Garafia, village of windmills
The big Borough of Garafía spreads, from the coastline to the mountain ridge, within a 102-square-kilometer area on the Northwest of the Island, between the deep ravines named Izcagua and Franceses. Its rough orography is under the influence of the ever blowing trade winds; actually, the sight of old windmills characterizes its very landscape. The fayal-brezal and pine trees green coat that covers its mountains was long ago the main source of income for its inhabitants.
The ancient territory known under the name of Tagalgen was mainly populated by Portuguese jews who had been expelled from the Continent. The ownerless fields started to be given to them from 1579 on, and they were obliged to pay the fith part of the product of their labor; this system, known as los quintos, lasted till not very long ago.
Garafía was constituted in municipality in 1812, but it was not until 1906 that the King Alfonso XIII conferred it the title of Villa.
The economic activity of the Borough is based on farming, and there exists an important cheese industry which has a maturation and commercialisation center. Today, tourism has turned out to be another economic resource, one full of novelties; the quality of the accommodation on offer and Garafía’s beautiful spots guarantee the future of this prosperous sector.
Last but not least, the mountain summits of the Borough constitute a reference for the international astrophysicists community who are researching the Universe.
LA PARED DE ROBERTO and its legend
The magic nature found throughout the Island is especially intense on the summits of Garafía’s mountains. The local lore places the tragic legend of two lovers on one of its many ridges. Up there, by a lava wall not far from Los Andenes, the lovers met under the glittering stars. She was a handsome aborigine maid from Garafía, whereas he stemmed from Barlovento. Their passionate love awakened the Devil’s jealousy.
It is said He created the forementioned wall overnight in order to separate both youths, but the brave young man defied Him and fell into the depth of La Caldera de Taburiente while trying to climb over it. The Demon then wanted to possess the grieving girl, but she rejected Him and jumped into the abyss so as not to depart from her beloved. So it happened the Devil’s task was of no use, and, in a rage, He split the basaltic wall in two halves, to which a tragic nature has been attached ever since.
TRADITIONS linked to goatherding
Goatherding has lasted, despite the hardships the job conveys, throughout the years. Our forebears, for whom herds equated to survival, drove their animals wherever it seemed more likely to find the nourishing pastures they needed.
Goatherds are wise connoisseurs of hillocks, ravines, winding paths, springs… which they range accompanied by the jingling bells that help them to make out their animals in the distance if need be. They walk up and down, keeping their supplies in a satchel and holding a long pole -inherited from their pre-Hispanic predecessors- in their hands with which they skillfully help themselves across the abruptness of the wildness. These cool and self-possessed men live through a thousand stories, unexpected risks, extreme temperatures, long distances, still hours and an infinite solitude only alleviated by the faithful company of their dogs, the noble-hearted Garafiano, today considered to be an autochthonous race.
Once through the quietness of the milking rite, they will set themselves to make the delicious craft cheese which takes its smoked flavor from the burning of prickly pears, brezo or almond shells.
POPULAR and genuine festivities
The feasts calendar is marked by popular manifestations of local traditions which take place in the different hereabouts of the Borough. Small chapels are bedecked with colorful garlands and nights are lit by sparkling fireworks.
Thus, the Auto de Los Reyes Magos (allegory of the Three Wise Men) puts an end, on January 5th, to the preceding Christmas celebrations. The Cross’ Day, on May 3rd, is celebrated on the summit of Montaña de La Centinela, whereon the visitor will be offered various typical foods and music.
At the end of springtime, on June 12th and 13th, the hermitage of San Antonio del Monte, which dates from the XVIth century, turns into an extraordinary meeting point. It was the people of Gallegos who chose San Antonio de Padua, Portugal’s patron saint, as their own benefactor. Of the various events that take place, it is the livestock fair the one that attracts the most visitors: Beautiful samples of sheep, goats and cattle from the whole Island are exhibited together with the handsome dogs mentioned above. The day goes by among the scent of grilled pork, good cheese and abundant sips of local wine.
On June 15th and 16th, the festiviy of La Virgen del Carmen in Las Tricias is most well-known: In La Quema de Judas (Judas burning), a scarecrow makes a parody of the local society out of the reading of the soon to die fake man’s will.
The feasts in the honor of La Virgen de La Luz, during the second fortnight of September, put an end to summer and joyous gatherings.
The beauty and variety of Garafía’s landscape render it a treasure which is a must to discover: Its many sites of natural, archaeological and cultural interest as well as its traditions and varied gastronomy, not to forget the beauty of its handicraft, make up an appealing offer for those who are in search of a genuine environment that is still attached to a rural way of life. Also, trekking, climbing, mountain-biking or the so-called barranquismo (ravine ranging) will provide the visitor with the opportunity to get to know every single nook, a numberless array of surprising natural gems.
There are many routes the tourist may follow. Thus, we propose -for those more used to trekking- the old highroad which long ago communicated the different villages found on Garafía’s stunning rocky coastline: Setting out from Franceses, we will walk past El Tablado, Don Pedro, Juan Adalid, El Mudo and El Palmar down to Santo Domingo while enjoying the botanical richness of this gorgeous landscape. The so-called Ruta Verde (green route), which owes its name to the abundant vegetation and springs found within Barranco de la Madalena, between Don Pedro and La Zarza, will bewitch the walker as much as the path that links Las Tricias and Buracas, Barranco de Izcagua, El Castillo or Briestas. But if the visitor finds himself/herself in Santo Domingo, we suggest that he/she visits the nearby drago woods El Palmar or walk up to San Antonio del Monte.
