The social hub at El Puertillo Beach
El Puertillo Beach, in Arucas, Gran Canaria, is an attractive and balanced blend of environments with a variety of uses.
The early morning sun rises up behind the silhouette of the mountains and begins to warm the sand, while Manuel Sosa and his group of friends observe the antics of a group of surfers, on El Puertillo Beach, at the northwest coast of Gran Canaria. Manuel is 92 years old and fondly recalls past times when those who went bathing, and that means properly bathing, numbered barely two or three: a couple from local village Bañaderos, along with another bather from Arucas. Many years and thousands of dawns on, Manuel comes here every day and sits along the promenade overlooking the ocean, just to check it is the same sea out there, while his Puertillo has become a dearly beloved jewel along the Arucas coastline.
What goes on every day on the fine sand of El Puertillo Beach serves to define the multi-faceted character of the area. Some surfers do stretching exercises before they dive into the Atlantic. At the same time, an old lady arrives with her grand-daughter and they make their way over to the shelter of the volcanic stone amphitheatre which rises up to the west. A couple roll out their towels and sink a sunshade into the sand, like a colourful flag. A young girl sits on her own reading a book, while back on the promenade, some locals sit down and let their legs dangle over the stone wall, and look out in dreamy and perhaps nostalgic fashion over the water.
“I witnessed all these houses being built”, states Emilio, who is part of Manuel’s group of friends. On the shore there are the remains of a few houses that show the signs of years of wear and tear. Some of these are set on huge basalt rocks which, before the buildings and promenade were constructed, used to act as wave breakers. The beach front is taken up mainly with bars and restaurants where the menus are written in salty letters, and with words that promise an intense seaside flavour. And on the corner which provides access to the promenade from the carpark there is a children’s play area, indicating the family oriented atmosphere of the area.
The volcano, wind and sea have left their mark at El Puertillo, a natural work of art which is apparent in the solidified foam and the huge rocks that seem to have been modelled on a potter’s wheel. The rocks are located on the dyke that protects the beach from incoming waves and acts as a barrier between turbulence and calm waters. At the exposed area of deep sea currents, a solitary fisherman strives manfully to catch fish that come in on the crashing waves.
The social gathering continues to gather pace on the promenade, although the participants are now different, joining or leaving the group depending on the obligations they all have. Manuel and Emilio can recall the time in which the surrounding area was just a farmyard and banana plantation, or when El Puertillo was the setting for slender sailing boats that would slide gracefully into the dock. They chat away right by the former warehouse, whose walls feature several discoloured coats of paint, next to which a number of small boats are resting, while a young surfer busily waxes his board without taking his eye off the sea, watching every looming wave with eyes of a hawk.
Opposite and to the east there are some hillsides where there are still some banana plantations, providing another attractive aspect to this seaside village location that has seen considerable growth, rather like a plant that has dug its roots in the form of houses and side streets that meander their way up the hillside, with sky roofs for sunbathing and enjoying the easy life, rather like the leaves of the banana trees themselves.