Puntallana (La Palma)
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
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.
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
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
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
Those mountainbikers who enjoy challenges may follow the hard steep track that
winds from El Granel to the top of Pico de la Nieve.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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