San Andrés y Sauces
San Andrés y Sauces spreads on a 44-square-kilometre area which lies between Puntallana and Barlovento. Its landscape is shaped by deep ravines and rough hillocks, where eighteen different villages are to be found, among which Los Sauces stands as the county town.
The Borough faces north-east, due to which -and to its steep orography- the trade winds unload their humidity on its mountains thus creating the phenomenon known as horizontal rain, so very essential to feed the important aquifers which spring up all throughout it and mantain its exuberant laurisilva woods, not very long ago declared a precious Biosphere Reserve.
Impressive pine-trees grow on the high mountains of the Borough, whereas the strip of land near the coast, once speckled by a number of thermophilic forest samples, is today taken up by banana plantations. Within Barranco de San Juan, right in its watercourse, the visitor will be able to find the famous archaeological site known under the name of El Tendal, which testifies to the old Adeyahamen inhabitants’ occupation of the area.
Agriculture, main economic activity, traces beautiful scenes by way of banana plantations, yam orchards and vineyards, amidst which a deeply-rooted architectural style stands, such as in Los Galgitos, where ancient thatched cottages can still be found; whitewashed large houses, hermitages and churches all constitute the identity of the prosperous San Andrés y Sauces.
OLD CUSTOMS linked to water
La Palma’s inhabitants have developed, throughout the centuries, a number of peculiar customs linked to the use of water. The Borough’s rich aquifers fed by snow, rain and cloud condensation were not always generous. When no water sprang up anywhere and fields showed the signs of utter thirst, the old people of the Island resorted to rites and offered their gods their engraved stones so as to beg for fertility and abundance from them. Thus, galleries and wells are derived from the need to exploit this hidden-under-the-ground natural resource. Modern man has built cisterns by their houses, as well as dams and bankings where possible… in order to hoard this life-giving element. More than one-hundred and fifty galleries have been excavated with the effort of a great many labourers who carried out a hard work without the promise of certitude, for no-one could foretell if water would eventually be found. Beasts of burden were used to provide workers with the necessary tools to breach the steep ground. The cabuquero (drill runner), after opening a hole on the rock by means of a hammer, introduced gun-powder in it; once it had exploded, the waste was taken out loaded on wheelbarrows. Men shared their efforts and earnestly searched, so to say, the bowels of the earth till water flowed. Many a kilometre was dug out using pickaxes and shovels by the light of carbide lamps; the sound of wagons running along the galleries was part of the everyday routine. But not only were the endeavours done to find this precious treasure physical; also, huge amounts of money were invested in this praiseworthy enterprise.
In this northern territory crops such as sugar-cane, cereals, vines, cochineal and bananas subdued the land throughout the centuries and soon became the identifying marks of the Island’s local economy.
Landowners fostered sugar-cane plantations as far back as the XVIth century: the production of two sugar mills provided Europe with all the sugar the continent needed. For their proper functioning, the mills needed a constant chute, a great amount of firewood and many workers. Wherefore woods were reduced whereas the population of San Andrés y Sauces increased in numbers. The cane was first ground in the mills, and after a long process sugar, honey and alcohol were obtained.
But the sugar-cane plantations were slowly substituted by vines and cereals while an auto-consumption agriculture developed. Around the 1850’s the wine market collapsed and tuneras, that is Indian fig trees, were imported from America and consequently introduced in La Palma’s agriculture. A small scale insect lived on them; it was the dry bodies of the females that produced a red dye which revolutionised the industry. Peasants collected the whitish cochineal up until synthetic dyes took over.
Nowadays, the landscape is almost monopolised by bananas, but yam orchards are also found here and there. Its tubercle is simmered for a long time and then eaten together with fish and mojo (garlic and herbs sauce); or it may be cooked in vegetable stews or tasted as a dessert sweetened with molasses.
Also linked to gastronomy there still survives, not far from Puerto Espíndola, the only rum distillery found within the Borough’s boundaries.
LAND AND SEA flavoured festivities
A number of popular festivities are celebrated throughout the year: hermitages and churches are bedecked, parishioners find an excuse to gather in public squares, and fireworks speckle the sky.
