Today, May 30, it is the day of the Canary Islands. It is a holiday for the two Canarian provinces, and all over the seven islands there are Romerías (pilgrimages with parades and dances), Bailes De Magos (traditional folkloric dance shows), and celebrations at all levels. Although it is very early in the morning as I am writing this, I am sure the scent of barbeques all over our neighbourhood will begin to spread very soon.
For us, it is a day of communing with our Ancestors and our heritage. We are fiercely Canarian all year round, and honour our Ancestry almost daily, as all Espiritistas and Curanderos do – but still, today we take that extra step to celebrate with our spiritual family. Please allow me today to share a bit of ourselves with you.
A Brief Introduction To Our History
Canarians descend from the Guanches, the aboriginal inhabitants of the islands, which were of Amazigh Berber origin. The Spanish invaded the islands in the 15th century, enslaving and slaughtering thousands of Guanches. Although the invasion actually took two centuries because of the fierce resistance of the Guanches, in the 17th century the islands were finally part of Spain’s territories – during those two centuries, Guanches were stolen of their very existence and unique culture, forced to baptized into Christianity and speak Spanish, and became Canarians.
From there, Guanche history was erased from all areas of education and culture, and it still is an outlaw in many ways. It survived in folkloric traditions, and in the underground of society itself, as it always happens with colonized people. Craft and agricultural traditions, musical folklore, curanderismo, and our unique dialect*, still exist thanks to oral traditions, to the presence of the elderly in our families, and in syncretism with Christian practises and customs.
I have to say – even though we are extremely critical of any colonization, we are not Guanche reconstructionists, and we do not deny our identity as colonized people, because our direct Ancestors are part of it, and because we are too. It was my paternal grandmother, a devout Christian and totally patriotic Spanish lady, who inspired my love for Our Lady Of Candelaria, the colonized advocation of Guanche Goddess Chaxiraxi. So, I do not honour Spanish culture, but I do respect my own Ancestors’ traditions and life experience.
*Canarians speak Canarian, a dialect of Spanish and Guanche language that has been recently recognized as such by the Real Academia De La Lengua Española, the highest authority on the matter in Spain. We also speak with an entirely different accent to the rest of Spain.
Our Traditions On This Day
To be completely honest, this day is not really so different from our everyday life, because of the work I do, and because we do make a conscious effort on preserving our culture all year round. Today, we are only slightly more Canarian than we are the rest of the year :D.
Since I work mostly with international customers, I don’t take the day off, but after my work is finished, we prepare to enjoy the day with our Spiritual family. Of course, the first step is to cleanse our home, physically and spiritually. We will be receiving the visit of our Spirit family, and we want them to be happy and proud. After the regular cleaning, the house is cleansed with herbal incense smoke, and blessed with Holy Water.
The altar, of course, gets candles all day, and simple offerings of fresh water, incense or herbs. The celebration is not closed only to our biological Ancestry, so all the entities we work with are invited to participate in an informal way. Most will visit briefly to give their blessing along the day.
Canarian food will definitely be on the menu: today, it will be Puchero Canario, which is a dish of stewed vegetables and meat that we both love. Again, not so different from any other day, because we make this dish very often, since it’s so tasty and healthy – but today, our Ancestors get served at the table, instead of at the altar, and share the meal with us.
Without a fail, we eat gofio, a toasted flour made with many different grains that is absolutely essential to our gastronomy and culture. Since gofio is already toasted prior to grinding it, it does not need to be cooked, so it’s usually kneaded into soft balls with honey and milk, and eaten that way along any kind of dish, or by itself. It’s filled with nutrients (vitamins, fiber and minerals aplenty), so it’s usually part of a power breakfast, or eaten as a snack through the day.
It is very likely that the day will end in the garden, burning some herbs in the barbeque. Although this is not a Canarian tradition at all, I am a Bruja, and I love Burning Stuff Magic :D. Herbs of cleansing and protection are used to keep negative entities and energies away from our home and our neighbourhood – Rosemary, Rue, Wormwood, Moorish Sage, and Canarian Juniper will be the most likely options.
In all, it is a happy and relaxed day with family, that celebrates who we are, and who we can become. I sincerely hope you enjoyed this post – here’s a short documentary about Tenerife, my island, that showcases the most beautiful cities and landscapes. It’s in English, so all readers can enjoy it!