same reason that made them exciting to my father.
They have seeds that stick to your clothes. I mean really stick. A washing machine cycle won’t shift the darn things. You have to pick them off one by one, and it’s easy to get hundred of them. Small boys and dogs are particularly good collectors.
The local name for them is “Amorsecalo” which seems to be either a mangled version of “unrequited love” (because it’s a pain, and hard to get rid of) or “Get it off, love”, because you need help with the ones around the back.
Oh, and the butterfly is Colias crocea. The tops of the wings are prettier than the undersides, but they always settle like this, just to annoy photographers.
Geckos are found in all the warmer parts of La Palma
This is a gecko (Tarentola delalandii). Geckos are quite common in the warmer parts of La Palma. They like to live in warm buildings or on sunny walls outside, and this one lives in my house. I think he must have got too close to one of my cats because his tail’s regrowing. You see, if they’re in serious danger of being eaten, their tails come off and provide a wriggling decoy while the gecko runs away.
He spent most of yesterday on this smooth vertical wall. They can walk across ceilings too, like Spiderman. I think he might have been asleep, since he never moved, although it’s hard to tell because they don’t have eyelids. I rather like to have him around, because they eat insects, including mosquitoes. When they hunt, they stalk the insect slowly until they get close enough, then the tongue flicks out and grabs the unfortunate bug, and that’s that.
The really surprising thing about them is their call. It sounds like the chuckle of a mad axe-murderer, which is quite alarming when you’re alone in the house and you haven’t a clue what it is.
But of course you aren’t in any danger at all – unlike the geckos. They’re on the red list of threatened species.
Corpus Christi archway in Mazo decorated with leaves, petals and seeds for Corpus Christi
Today is Canary Day, a local holiday in all the Canary Islands. Expect to see folk musicians and dancers, and lots of traditional foods on the menu. Most of the shops will be closed. This year, it’s also Corpus Christi. (The Corpus Christi fiesta is ten weeks after Maundy Thursday, so the date moves about to follow Easter.) If you’re on the island, I strongly recommend a visit to Mazo to see the archways and carpets.
San José in Breña Baja will celebrate Corpus Christi on Sunday
But I must apologise for the weather. At this time of year the east side of the island should be getting heavy dews at most. I don’t where the heavy showers came from. I’ll be taking it up with our supplier, of course, but in the mean time, please take umbrellas just in case.
The Cumbre Nueva folk group dancing outside El Paso’s silk museum
I think most of us were expecting the new tourism campaign to be based around sunshine on the beach, and so it is, although they’re making more mention of our gorgeous landscapes as well as the fantastic climte. For La Palma, they also show the night sky and observatory. The new thing is the way we’re going to market it. The new campaign plans to use social media much more skilfully. Did you know that 1.6 million visitors to the Canaries last year have been here at least 10 times before? We need to encourage them to tell all their friends and family how much they love it here. And with social media, it’s much easier to have targeted campaigns for smaller segments of the market, like honeymooners / families / active leisure / conferences / LGBT, and to produce each video in lots of languages.
So there’s a special website, vuelveabrillar.com in six languages. Shineagain.com has the same content, although the default language is English. It has a video for each island – all beautifully done, with locals narrating each one (I seem to be the only one who doesn’t like La Palma’s the narrator’s accent). There are even websites in Polish and Russian. Please, please like and share the photos and videos on Facebook and Twitter etc. every chance you get. It’ll only take you a few seconds, and it might get you your next customer.
There’s also a campaign to get people to share photos and videos on social media.
Paulino Rivero said that we’re basing our appeal around the climate as before, but also diversity, friendliness and ecological sustainability. It’s not in our interest to wreck our landscapes because then the tourists will have nothing to comefor.
I’m glad he said that. It got spontaneous applause.
And you know, for those of us who live here, it’s easy to forget how very appealing sunny beaches are to people waiting at the bus stop in the driving sleet. Let’s make sure they know what they’re missing.
The people who lived on La Palma before the Spanish arrived in 1493 called the island Benahoare, and themselves Benahorita. (Or according to some people, Benawara and Benawaritas. They insist their spelling is correct. I find this odd, because to me the correct spelling would be the one the people themselves used, only they didn’t write.)
The Benahorita probably arrived on La Palma somewhere between 1000 BC and 100 BC, and the best guess is that they were Berbers from North Africa, or related to Berbers. (Of course if that’s where they came from, they left well before the Arab invasion of North Africa, which changed the Berber gene pool.) Modern DNA analysis suggests that 42 – 73% of the modern gene pool is Berber. Since this is maternal DNA only, it’s probably skewed towards women who survived the Spanish invasion and away from the invading men. Come to that, it’s also skewed away from the sailors who spent stopovers in Santa Cruz de la Palma when it was the biggest port in the Canaries, and towards the women who gave them a good time while they were here.
A study of DNA from the teeth of 38 Benahorita shows 70% north African, 7% sub-Saharan origin, and something they haven’t found outside the Canaries. They also found a high gene diversity, which suggests that the Benahorita didn’t stay isolated once they got here.
A bumblebee on a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii).
Tower of Jewels is one of the common names for Echium wildpretii. Some of the other are red bugloss, Tenerife bugloss or Mount Teide bugloss. The Spanish name is tajinaste grande or tajinaste rojo, although the ones on La Palma can be blue or mauve. The flowers are tinym, but the spikes can be anything up to 3 m high.
GTC visible between two Towers of Jewels (Echium wildpretii)
And they’re in flower on the peaks of La Palma. Gorgeous.
You can see pictures of related plants at http://lapalma-island.com/2011/05/tower-of-jewels/
Towers of Jewels (Echium wildpretii) in the Caldera de Taburiente at Los Andennes.