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Canary Islands - Culture

Canary Islands Culture

The symbol of the Canarios' musical heritage is the timple, a ukelele-style instrument possibly introduced into the islands by Berber slaves shipped in for farm work by the Norman invaders early in the 15th century. The timple has travelled widely and been incorporated into the musical repertoire of Cuba and other Latin American countries. At traditional fiestas the instrument will accompany dances such as the isa and folía and, if you're lucky, the tajaraste, the only dance said to have been passed down from the Guanches.

The Guanches left cave paintings dating from the 13th and 14th centuries scattered around the islands, particularly in the cuevas (caves) of Barranco de Balos, Agaete, Gáldar, Belmaco, Zarza, and the Cuevas de El Julán. They mostly depict human and animal figures. It took centuries after the Spanish conquest for any artists of note to appear on the scene, but foremost among them was Gaspar de Quevedo, who painted in the 17th century. More notables from later centuries include Valentín Sanz Carta, who depicted the land in his 19th century works, and Manuel González Méndez, who was the islands' main exponent of Impressionism in the early 20th century. All the great currents of European art washed up on the Canaries. Among the abstract artists, César Manrique enjoyed a degree of international recognition. He is revered around the archipelago for his imaginative works and his tireless efforts to preserve Canary culture under the onslaught of mass tourism.

The Guanches do not appear to have known writing, but Italian historian Leonardo Torriani translated many of their ballads. Benito Pérez Galdós (1843-1920) is considered by some to be the greatest Spanish novelist since Cervantes, and he grew up in Las Palmas and moved to Madrid in 1862. Isaac de Vega has been one of the Canaries' most outstanding novelists this century, and his novel Fetasa is a disturbing study of alienation and solitude.

Spanish, or more precisely, Castilian, is the official language of the Canaries, and only place names from Guanche survive. Roman Catholicism gained an early foothold in the islands, and although many Canarios' religious faith may be doubtful, the Church still plays an important role in people's lives. Most Canarios are baptised and have church weddings and funerals, although less than 50% regularly turn up for Sunday service.

People normally socialise in the streets, and dinner parties and gatherings in people's homes are the exception rather than the rule. Canarios enjoy Mediterranean hours, with a late morning start, a long break for lunch, siesta and family gathering from around 2 to 5 pm, and then a few more hours work before dining and more socialising well into the night.

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