Fiestas of the Virgin of la Cuevita, in Artenara, Gran Canaria

The fiestas of the Virgin of La Cuevita in Artenara tie in with the rich tradition linked to the house caves up at this summit location of Gran Canaria.

Artenara, at the summit of Gran Canaria, is inherently connected to stone. It is a town that is in permanent union with the depths of the earth. In fact, at this deeply traditional town, caves used to be lived in, and out of them a string of rich and exclusive craft, pottery, culinary and peasant traditions have been forged. Indeed, a large part of the modern constructions here are actual extensions of old house caves.

The outside of a House Cave in the municipality of Artenara

Religious faith, like the water springs around here, also sprang up in the local caves, and continue to resonate today. Therefore, it should be of no surprise that the town should worship the Virgin of La Cuevita, who owes her name to the town that shelters her. This patron saint, just like the rest of the neighbourhood, nestles in a cave hewn out of volcanic tuff rock.

Over many years, the townsfolk shaped the rock into an altar, a choir stand, a pulpit and a confessionary, in keeping with the fine wooden-carved figure measuring just eighty centimetres tall, who despite her tiny stature, has been able to move mountains, thanks to the devotion she has sparked through the centuries here at this summit location of Gran Canaria, which touches the sky at over two thousand metres altitude.

Sanctuary of the Virgin of la Cuevita, in Artenara

In Artenara, having a heart of stone means precisely the opposite to anywhere else. The fervour and passionate and devout character –the only combination that allows for prosperity in a society which is as beautiful as it is extreme- reaches a crescendo on the last Sunday in August (this year falling on 27th).

On this great day, the Virgin of La Cuevita temporarily abandons her rocky dwelling to be carried aloft as far as the Church of San Matías where she is honoured for several hours until nightfall, at which time she returns home to her little house cave, just like any man or woman from Artenara, although in her case She is eternal. The Lady makes a grand entry amid fireworks and torches which light up her path on her return to her troglodyte home.

Celebrations at the Fiesta of the Virgin of la Cuevita, Artenara
Celebrations at the Fiesta of the Virgin of la Cuevita, Artenara

The Virgin of La Cuevita is patron of the folkloric groups and cyclists in Gran Canaria, a fact which explains her presence in the 2017 official fiestas programme at the 42nd annual Cycle Ride to Artenara, an event which is to be held on Saturday 19th August with the first riders expected to reach town at one o’clock in the afternoon. This is followed later that evening by one of the greatest annual popular music gatherings in Gran Canaria, ‘A night in Artenara, with friends of José Antonio Ramos’, featuring leading stars, including famous timple guitar player Domingo Rodríguez, ‘El Colorao’.

Fiestas in honour of the Virgin of la Cuevita
Artenara, Gran Canaria

The day before, the aptly named exhibition ‘Artenara, a place among the clouds’ is to be inaugurated, with works by Francisco Ortega. The skies and awesome countryside that Artenara perches over led to distinguished writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno defining this vision as a “petrified storm”. The viewpoint that carries his name commemorates his passing through the summit and the great impact the views had on him, and beyond that, on the depths of his soul. The same might happen to you if you go up to Artenara.

Balcón de Unamuno, in Artenara, Gran Canaria