Thus, every December Christmas carols are sung in front of the live Nativity scene which takes place in the high altar of San Andrés’s church, whereas the Three Wise Men allegory is specially colourful in Los Sauces’s. Shortly afterwards, carnival takes over. The Sardine’s Funeral (or entierro de la sardina) takes place in March; a flood of people weep the fish’s death, which symbolises the end of these gay pagan feasts.
At the end of May, crosses are finely adorned, and, in June, on Corpus Christi’s Day, the image of Jesus Christ goes through floral arches representing religious motifs of astounding beauty that bedeck San Andrés’ streets.
On the last weekend of June, fruit and flower garlands are hanged from the wooden roof of San Pedro’s hermitage, where a crowded, country-flavoured pilgrimage takes place.
The sea is also present in the Borough’s celebrations; in August, youths refresh themselves participating in the traditional Cucaña or greasy pole. By the middle of August, the Virgen del Carmen festivities cheer up Puerto Espíndola and its people.
No need to say that Our Lady of Montserrat’s -Los Sauces’s Patron Saint- celebrations are the most important and take place during the first fortnight of September. San Andrés’s feast, San Andrés’s Patron Saint, puts an end to the year’s festivities in the cool air of November.
Some of San Andrés y Sauces’ assets are the luxuriant vegetation of the Borough’s mountains and the salty breeze which lashes its coast. In between these two, many a track and highroad will bewitch the trekker.
First of all, we propose a visit to Los Tiles. On his or her way up, the visitor will come across the only hydroelectric station on the Island; next to the Centro de Interpretación (Nature’s Interpretation Centre) a path winds its way up to the vantage point known as Mirador de La Baranda, wherefrom the visitor will be able to enjoy a superb view of Barranco del Agua and then proceed to stroll to Los Sauces, or else go up the path that crosses la Biosfera as far as the famous springs of Marcos y Cordero amidst a matchless landscape: bridges, tunnels, stairs will eventually lead the stroller to Las Lomadas.
But if one’s wish is to get to know the hereabouts of the Borough, we suggest a walk, among bananas and yam orchards, from the Montserrat piazza, in Los Sauces, to the old part of San Andrés. The conic shape of the lime kiln stands in the depth of the ravine; farther down, Charco Azul and Puerto Espíndola will be awaiting swimmers.
SITES OF INTEREST
El Canal y Los Tiles
The north-eastern mountainous landscape of the Island keeps this valuable gem which was declared Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO back in 1983.
The Parque Natural de Las Nieves displays its greatest beauty in Barranco del Agua. Its watercourse has been moulded by the unceasing flowing of waters through thousands of years: erosion has given shape to a deep ravine where laurislva, redoubt of the Tertiary Era, grows.
Shady and cool paths will invite the walker to enter this varied vegetal world made of giant ferns, laurel trees, tiles (lime trees) , palos blancos, barbusanos, viñátigos… which grow much favoured by the climate conditions. The abundance of leaks and springs show the important aquifer flowing under this stunning orography.
The Centro de Visitantes (Visitors’ Centre) offers information about the main ecosystems to be found within this 511-hectare Park. Its recreational and camping site, its viewpoints and paths have been set up so as to let the walker admire its luxuriant and precious nature from within.
Iglesia de Nuestra señora de Montserrat
Among those who founded this Borough there were some who stemmed from Catalonia. The devotion paid to Our Lady of Montserrat is thus ascribed to them. The church was built shortly after the Conquista (the Conquest); its size and style were reformed during this century. Its thick stone walls shelter valuable works of Flemish art, of which the carvings of Virgen de la Piedad and of Our Lady of Montserrat are, together with the oil painted of the latter, fine samples.
Life flows around the big public square -to be found in front of the temple- and the cosy little park, known by the name of Antonio Herrera, on the other side of the main road.
Barranco de San Juan
This handsome spot is within Parque Natural de Las Nieves; its singular geomorphology is speckled with caves which in ancient times were the aborigines dwellings. The most important one is called Cueva del Tendal, and it has a great archaeological interest: several excavations have been carried out in its surroundings, the results of which have shed some light on the Island’s pre-historic way of life.
