The Canary Islands have a rich, yet diverse history as the different tribes on the seven islands that compose this great archipelago had their own culture and customs back during the Spanish conquest. In addition, the significant migratory flow of Spaniards underlies the different influences that remain strong in the islands as the search for better life conditions during hardship and poverty post-war times took Spanish citizens to other countries and later back to their native land.
Because of the thousands of Canary islanders who furtively emigrated temporarily or permanently to South American countries and mainly to Venezuela during the 19th and 20th centuries, and the comings and goings that have brought Venezuelan immigrants closer to the Canarian coasts during recent years; many are the friendship, cultural and affective bonds that have developed through the years and today bring people from these two cultures together.
Even though these two places are thousands of miles away, Venezuelans share many things in common with Canarians and therefore we hold a special fondness for people from the latter culture. Moreover, many Canarian colonies still exist in modern Venezuela, and a large Canary-born population preserving the vocabulary, customs and traditions of its society keeps passing on these cultural features through generations, more so in Venezuela than in any other Latin American country. By the same token, Venezuela is largely referred to in the Canary archipelago as the eighth island, and more specifically, Tenerife is considered the Venezuelan Miami as most of the Venezuelan immigration concentrates in this insular area.
The Spanish language was introduced in Venezuela by the Spaniard conquistadors, many of which were from the fortunate Islands and participated actively in the settlement and development of Latin America. In fact, Venezuelan Spanish has been primarily influenced by Canarians to such an extent that it may be very difficult for other Spanish speakers to tell the Canarian and Venezuelan accents apart. This can be particularly noticed on peninsular Spaniards who typically can’t distinguish the slightly different pronunciation and inflection shades of both cultures.
Other examples of the Spanish and Canarian influence in the Venezuelan traditions are found in religion, architecture, music, food, and other aspects of the Venezuelan culture. For this reason, many of the customary Venezuelan dishes like arepas, cachapas, and hallacas can be found in the islands as they have become a small part of the local cuisine and culture much like the Bienmesabe has become part of the Venezuelan gastronomy when it is originally Canarian. The Roman Catholic also represents the primary religion adopted by Venezuelans in the same way that the Catholic faith is a symbol of the great majority of Spaniard people.
Because of the links that can be recognized between the Canarian and Venezuelan cultures, many different Canary-Venezuelan associations have been created through the years both in Venezuela and in the Islands in order to promote and drive all aspects of culture involving these two societies. An example of this is the “Club Hogar Canario de Venezuela” (Venezuela’s Canarian Organization) located in Venezuela, that arranges yearly celebrations and observes Canarian holidays in order to commemorate and keep alive their traditions, gastronomy, and even typical dresses no matter if they are away.
On the occasion of Columbus Day this past October 12th, one of the Canary-Venezuelan associations settled in Tenerife prepared a special event to rejoice this celebration by honoring the interwoven Canary and Venezuelan roots of all those Venezuelans currently residing in the island who have a Canary heritage, and all of those Canarians whose parents are returnees, just to give a couple of examples. The event was celebrated in the Guía de Isora County, where a large community of Venezuelans currently exists.
At the fair there were food kiosks selling traditional Canarian food and Venezuelan dishes, desserts, drinks and beer. There was also typical Venezuelan music including Joropo, tambores, Gaitas, merengue and salsa. A live band also livened up the afternoon, and later on a group of Canarian ladies delighted the audience with a great performance of “Isas Canarias,” which together with “Folías” and “Seguidillas” represent typical dances from this culture. Soon after, a combo of kids shook their bodies to the rhythm of the Venezuelan drums in honor to “San Juan” (Saint John) since the celebration was being held in the Playa San Juan (Saint John Beach) area.
At this event I felt like I was back in my native land and it was a nice sensation since for a while I had been feeling like I didn’t belong to any particular culture any longer. I was also able to learn more of the Canarian folklore including their dances and their costumes; there was some very touching poetry as well, and I really enjoyed myself while participating in this celebration.
History is all around and we have a lot to learn from the Spanish and Canarian legacy of our ancestors. Canarians were immigrants back in the days, not only because of their financial needs, but due to the Spaniards’ settlement plans for the Americas. Back then, they established a strong presence in our country, in the same way that we’re now returning by a wave of large-scale immigration to the land of our parents and grandparents looking for a better life. We can’t deny of our routs, and neither can modern Canarians who don’t welcome aliens forget their own history. “The kind of ancestors we have had is not as important as the kind of descendants our ancestors have.”
Image composition by: Coraline