Chroniclers alluded to it as the seventh kingdom of the Island by the name of Tenagua. This Borough raises from the very coastline up to the top of the mountain tracing a triangle of fertile soil. This is blessed by the trade winds that bring onto it the dampness which filters down the earth and feeds the aquifers that then spring up here and there -the fountains and springs of which the people of Puntallana are so proud.
Hereabouts such as La Galga, El Granel, San Juan de Puntallana, Santa Lucía and Tenagua are sited between Barranco de La Galga and Barranco Seco. Its sloping profile is marked by nine mountains of great botanical value; its laurisilva woods (redoubt of the tertiary era) surround the lives of Puntallana’s people, who for generations have been able to live on the benefits derived from the earth. Cereals have been the Borough’s agricultural product par excellence; from its jetties and prois (name given to the inland stone or rock to which ships are moored) sailed a great many vessels loaded with wheat and wood for other islands. The economic development of Puntallana has always depended on the ups and downs of crops and the subsequent famines, thus provoking the migration of its people, who crossed the Atlantic in search of new prospects either in Cuba or in Venezuela. Today, vegetables, vines, fruits and, above all, bananas meet the guidelines set by the new market trends. Rural tourism is another economic alternative that is making its first moves.
THE LOVER’S JUMP legend
The local lore places this tragic story on the cliffs of La Galga, whereon a brave goatherd utterly in love with a peasant girl -whose real intention was that of breaking away from his harassment- accepted an impossible challenge to win her affection. She would offer her heart to him if he, resting on his stick (pole with which goatherds help themselves to overcome the steep slopes of the western Canary Islands), could turn right round over the abyss three times in a row and save his life.
He entrusted his soul to God, to the Virgin and to his beloved. He was able to demonstrate his courage and vigour in the first two attempts, but in the third his strength failed him and his body dropped down the sheer fall of the cliff. His thirst for love blinded him and he died while pursuing it, whereas she lost her sanity and mourned for him every one of her remaining days. This place has been known under the name of El Salto del Enamorado ever since.
The immense and powerful Ocean that dies against the coastline used to be a source of inspiration from which many of the misterious stories traditionally told were drawn. Like the one told about La Cueva del Infierno (hell’s cave), wherein pirates and corsairs kept their treasures from curious eyes. The story goes as follows: The Devil lived in the darkness of this cavity, fifteen meters below the sea level, straight down the eternal fire. On San Bartolome’s day, Puntallana’s people try to keep away from the Devil by arranging garlic and loops to tie to his testicles, at large on the day of the Saint’s glorification.
In Puntallana, the attraction towards fire reveals itself year after year on the days before San Juan. This element, together with water, air and earth create a magic in which people blindly trust.
The correct interpretation of these natural symbols will foretell those events that will take place throughout the forthcoming year in such a way that people will be able to know whether or not they will live healthily through it, if they will engender offsprings or marry their better halves.
TRADITIONS linked to the sea, to monteverde and to cereal fields
Out of the knowledge that stems from getting what nature provides us with derive traditional tasks essentially linked to the sea and to monteverde (kind of wood found on the strip of land under the influence of the trade winds).
The locals, as though it were a pilgrimage, used to descend to the coast, to the headland known as Punta Salinas, so as to collect the precious salt, limpets, winkles, etc., a wealth offered by the Ocean when calm.
Furthermore, the luxuriant vegetation was another source of riches for it provided different sorts of wood, thus contributing to the local economy.
Yet there is something which characterizes this Borough best, that is cereals. Puntallana was the granary of the Island in olden times; place-names such as El Granel, Puerto Paja or Puerto Trigo testify to the importance this kind of crop once had. Produce like barley, rye, wheat, oats, corn, lupins…were grown, harvested, threshed, roasted and ground.
The ethereal wind separated the straw from the grain in the cobbled threshing floors while it blew up the sails of the mills on the windy hills.