The Cuchillete de San Juan is a small promontory which erosion has isolated in the middle of the ravine. On its rocks there exists a redoubt of the old thermophilic flora of which Sabinas, acebuches, cornicales and brooms are but a sample.
Puerto Espíndola and Charco Azul
The strength of the sea dashing against the rocks is one of the characteristics of La Palma’s northern coast, which is mottled with a number of jetties placed within the numerous inlets found along it by the ravines that exit into the often rough waters. Puerto Espíndola is, due to its size and activity, the most important of them all. It was, during the XVIth and XVIIth centuries, an essential port from which vessels sailed for America loaded with wine, rum and cereals. From this natural cove sugar was sent to Europe and immigrants departed towards faraway countries such as Venezuela and Cuba.
Not far from it the traveller will find Charco Azul, recreational site by the sea. Some seawater swimming-pools have been created taking advantage of the very physiognomy of the coastline.
Nacientes de Marcos y Cordero
Going up the steep slope on which the village known as Las Lomadas is settled, the visitor will get to the hermitage of San Pedro Apóstol, which stands, neat and simple, in the middle of a square that looks out on the rough landscape. The casa forestal (house assigned to forest officers) is the starting point of the way that leads to the most important springs to be found on all the seven Canary Islands. Silence is broken by the chirping of birds accompanied on an echo of moist sounds. The walker will have to go through narrow tunnels dug out, at the beginning of this century, to reach the springs and channel the abundantly flowing water; but this not always was so, for long ago water streamed down the ravine and emptied into the sea. The greenness of the vegetation covers the steep rocks that enclose this spectacular paradise.
Ermita de San Juan Bautista
The visitor will find the hermitage of San Juan Bautista in the village known under the name of Los Galguitos, sited in a public square named after it. The stones of the corners of the building, which dates from the XVIth century, mark out the limits of its rectangular nave. Narrow windows breach its walls and a Renaissance dome crowns, as if resting on a glass base, the wooden roof.
The surroundings of the hermitage look out on the nearby Cuchillete de San Juan, Los Sauces and San Andrés.
Old part of San Andrés
San Andrés was the area’s first colonial settlement. Its cobbled streets will lead the visitor to cosy and picturesque nooks where history and tradition ooze out. Its church, built in 1515 to honour the Patron Saint San Andrés Apóstol, originally had an only nave which was afterwards, in subsequent centuries, enlarged up to its present cross-shaped, Latin form. Three baroque reredos outstand within its walls; as for the images, the Flemish carving of Virgen de La Victoria and the baroque Virgen del Rosario deserve a different treatment.
Aristocrat traders and landowners who made their fortunes by growing sugar cane had large, handsome houses built not far from the temple. Big windows, crosshatched façades and long balconies that were used as verandahs overlooking the Ocean, embellish this beautiful village sited near the coast amidst luxuriant banana plantations.
El molino “El Regente”
The richness of San Andrés y Sauces’ aquifer rendered this Borough one of the Island’s main economic cores back in the XVIth century. Water was channelled towards the two existing sugar mills, where wheat was also ground thus providing its people and the inhabitants of the nearby Barlovento with their necessary supply of cereal.
The old mill known as “El Regente”, which don Luis de Vandewalle y Quintana had built in 1873, testifies to the fruitful past of the Municipality. It stands on hillock, just above Los Sauces; narrow alleyways and picturesque traditional houses mark out the steep road that leads to it.
The mill has a house, a tower and an aqueduct, stables and a number of courtyards and patios. The mill’s mechanical heart only beats to show the visitor that it still has strength to move its antique machinery. Today, the Handicraft Selling Centre and the area’s Tourist Information Centre are housed within its walls. Potters, tinsmiths and wool spinners show their handicraft in El Regente, where the visitor will be able to purchase, among other things, delicate embroidery, traditional costumes and a varied sample of basketworks made with the rich raw materials found in the nearby laurilva woods.
Copyright. Asociación para el Desarrollo Rural de la Isla de La Palma (ADER-La Palma).