The Three Kings on La Palma

January 4, 2020

Gaspar visiting Santa Cruz de la Palma Although Father Christmas does visit Spanish children, he’s a new arrival. Traditionally the presents arrive on the morning of January 6th, when the three kings visit baby Jesus. This is why the sales haven’t really started yet – Christmas isn’t over here. And on the evening of the 5th, they ride in procession through most of the major towns and villages in Spain….

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Felix Francisco Casanova

December 20, 2019

This statue is on the Calle Real in Santa Cruz. Felix Francisco Casanova published his first book of poetry in 1960, when he was 14. He started winning poetry prizes at 17, even before he went to the university on Tenerife to study, and spent all the money on rock records, particularly by Jim Morrison. That hairstyle must have raised eyebrows in Franco’s Spain. He was still a student and…

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Nativity Scenes in the Canaries

Christmas trees are a newish thing here, although probably most houses have one now. The main traditional decoration is nativity scenes. Some just show the stable, but some public ones are so elaborate that they include the whole village, and it’s always a Canarian village. Obviously that’s historically inaccurate, but no more so than all the English nativity scenes where Mary and Jesus are blond. This one was on display…

December 17, 2019
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C19th Streetlights in Santa Cruz

November 16, 2019

Santa Cruz de La Palma was the 6th town in the world to have electric streetlights, starting in 1894. It wasn’t some noble idea of progress: the shopkeepers in the centre of town got together and arranged the lighting in order to extend the shopping day. The lights were powered by a hydro-electric plant outside town. Most lights on La Palma are designed to send all the light downwards, where…

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An Ombu

November 5, 2019

There’s an ombu growing outside St Catherine’s fort in Santa Cruz de La Palma. What’s an ombu? Well it’s as big as a tree and it looks like a tree, but it sort-of isn’t one really. For one thing, the trunk isn’t wood – you can cut it with a knife. this one has a main tunk 90 years old, but the base is about 420 years old. Eventually the…

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Ship building in Santa Cruz de La Palma

October 15, 2019

Santa Cruz used to be the third biggest port in the Spanish empire, after Cadiz and Antwerp. So perhaps it’s not surprising that it also used to be quite a big shipyard. Some 90 ships were built there between 1809 and 1948. In fact I was recently told that the chestnut trees weren’t introduced for the chestnuts: they were mostly for the wood, for shipbuilding. One of the biggest was…

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