The result of so much work, that is gofio, was worth the effort; the various kinds of roasted grains were then mixed and ground to compound this nourishing flour which originates from the Canary Islands. The aborigines hoarded it. There is no need to say millstones have turned round tirelessly since then.
FESTIVITIES that run between magic and religiousness
Many are the celebrations pervaded by joy and tradition. The most important of all is San Juan’s feast (June 24th); the previous eve bonfires enclose the magical and shortest night of the year. Fire purifies souls, keeps witchcraft away and protects those who jump over its flames against deseases and all wrong.
There was a time when the pilgrimage setting off from Santa Lucía was one of the most crowded of the Island. Her image, adorned with flowers and fruits, was taken in a sailing procession. This sea-flavoured festivity has faded away with the pass of time; nonetheless, every 13th December the Virgin is bedecked in her best dress.
San Bartolomé’s main street is also bedecked on August 24th, when the all-popular grape harvest starts.
Other festivities must be added to the former two, though. The festivity of La Cruz takes place on May 3rd; at the beginning of July, Tenagua celebrates the festivity of Sagrado Corazón de Jesús.
Handicraft, closely related to the most modest social classes, emerges as an economic necessity at times when everything is scarce. Peasants take advantage of their leasure time while the elderly use their inescapably idle years to develop their habilities and spend their time working on inherited crafts with a great skill.
Basketwork made out of follao (kind of tree found in laurisilva woods) sticks takes root in the cereal tradition of Puntallana; yet, wicker, chestnut and cane are also used to elaborate solid baskets of burden.
Besides, women provided with pincushions, thimbles, needles and thread put their expert stitches in tablecloths, cushions, table covers, sheets… thus creating a fine array of embroidery articles.
Needlework, traditional pottery, confectionary and so on widen the range of handicraft products sold at Casa Luján.
We must not fail to mention the job carried out by shoemakers, one that has nearly fallen into oblivion. A smell of leather and rubber pervades the workshop where the traditional shoes and other exceptional goods are made out of freshly tanned skin.
Gofio is the most typical product; together with cheese, papas (boiled potatoes dried in a saucepan), mojo (garlic and herbs sauce) or fruits it is always present on the natives tables, although in Puntallana it is mixed with honey, raisins, almonds and sweet wine.
Confectionary, marmelade and different sorts of jam, spirits and syrupy fruits are deeply rooted in La Galga’s cooking tradition.
One among the diversity of possibilities to take into account is the walk along Procesiones street, which runs just behind the church of San Juan. This takes the visitor where the most prestigious families decided to site the village settlement. From its promontory Casa Luján enhances the beauty of the village, speckled as it is by a sample of small houses built under the influence of rural traditional architecture. The road ends up by the Fuente de San Juan, where the stroller will be able to quench his or her thirst.
Trekking through the laurisilva woods found in El Cubo de La Galga the visitor will enter a world made of luxuriant green shadows and of an orchestra of moist sounds.
Those mountainbikers who enjoy challenges may follow the hard steep track that winds from El Granel to the top of Pico de la Nieve.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Mirador de Las Vueltas de San Juanito
On the way to Puntallana the visitor may halt at Las Vueltas de San Juanito, which extend to Barranco Seco -on the Borough’s east boundary. From this viewpoint one’s gaze reaches the boroughs of Mazo, the Breñas and Santa Cruz, the slopes of which hurl themselves from the mountain ridge towards the deep blue Ocean.
The viewpoint looks out on to the beach, that invitingly offers itself, wild and beautiful, as if protected by the vertical cliffs that shape Puntallana’s abrupt coastline. Long ago turtles crept along its sand so as to lay their eggs within the warm blackness of this safe shelter.
The visitor will reach it by following the winding path that runs at the foot of the cliff; within half an hour, the finest beach of the island will have become true.
Templo de San Juan
Its stone-bodied and steel-hearted belfry seem to raise sky-high. The Church of San Juan Bautista was built after the Conquista -the Conquest- but had to be rebuilt in the XVIIIth century. Within its stone walls the visitor will find a superb baroque reredos wherein a Patron Saint’s Flemish carving dating from the XVIth century stands.
