With the proliferation of all-inclusive resorts on the Canary Islands, most of which direct tourists away from local activities, local culture and most definitely the local economy, it is easy to forget that there is a wealth of Canarian culture on the islands, all different, and all fascinating. Seek and you will find, however. You can buy Europe’s only home grown coffee on Gran Canaria, for example, where in the Valle de Agaete coffee has been grown since the 18th century. On this island, there is a general revival of the Canarii culture as well, one that goes back to the Berber people who predate the Spanish, who conquered the islands in the 15th century. Indeed, it is thought that the Berber people came here as long ago as 1000BC. Or long Before Charters. Check out the caves on Gran Canaria, once home to many of the Berber people, many of which are now being restored. Cenobio de Valerón on Gran Canaria is a fine example of these ancient lifestyles.
On the other islands, the original Berber inhabitants are referred to as guanches
, and although it is thought that most people with Berber roots are actually now a mix of Berber and Spanish, the ancient traditions live on. On La Gomera, you can still hear Silbo being used, the whistling language that enabled messages to be sent, literally, across the wind, from one valley to another. Fiestas such as Fiesta de Charco, on Gran Canaria every September, when over 15,000 people dive into La Marciega lagoon to catch as many fish as they can with their hands, are a sight to behold. Or Fiesta de la Rama in Agaete, an ancient tradition of local people heading to the Atlantic from the inland peaks or Tamadaba Natural Park in August, to beat the waters with palm branches as an act of prayer for rain. Although these days, the branches are offered to the Virgin Mary instead of the traditional rain dance. Given the lack of water issues on the islands, some might think that the original version might be more appropriate.