The original name given to the old territory of Awara, that ruled by the powerful Atogmatoma, has lasted out till the present time. Tijarafe lies on the western steep slopes of the Island, hurling itself from the mountain ridge towards the wild cliffs that split land and sea. Hereabouts such as Amagar, Arecida, La Punta, El Pinar, El Jesús, Tijarafe, Aguatavar and Tinizara are scattered between the boundaries set by the huge rifts known under the names of Las Angustias and Garome, on a land deprived of the moisture brought by the southwest-bound trade winds. Highroads and Ocean used to be the communication routes that once allowed the slow development of this all-farming Borough.
The landscape stretching along Tijarafe’s cliffs was reshaped after the return of those emigrants that were successful in the Americas; they betted on crops such as bananas, avocados and citrics. Further up, a range of fruit trees -including prickly pears-, vegetables and potatoes dot the fertile patches that climb the mountain. Yet, hiding in the pinewood, vineyards reign amidst hillocks and ravines. The strong wine-making tradition reveals itself on Montaña de Los Riveroles, where man-dug caves are used most effectively in a winecellar fashion. Tijarafe’s resine-flavoured wines enjoy a well-deserved fame. Its vineyards produce de must with which the first ecological red wine with a guarantee of vintage of the Canary Islands has recently been created.
Moreover, Rural Tourism is now living its golden days; the occupancy rate enjoyed by the Borough makes it a sector to take into account.
PUNTA DEL MORO and its legend
According to the local lore a great many Moorish, French, English… pirate vessels reached the shores of the Archipelago during the XVIth and XVIIth centuries; La Palma was no exception: looting and slaves traffic jeopardized the quiet lives of its inhabitants. Place-names such as Punta del Moro (the Moor’s headland) testify to the numerous visits stealthy Moorish vessels paid Tijarafe’s coastline, where they chased and boarded the small fishing boats of the natives, who luckily escaped by swimming into Cueva Bonita through one of its mouths and by getting away through the other; the fact that the pursuers did not know the existence of this geological phenomenom gave place to a great deal of unsuccessful pursuits.
BELIEFS between reality and fantasy
The presence of crosses along highroads, crossroads, promontories and ravines is something iherent to Tijarafe’s landscape. It is believed that the vertical axis of crosses link Heaven and Earth, whereon mortals live. Also, as a symbol of the eternal glory, the cross puts chains on the Devil thus preventing him from doing wrong.
Many of the stories that are told stem from this deeply rooted custom. It is said that lights are seen wandering about El Time and that its origin is due to the presence of lost souls who have not found God’s forgiveness yet. The yarn spins as follows: it was a pitch-dark night and some pilgrims were treading their way down the highroad that leads to Tazacorte’s port; having no other means to light their steps they used the wooden crosses they found along the stony and steep path as if they were torches, and so they were doomed to wander forever.
The same sort of offence was committed by an ill child’s aidant mother, but on arriving at the hermitage of Las Angustias she was repentant for having burnt the cross she had used, and she suddenly heard a forgiving voice that cured her dying son too. Her goodwill spirit still illuminates the rocky highroad.
The existence of the ghostly island of San Borondón is also held to be true, for it has been seen drifting aimlessly away on countless occasions emerging like an enormous whale now and then. Many are those who have witnessed its profile plotted on the horizon, but nobody has stepped on it as yet. This belief used to be so strong that the so-called eighth island, whereon paradise was to be found, was even drawn on maps as far back as the XVth century.
TRADITIONS within dry fields
Closely related to the sustenance-dominated economy that characterized rural chores were those jobs which used to fill people’s everyday lives long ago. Fruit trees surrounded the traditional rural houses and farmers took advantage of the shade they lavished and the fruits they provided them with: medlars, almonds, figs, prickly pears, grapes… filled the farmers’ pantries through different seasons.
The skillful peasant created tools in order to make collection tasks easier. Thus, they used long sticks with which to shake the branches of almond trees in september, and long wooden tongs to pick prickly pears and avoid their thorny touch.
The harvested product could be eaten fresh, or dried out in the sun so as to use it during the rest of the year. Grapes, figs and prickly pears are still dehydrated and stored in pitch pine boxes next to the almonds. These chores, together with the growing of cereals, vegetables and vines, as well as fishing, kept the people of Tijarafe constantly busy within the boundaries of its dry fields, where the meaning of this term was strongly associated with hard work, and where hard work equated to survival.
Tijarafe’s festivities calendar, in addition to the religious Christmas and Easter celebrations, includes the most important of all, the one with which the Borough identifies best: Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, on september 8th, on whose eve the Devil, in former times made of wood and cane and today framed and shaped in metal, dances on the streets among those present till dawn while shedding its luminous fireworks through a thousand vents -coloured flares that light a misterious and captivating night. Gigantes and cabezudos (carnival figures with enormous bodies and heads) dance about the black and ever fleeting demond, the very embodiment of evil.
Festivities such as La Cruz del Topito, celebrated in Tinizara in June, and that of La Punta on May 13th, fête the visitors with the traditional “Papas Asadas” (roasted potatoes) as well as various foods and local wines.
Also related to the merry atmosphere that characterizes these festivities is the musical expression known as punto cubano, which was brought to La Palma by those emigrants that returned. The “verseadores de Tijarafe” (versifiers) improvise ten-line stanzas to the rythm of a lute and percussion, and thus recite their experiences, their greatest joys and even their most atrocious sorrows.
Tijarafe’s rough orography offers the visitor countless nooks along the highroads and paths network that wind from the coastline to the mountain ridge -beautiful spots where the bountiful autochthonous vegetation sparkle with different green shades and creep along the old plots of ground now lost.