Its magnificent coffer is painted in blue shades, and it is one of the many samples of mudéjar style which may be seen on the Island.
This large noble house dating from the XIXth century is sited in San Juan. Its builders used stone, tiles and centenarian timber to put it up, and followed the traditional building trends of the past century.
The antique furniture, decorative pieces as well as the drapery and upholstery found in its several rooms enliven the scenery of a long-lost life-style, today an interesting and fine Ethnographic Museum (open from 10 to 13 hours, and from 16 to 18 hours).
In this building, formerly the Town Hall and then the School, are placed the offices of both Turismo Rural Isla Bonita and Centro de Promoción y Venta de Artesanía Tradiconal (Centre for Promotion and Handicraft Selling Point).
Fuente de San Juan
Under the generous shade lavished by the trees that guard it one can listen to the chanting mood of the squirting water, the tinkling of which has always been familiar to the people of Puntallana from the days the spring was a daily meeting point where friendships and romance among villagers awakened.
Not far from it the stroller will find the fuentiña (little fountain) where women used to wash linen and clothes; the troughs from which animals quenched their thirst were also nearby. Every year, the Patron Saint is taken out in a procession to thank Him for the precious life-giving liquid.
Ermita y miradores de San Bartolomé
At the foot of Montaña de La Galga the visitor will find the small hermitage of San Bartolomé, which dates from the XVIth century. The Virgen de Nuestra Señora de La Piedad rests within its mute whitewashed walls. Close to it there are two fine viewpoints which offer a picturesque scene: ridges, mountains, deep ravines, hills and steep rocks overlooking the sea. Small houses are scattered within the thickness of the luxuriant and deeply green vegetation which characterizes this landscape as if in a misty water-colour. From this vantage point one can also see the cliffs whereon the unfortunate lengendary goatherd met his death.
Cardonal de Martín Luis
The stroller will find Barranco del Agua, Site of Scientific Interest, along a stretch of 3 km running between Tenagua and San Juan de Puntallana. Xerophilous endemic species of the Canaries gather within one of the most striking spots of the Island. Cardón, tabaiba, retama, cornical… spread throughout these volcanic slopes and live together with banana plantations, very much rooted in the coastal area of this borough.
Sited at a height of 2,321 meters over the sea level, on the very ridge of La Caldera and within the boundaries of Parque Natural de Las Nieves, it is the highest point of the borough. Pinewood and thicket ecosystems survive among the many signs left by the aborigines: hovel remainders, stone heapings, rock engravings, pottery and stone fragments…
Near the mountain ridge the visitor will be able to see one of the works realised by the well-known artist from Lanzarote, Cesar Manrique, one which he dedicated to the union of the peoples of the world in the observation of the Universe.
Ermita de Santa Lucía
Santa Lucía is settled near the mountain of Tenagua, natural vantage point wherefrom the natives watched the horizon. The hermitage of Santa Lucía stands amidst its dwellings, surrounded as they are by tall palm trees and long-lost cereal fields. It shelters the serene-faced image of the Virgen de Santa Lucía, Flemish carving dating from the XVIth century. People from every corner of the Island come to Her to plead for a healthy eyesight.
El Cubo de La Galga
The deep Barranco de La Galga submerges the visitor into a world where mist hides misterious nooks and ancient woods freshly humidified by the intense dampness that the trade winds leave on their dashing against the mountains profile.
Tiles, viñátigos, barbusanos, laurel trees, ferns…are species that constitute the laurisilva wood, which grows as though it were a giant around the deep shady gorges deeply eroded by running waters.
In the thickness of the monteverde, silence is broken by the beating of wings of palomas turqué and rabiche (pigeons endemic of the Canaries) and the subtle rustling of a million living creatures wandering in the undergrowth.
Copyright. Asociación para el Desarrollo Rural de la Isla de La Palma (ADER-La Palma).