The arrival spring marks the start of celebrations throughout the 1,500 square kilometres of Gran Canaria. And this is no figure of speech.
The island, divided into 21 municipalities encompassing neighbourhoods, towns, and villages, quickly found a million reasons to celebrate once it found out that the weather wouldn’t spoil the fun.
The screech of a rocket shooting into the sky will tell you that someone, somewhere, is having a great time. Join in the fun. Buy a straw hat at any stall, order anything at any roadhouse, and join the celebration wave. Let your hair down!
Need an excuse to join up? Any will do, although there are several reasons for Gran Canaria to spend summers with music and street dancing. On the one hand, we have the calendar of saints’ days, with a large number of saints and virgins who find true and selfless devotion in Gran Canaria and receive offerings from the hands of hundreds of followers dressed up in typical island attire. Pilgrims try not to lose their balance among the large baskets filled with vegetables and sea produce, and the sound of timples (similar to banjos) and guitars.
The most important festivity from a sacred standpoint is that of the Virgen del Pino, held on September 8th, in Teror. Within a setting of traditional balconies, laurels, and ancient monkey puzzles, thousands of devotees place a myriad of offerings at the feet of the image. These offerings arrive on wagons and carts flanked by the best of ancient dress and Canarian folklore. On these special days, a wave of pilgrims begin a night walk to town from all cardinal points on Gran Canaria, some to fulfill promises, others out of pure and simple joy.
The other reason may be that the light of Gran Canaria brings joy to everyone. Months of joyful celebration with a blend of gatherings, sports tournaments, sun dances, open-air film festivals, and traditional music concerts on an island that really knows how to enjoy itself. And this is no figure of speech either.
How would we otherwise explain all the fun derived from a celebration drenched in mud, as during Santa Brigida’s festivity? How could it not be fun to watch half the town throwing water at each other in buckets or by other bizarre means, as happens in Telde? Have you not taken part in the celebrations held by fishermen in honour of the Virgen del Carmen?
Such festivities abound throughout the island. But there is still more, for there is also a third reason. In his or her own special way, each islander identifies several of these festivities with the customs of the ancient Canarians. The best known of such traditional celebrations is that of La Rama, which reaches its greatest moment in the Agaete village. During La Rama festivity, a large crowd bearing large branches picked on the hills at night marches towards the sea to the tune of lively and joyous musical bands.
The merry procession lasts all morning until the crowds reach the coastline, where the sea is embraced with a modern rendering of what is believed to be an ancestral rain dance.
El Charco - celebrated in the town of San Nicolás - should be attributed to the same pre-Hispanic origins. Every September 11th, at the cry of “Now!” and with the firing of a rocket, hundreds of people carrying baskets enter a large pond by a beautiful cobble beach to catch the slippery spiny loach fish with their bare hands. The spectacle in itself is somewhat amazing, as amazing as an island that, perhaps due to its fine weather or its people, has always got a smile on its face. It would be possible for a determined tourist in Gran Canaria to hop from celebration to celebration while barely touching the ground.