Deep ravines full of caves, cliffs that overlook the transparent seawater and face the ever flaring sunsets, modest dwellings that show among the pine trees and an everlasting list of sights can be found by trekkers and plain wanderers.
We suggest the visitor a walk or a mountainbike ride along the track that runs from Tinizara up to the viewpoint known under the name of Hoya Grande. This geographical milestone is crossed by the itinerary which starts from El Roque and heads down to El Time following the ridge that looks out on La Caldera.
Also attractive are those highroads that run along the steep rocks found in ravines such as El Jurado, La Baranda and Garome.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Mirador de El Time
At a height of 535 metres over the sea level, on the summit of the cliff that overlooks the amazing sights of Barranco de Las Angustias and Valle de Aridane, the visitor will marvel at the stunning rocky depression of La Caldera de Taburiente. A great number of streams flow from within the countless ravines that shape it to finally feed the watercourse that in rainy falls drains violently into the ocean, but which gives life to the banana plantations that seize the landscape. Towns and villages, plains and volcanic cones are subdued by the charming mildness of the ever present Ocean.
Iglesia de Candelaria
The visitor will find this XVIth century parish church surrounded by the town’s piazza and the narrow adjoining streets. The stone building keeps outstanding paintings and carvings. Its beautiful baroque reredos, unique in its kind on the Canaries, dates from the XVIIth century. The chromatic richness of its oil paintings enhances the superb carvings representing the twelve apostles who accompany the Flemish image of the Virgen the Candelaria.
From the simple architectural traits of the building walls and tiled roof its stone belfry raises up, the bells of which strike the hours, call to prayers or alert Tijarafe’s inhabitants when need be.
This cave, only accessible from the sea, hides not very far from Prois de Candelaria. Its two mouths swallow the small boats which, followed by seagulls, sail into this black cavern only lit by the turquoise glitter of the sunbeams in the depth of its waters. The ten-metre high cavity ends on an eighty-four-metre long stony beach.
But if there is a moment in time to visit Cueva Bonita and one much praised, that is sunset, when this astonishing cave fills with the reddish shades preceeding dusk.
Ermita de El Buen Jesús
The modest XVIth century hermitage of El Buen Jesús stands among the dwellings that make up the village named El Jesús and that extends north to the very boundaries of Barranco Jurado. The images of El Niño Jesús (the Holy Child) and the Virgen de La Consolación rest behind its door, which overlooks the blue Ocean. Today the hermitage, which has been classified as a State Cultural Property, displays a renovated façade and lives harmoniously surrounded by an interesting sample of popular architecture with which it makes a picturesque spot.
Not far the traveller will be able to find the once effort-costly highroad which used to communicate Tazacorte and Tijarafe.
Pico Palmero, at a height of 2,321 metres over the sea level, is Tijarafe’s highest peak. It is part of the steep rocks of La Caldera, whereon the old people of awara used to turn to, high above the world, in search of answers to their miseries. Twisted cedars sink their roots near the abyss and guard a number of symbolic stone heapings and engravings which for ages have testified to the sacred and obscure nature this site once had.
Barranco de El Jurado
On the way to town the visitor will inescapably find Barranco de El Jurado, an extremely deep and rocky ravine.
Chroniclers said it was named after the remainders of a natural rocky arch people used like a bridge to cross it in olden times. Palm trees, tabaibas, dragos and a great many endemic plants make way for pine trees within this protected natural space as the steep rocks raise to where kestrels and rooks nest.
Fuente del Toro
The Borough has prepared a small recreational area next to La Fuente del Toro, one among four springs that used to supply Tijarafe’s inhabitants with water. Wooden tables and benches as well as grills are offered to the passer-by on this site, just by the main road to Tijarafe.
La Casa del Maestro
Quiet and steep cobbled streets guide the visitor amidst one-storey houses whose painted woodworks add a colour note to their whitewashed walls. The house that once hosted Tijarafe’s first school can be found within the old part of the town, not far from the church. Thick walls and imperishable pitch pine woodwork support the building, which is handsomely laid out around a closed patio. This beautiful architectural example of the Canary Islands is today Centro Etnográfico (Ethnographic Centre) y Venta de Artesanía (Handicraft Selling Point).
The building, which has quite recently been restored, has been designed to show the Borough’s history, and exhibits, among other things, a collection of photographs dedicated to traditional Spanish festivals. The traveller will also find Tijarafe’s Asociación de Turismo Rural booking office in it.
An array of handicraft goods is exhibited in La Casa del Maestro, too: delicate embroidery, crochet and macramé, basketwork of various sorts made out of different fibres -palm and almond trees, wheat, rye, cane…- constitute a handicraft with a strong sense of identity.
But pottery is without doubt the most representative cultural manifestation of the old aborigines. A great number of hand-made rounded earthenware vessel and bowl reproductions decorated by means of incisions, dots, grooves, straight lines and concentric semicircles constitute this sample of dark pottery originating from La Palma.
Another room exhibits the historical and photographic material that illustrates the Devil’s figure, protagonist of one of the most crowded public festivities of the Island.
This old house built in the purest traditional architectural style stands within the old part of the town, near La Casa del Maestro.
The building is wholly dedicated to the promotion of the local gastronomy; therefore, all the basic food products of the area can be found in it. Most important is confectionary made out of almonds, the growing of which is closely linked to the agricultural tradition of the western side of the Island. The visitor will both be able to witness the elaboration of the most famous desserts and taste them: almendrados (almond pastry), bienmesabe (almond and egg cream), queso de almendra (almond cheese), praline, etc. Spirits, mistelas (orange liquor), and various kinds of jams will delight the most sweet-toothed persons.
Copyright. Asociación para el Desarrollo Rural de la Isla de La Palma (ADER-La Palma).