A Proud Island on Dia de Canarias

Lanzarote, in its modest, low–key way, strutted its stuff on Dia de Canarias or Canaries Day, which is  on 30th May. Most towns and villages on the island had planned some special events and those in the holiday-maker resorts had taken their visitors into consideration in creating those events to be tourist friendly.

This year, though, for our third of these annual events since coming to live here, we decided to visit a town we identify as an artistic community relatively ignored by tourists other than those who might make a day trip there whilst holidaying in the regions of the ‘all inclusive’. The town is also the home to a heroic football team who twelve months ago were promoted to play in the same league as ‘the big boys’ Of UD Lanzarote and US Yaiza. Despite their best efforts all season, their adventure ended a couple of weeks ago in relegation to from whence they came.

In England such a relegation would massively affect the mood of a town for months to come but we set out on our journey from the Playa Blanca end of the island to the other to see how Haria had survived the disappointment.

Strangely, the weather was more akin to an English bank holiday of low, black and heavy cloud but whereas in the UK we would expect those to burst and drench us, here we have learned that they soon disintegrate and shower us instead with sunshine.

We passed the-closed-for-the-holiday supermarket at Macher and so had to call instead at Matagorda, which also seemed in celebratory mood, to pick up a copy of The Daily Mail and then drove on to Levain, which would be better called The Best Breakfast And Lunch Bar In The World, but is in fact known to us only as ‘the bakery in Tahiche.’ Chicken baguette, capacinno and a creamy, gooey, heavenly cake was served us to by smiling staff proudly dressed in National costume.

I say national costume, and it is true that the ladies were dressed in long skirts and blouses of glorious colours whilst the gentlemen were almost monochrome photographs in black hats, waistcoats and trousers and white shirts. However, there were very subtle differences of shade, stripe and square of pattern that I guess denoted a locality as well as nationality.

The drive along the coast road to Arrieta is glorious in any kind of weather but we were relieved to find the road open again between Arrieta and Haria. We had been along here only a couple of weeks ago and found it closed due to major road-works. We had had to back track a mile or two and take the Tabayesco road up to the mountains above Haria, and anybody watching my driving would have thought we were filming either an Ealing comedy as we huffed and puffed our way up or a Hitchcock thriller as we skirted closely to the edge of the roadside adjacent to a three hundred feet vertical drop.

This time, though, we were able to take our usual safer route and found new, reinforced barriers had been installed. They must have known we were coming!

We dropped down into Haria, ‘the valley of a thousand palms’ and noticed the square on our left hand side was already busy with market traders and shoppers. We carried on past, looking for a parking space, but finding none, we pulled up for a drink at Los Cascajos, with its outdoor seating and proximity to the town centre. There I caught up with the non-story sports stories in my paper, before heading off down to the bustling Central Plaza.

The market was by now in full swing. We were fascinated by what seemed to be parents and children playing, on antique looking boards,  games drawn from a book called Juegos Guanches Ineditos. There were stalls selling home-made jams, leather goods, fresh fruit, ceramics and paintings and we met all sorts of artists and artisans displaying their wares. We bought some items for the home, made of papier mache by a female Italian artist. The colours she had painted on her saucers and bowls and models of lizards and flowers etc were beautifully blended and I asked her if they were the result of experience or experiment.

‘All of life is an experiment,’ she replied, intriguingly.

We had decided on visiting Haria, seduced by an advertisement for a free concert by the Canarian group Las En-Cantadoras. Thank goodness we had seen the poster in a shop somewhere, for this turned out to be such an uplifting event.  The ensemble, mainly of ladies, but also a handful of men, was maybe thirty strong, and included instruments from all sections of an orchestra, as well as half a dozen female singers who all excellently alternated lead vocal duties. The band brought us folk lore from The Canary Islands adorned by Latin American rhythms of countries like Mexico Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil. All this was led by a female musical director of real energy and panache and a female singer at the other end of the front line who didn’t take any lead vocals but who sang with obvious gusto and danced in perfect interpretation of these rhythms. Although lost on us, the introductions to the songs seemed to highly amuse a crowd that had built to about three hundred sitting, and another hundred or so standing, clapping and tapping along to the beat and listening intently to the softer, slower songs.

It was absolutely fitting that the band should be brought back for an encore, as they had somehow perfectly captured island pride in an air of modest celebration. We made our way home absolutely delighted to have seen Lanzarote at its most self assured, and to see that the music of the group had drawn a late afternoon blue sky over the island.

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