The mountain summits also constitute a full range of possibilities. Should the trekker choose to walk from Roque de Los Muchachos to Pico de La Nieve, all along the ridge overlooking La Caldera de Taburiente, he or she will not regret it.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The steep streets of Santo Domingo, the main village of the Borough, may immerse the visitor in a world of sensations made up of big red-roofed neoclassical houses whose symmetrical façades enclose the public square, wherein its inhabitants meet. The old church stands on one of its sides. Though built in the XVIth century, the church was remodelled during the XVIIth century and turned into a two-naved temple whose Mudéjar-styled coffered ceiling was also re-made at the time. Within its walls the visitor will find interesting samples of religious images among which the veneered Virgen de Nuestra Señora de La luz stands in its own right.
The coastline of Garafía is constantly subdued to the strength of the sea waves dashing against it. It has been the sea that has moulded its very shape -stunning cliffs of great value now part of the Reserva Natural de Guelguén.
From El Serradero, viewpoint located in Santo Domingo’s harbour, we will see the rocks that emerge from under the sea and where guinchos -ospreys- nest.
The abruptness of the coastline has turned every inlet into a prois or mooring through which goods and people came and went in the past.
The botanical richness of the coast is also appealing: Robust tabaibales sink their roots deep in the ground so as to endure the strong winds that long ago made wooden windmills work and which today move the slender arms of eolian generators.
El Pinar de Garafía
The green coat made up by pine trees is especially valuable in this area of the Island for it adapts easily to the roughness of the ground and it can endure extreme temperatures, draughts and it will even re-sprout after a devastating fire.
This natural resource provided our forebears with tar, wood, kindling… The intense forest exploitation that has taken place throughout the centuries has not diminished the thickness of the woods that cover La Palma from the so-called codesal to the fayal-brezal.
Amidst the density of Garafía’s forests, now an Integral Reserve, ancient and majestic tree-tops stand out raising as high as 50 meters above the ground.
Parque Natural La Zarza-Zarcita
Within the green luxuriant laurisilva woods (redoubt of the tertiary era) the visitor will find one of the most important archaeological sites of the Canaries. The humid nooks known as La Zarza and La Zarcita zealously keep this fine engravings which we have inherited from the old awaras. Spirals, meanders and circles mix in a complicated weft of profound magic and religious meaning, for they were used to invoke the divine power and beg for the fertility of the fields which would then feed their herds.
The forementioned Archaeological Interpretation Centre has been built within the watercourse of the ravine. There we will get to know the key elements of this people’s lifestyle. Visits may be guided: Its paths are doted with panels which will reveal interesting facts about the flora and wildlife of the area.
El Roque de Los Muchachos
Sky and earth mix in a perfect chemical combination on the summits of Garafía’s mountains.
Impressive landscapes can be seen from above where a number of viewpoints overlook La Caldera de Taburiente. Such is the case of Los Andenes: The vertical rocky walls below it will let the traveller see the astounding depth of this Natural Park, which can be rightly considered to be unique in its kind.
Several roques, or rocks, crown this high spot whose altitude is 2,426 meters above sea level. The old inhabitants took their herds up here in order to feed their animals and pay tribute to their gods; the big amount of archaeological sites testify to it.
The stony ground is covered by a thick coat of codesos and a number of autochthonous plants such as the blue-flowered tajinaste and the violet.
Also, the most important astrophysical complex of the North hemisphere is located up here, for its pure atmosphere renders a privileged observation
site wherefrom to watch the misteries of the Universe.
Los caseríos de Franceses, El Tablado and Las Tricias
The seaside settlement known by the name of Franceses stands out among the many hereabouts which constitute Garafía; huge cliffs have shaped the locals’ lives, whose houses cluster along the winding narrow tracks which cross hillocks and rocky ridges.
The visitor will find wooden-roofed and stone-walled stables which in ancient times were used as dwellings.
The landscape that encloses the vertical and picturesque settlement of El tablado is also a must to visit. Dwellings and fertile terraced orchards stand amidst two deep ravines always facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Las Tricias, on the West of the Borough, is a fine village that is growing on the Northern margin of Barranco de Izcagua. The typical hermitage of Virgen del Carmen is located amidst a number of houses and it is the very core of the settlement; an old windmill and the nearby dragos woods are, together with an archaeological site, some of its fortes.
San Antonio del Monte
The emblematic hermitage of San Antonio del Monte lents its name to this big area where many a natural charm can be found mixing with the local heritage. Next to the old hermitage, the visitor will find the new Parque de Ocio y Naturaleza, a beautiful site where he or she will be able to enjoy what it has to offer through trekking or camping… Not far from it he or she will find a lodge which can house 48 people, a farm and the maturation cheese factory.
Besides, the walker will be able to reach La Zarza by following a fine track which leads to the interesting archaeological sites located further up.
Centro de Interpretación Etnográfico
La Casa de Cultura de Santo Domingo -Santo Domingo’s cultural center- is open, six days a week, for all those who are interested in Garafía’s special features. The visitor will be able to make a historical journey from the pre-Hispanic times till the present time through a series of panels, photographs and interactive multimedia systems.
The richness of Garafía’s landscapes, of its flora and wildlife together with its most deeply-rooted traditions and those linked to farming and handicraft are reflected in the three tematic rooms which are open. Furthermore, traditional customs are exhibited together with ethnographic material which confirms the identity of this Northern borough.
Copyright. Asociación para el Desarrollo Rural de la Isla de La Palma (ADER-La Palma).