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Agaete, The Beauty of Myth. Mari Cruz García

Agaete (Gran Canaria), The Beauty of MythGran Canaria

The main island of the Canary Archipelago, assembles in a near perfect circle, bathed in the mists of the Atlantic Ocean and close to the northwest coast of Africa. Mystic and plundered, the island still hides an astonishing variety of unspoiled sceneries far from the maddening, crowed tourist complexes in the South. One of these untainted areas can be found on the north-western coast, in the region of Agaete.

There, the lofty range of Tamadaba, the biggest pine forest of Gran Canaria, merges with the sea shaping into breathtaking cliffs. A fertile soil with contrasting landscapes. A trip to enjoy as a traveller, never as a tourist.

The anarchic village of Agaete

Far from the madding crowd but geographically close to Las Palmas (only 37 km), the royal village of Agaete lies at the foot of the Tamadaba’s massif. Its present population of 5900 inhabitants live in the anarchic slope streets of white houses. Tourist leaflets claim that the climate is moderate, with an average of 23º in the summer and 17º in the winter. The fact is that, in June, a merciless African sun raises the temperature to more than 30º. The scarce clouds coming from the north are retained by the mountains, forming the so called “panza de burra” (literally, donkey belly).

Region of Agaete
Region of Agaete

Villa de Agaete
Villa de Agaete

Founded by the Crown of Castilla at the end of the 15th century, Agaete has an important archaeological, historical and artistic patrimony. Both its strategic location and its natural deep port turned it into a crucial enclave and trading center. Since the Conquest’s days, a profitable maritime trade was developed with the neighbouring island of Tenerife. At present, the local economy is based on agriculture, especially exotic fruits like oranges, mangos and guavas.

It is well worth a visit to Las Nieves Chapel, near Puerto de las Nieves. This chapel is a testimony of Spanish conquerors devotion. It possesses a superb 16th century triptych by the Flemish artist Joos Van Clave. Lost in the labyrinthine streets of Agaete many buildings and churches, such as the church of La Conception, located in the main square, and the Chapel of San Sebastian highlight the traditional canary architecture of the 19th century.

During the hot, bright sunny hours, without a doubt, the “Huerto de las Flores” (Flower Garden) is a delightful place to visit. Pride and joy of locals, it is a small garden containing more than 200 species of plants and flowers from all over the world. The 19th century writer Olive Stone was captivated by the garden charm when he visited Agaete.


Maipés: the enigma of the Guanches

Agaete preserves invaluable pre-Hispanic archaeological remains in its surroundings. In the time previous to the Spanish Conquest, the region had become a thriving Guanche settlement. The town of Galdar was a main aboriginal capital.

In the heart of the Puerto de las Nieves, only a small plaque over a wall remembers that one of the two main Necropolises in the island, “Maipés de Arriba”, was discovered there. In spite of the fact that in 1973 Maipés was declared an “Artistic and Historical Monument” no archaeological excavations are held here. The Guanche graveyard of Maipés lies forgotten under new seaside buildings and “casas baratas” (originally council houses), a consequence of land speculation in the 70’s and 80’s. Neither the Spanish Government nor Canary Cabildo (regional Parliament) seem to be interested in safeguarding this patrimony of mankind against oblivion.

La Plaza (Main Square) and the Church of La Concepción
La Plaza (Main Square) and the Church of La Concepción

But who were the Guanches?… The origin of the Canary Islands indigenous population has long intrigued the anthropologies. The Guanches were tall, blond and blue-eyed natives that evolved in perfect isolation, far from either Europe or Orient civilizations. Mainly an agricultural and ranching society, this race was massacred by the Spanish invaders at the end of the 15th century. The conquest chronicles testify the legendary courage of the Guanches, who preferred a honourable death hurling themselves over ravines and precipices rather than becoming slaves of conquerors.

Traditionally the Guanches are related to the Berbers of neighbouring Morocco, who show, likewise, blond hair and blue eyes. The Encyclopaedia Britannica quotes that these people “are thought to have been of Cro-Magnon origin (…) and had brown complexion, blue or grey eyes and blondish hair”. Isolated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Guanches did not mingle sexually with other races, preserving their pristine Cro-Magnon genetic traits. However, genocide survivors were forced to crossbreed with invaders, losing the original race traits. At present, brown skin, thick lips and curly, black hair are the dominant genetic trends, as islanders have largely mixed with both Spaniards and South American people.

Guanche mummy found near the region of Agaete and kept in the Canaries Museum of Las Palmas
Guanche mummy found near the region of Agaete and kept in the Canaries Museum of Las Palmas


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