Canarian culture

Canarian culture
   Canary Island culture is dominated by peninsular Spain, but displays relics of a pre-Spanish, Berber past and additions from returning indianos (migrants returning from the Americas) and, most recently, northern European tourists and business people. This mixture of traits gives the islands a unique cultural life which is further diversified by local variations on each island. The language of the islands is Spanish, but closer to the Latin American variety than the peninsular: the lisped consonants "z" and "c" are pronounced "s", for example. In the colonial period, literature comprised mainly prose and poetic semi-historical or religious works. Not until the mid-nineteenth century did local writers begin to experiment with other literary forms. Many nineteenth- and early twentieth-century writers left the islands to further their careers in Madrid, Benito Pérez Galdós being the best known. Local writers who stayed in the islands, such as Tomás Morales, tended to be provincial and introspective, obsessed with the surrounding sea. The aftermath of the Civil War witnessed considerable poetic creativity, particularly by the Arca group, founded by Pedro Lezcano and Ventura Doreste and later joined by Agustín and José María Millares Sall. The generally anti-Franco attitude of such poets placed poetry in the vanguard of artistic activity in the islands, a status which it still largely maintains. The strength of modern Canarian poetry is confirmed by Justo Jorge Padrón, whose third book of poems Los círculos del infierno (The Circles of Hell) brought him national recognition. The Canarian novel has matured since the 1970s through novels such as Mararía (by Rafael Arozarena) and Guad (by Alfonso García-Ramos, 1930–80). Music in the Canaries is dominated at the popular level by folk styles and themes. Such music is normally performed by choral groups, accompanied by guitars, mandolins, drums and the timple (a small, three-stringed guitar). Some folk forms, such as the sirinoque of La Palma and the tajaraste of La Gomera, are reputedly pre- Spanish in origin and have much in common with the "Canarian", a dance introduced into late medieval Europe. Both Gran Canaria and Tenerife possess their own orchestras, and a classical music festival of considerable quality has been held in the two islands every January since the 1980s.
   Local religious sculpture and painting began in the seventeenth century, reaching its culmination in the work of José Luján Pérez (1756–1815). Secular landscape and portrait painting was begun in the mid-nineteenth century with the work of Cirilo Truilhé (1813–1904). In the twentieth century, Canarian painting was dominated by indigenismo (nativism) and surrealism, the former initiated by artists of the "Luján Pérez school" in 1918, and based on pre- Spanish forms. Indigenismo experienced a revival in the mid-1960s, in the "homoerotic" work of Pepe Damaso, evolved from that of Nestor de la Torre. One prominent artist, Cesar Manrique, through his interest in the volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote, developed as a landscape architect and has made a major impact on the planning of his native island. An unusual aspect of Canarian vernacular architecture is the use of caves, some of which, like those in the barrios (neighbourhoods) of Tara and Cendro (Telde, Gran Canaria), have been occupied since pre-Spanish times. A number of Christian chapels in rural areas are to be found in artificial caves, e.g. in Guayadeque and Artenara (Gran Canaria).
   Gran Canaría boasts the first golf course in Spain and the second oldest football club, both established by British traders in the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century Canarians took Olympic medals in sailing and swimming. Several pre-Spanish sports have been revived, and of these lucha canaria (Canarian wrestling) has a large following (see also Canarian press and media). Sailing lateen-rigged boats is another popular sport. The tourist industry and the islands" climate have attracted large numbers of wind-surfers to the eastern islands.
   The religion of the islanders is mainly Roman Catholic, though Protestant churches have been established by the British and the Korean communities. Pre-Spanish fertility and water cults survive in Christianized form in the Bajada de la Rama (Descent of the Bough, in Agaete, Gran Canaria), La Charca (The Pool, in San Nicolás de Tolentino, Gran Canaria), or in the Bajadas de la Virgen (Descents of the Virgin) held every four years in La Palma and El Hierro. Carnival, banned under Franco except in Tenerife, is a popular opportunity to lampoon officialdom through disguises and murgas (satirical songs and the bands that play them).
   In politics, tendencies towards self-determination have grown stronger since the demise of Franco. The archipelago is divided into seven Cabildos (island councils) which to a considerable extent pursue their own cultural policies. Pan- Canarianism has still to develop into a potent force, and inter-island rivalry, particularly between Tenerife and Gran Canaria, continues to be a powerful influence. The autonomous government is obliged to alternate parliamentary sessions between two buildings, one on Tenerife and the other on Gran Canaria. The rivalry between Gran Canaria and Tenerife was heightened in the early years of the twentieth century by the pleito insular (the island dispute). The pleito, which arose from administrative, educational, commercial and ecclesiastical differences between the islands, was temporarily resolved by the 1912 Ley de Cabildos (the Island Councils Law), which established the present local government system. The pleito was revived in the 1980s when the University College at Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, was made independent of Tenerife's University of La Laguna.
   Further reading
   - de Béthencourt Masieu, A. (ed.) (1995) Historia de Canarias, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria (a useful insight into various aspects of Canarian history).
   - Eddy, M.R. (1989) Crafts and Traditions of the Canary Islands, Aylesbury: Shire Ethnography (a comprehensive study by an ethnographer and archaeologist).
   - Galván Tudela, A. (1987), Las fiestas populares canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Ediciones Canarias (useful on popular traditions).
   - Hernández Bravo de Laguna, J. (1992) Franquismo y transition política, Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Centro de la Cultura Popular Canaria (an interesting study of the effects on the Canaries of political events on the Spanish mainland).
   M. R. EDDY

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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