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All about the island of La Palma, in the Canaries.

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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Banana Museum, Tazacorte

When I first heard there was a banana museum in Tazacorte, I laughed. But since about 40% of La Palma's population works works in the banana industry (growing, packing shipping etc.) it makes sense. Besides, bananas are the 4th most important crop in the world, (after rice, wheat and maize), and this is the only museum about European bananas in the world.

The museum contains lots of information panels in English and Spanish, all about thing like the origins and history of bananas, how they're grown, their health benefits, and the geology and history of Tazacorte. There's also a good selection of tools used for growing bananas.

Open Monday- Friday, 11 am - 1:30 pm
(Groups of visitors 10 am - 14:30 pm, but only by prior arrangement - Tel 922 480151)

To find the museum, first find the church then head downhill. The lane meanders through some lovely old houses, but if you follow your nose whenever there isn't a sign, you'll find it - the building's yellowy-green. And you can't beat the entrance price - it's free.

Beside the banana museum stands a mojo museum, almost ready to open. (Mojo is sort-of Canarian ketchup.) I gather the hold up is mostly paperwork, because they want to make mojo on the premises. That would make it far more interesting, of course, but the paperwork for anything to do with food is far more complicated.

The soon-to-be Mojo Museum next door

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Thursday, 4 March 2010

Tazacorte Church

The outside of the church of St Michael the Archangel, TazacorteThe outside of the church of St Michael the Archangel, Tazacorte

On Thursday I was in Tazacorte, so I popped into the church. I'm not religious, but most of the churches on La Palma are beautiful, and worth at least a quick look. Even if the building itself isn't special, there's often a beautiful renaissance statue. In this case, I'd recently translated a text that said the church "was built at the end of the 15th century, making it the oldest religious building on the island. It has been restored, enlarged and altered on several occasions."

The old nave in Tazacorte churchThe old nave in Tazacorte church

Sure enough, this nave is very like most of the old churches on La Palma, with whitewashed walls, semi-circular arches, and a lovely coffered ceiling and baroque altar-piece.

The new nave of Tazacorte churchThe new nave of Tazacorte church

And this is the other nave! They weren't kidding about " restored, enlarged and altered" were they? I haven't been able to find out a definite date, but the style looks like the 1960s or 1970s.

The amazing thing is that the combination looks great. The architect must be a genius. I'm sure that if I tried to put a 1960s nave next to a 1490s nave, the result would be a right dog's breakfast.

Standing in the old nave of Tazacorte church, looking towards the new naveStanding in the old nave of Tazacorte church, looking towards the new nave.

So I tried to work out why the two very different nave look as though they belong to each other. Well, they both have white-washed walls, and the same floor and pews. They're joined by semi-circular archways, which are common in the old churches here. Both have wooden ceilings, although the new one is lower, lighter, and simpler. So I sort-of see why it works. but I still say the architect is a genius.

And yes, there's a very old painting of St Michael the Archangel defeating the devil.

Old painting of St Michael in Tazacorte churchOld painting of St Michael in Tazacorte church

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Monday, 29 September 2008

Fufo horses

Fufu horses in Tazacorte
Fufo horses in Tazacorte.

Today (Monday 29th) is the feast day of St Michael. Since he's the patron saint of Tazacorte, last night the town celebrated with their famous dancing horses. Famous on La Palma, at least.
Would you believe, it's the first time I've seen this in almost 18 years of living here.

Fufu horses in Tazacorte
The crowd following the fufo horses.

Well, it's fun. As you can see, a horse-shaped frame gets covered with strips of brightly coloured tissue paper. The "jockey" fits through the middle, and makes the horses dance. Altogether, there's about a dozen horses and one giraffe. Actually, whoever made the giraffe didn't spend a whole lot of time in zoos. It's exactly like the horses, except that the neck is a lot longer.

Fufu horses in Tazacorte
Fufo horse in Tazacorte.

The procession stars near the town hall. The band plays Mexican music, and horses move very fast, which makes it very hard to get a good photo, especially since there isn't much light available. They dance through the streets for maybe a kilometre, and then they have a break. at this point, a lot of people get their photos taken with the horses. Mostly, I think, children from the town. (Like most fiestas on La Palma, tourists are welcome to join in, but the locals do it for themselves.)

Fufu horses in Tazacorte
Tea break for the dancers. Well, probably not tea.

And then they dance their way back to the town hall, where the dance speesd up, and the crowd mixes in with the horses. By that time, the crowd were singing, Lo que pasa es que la banda esta boracha - "The thing is, the band's got drunk." They certainly weren't, you know, because they kept perfect time as the music got faster and faster and the dancing got wilder and wilder.

Fufu horses in Tazacorte
Fufo horses in Tazacorte.

One website says the horses date back to the 19th century, while the book on Palmeran fiestas says it was brought from Cuba "in the twenties", and the horses originally danced during carnival. I haven't been able to find out what the word fufo means. There is a Mexican word fufu, which means "to rebel against a difficult situation, like a spitting cat."
Fufu horses in Tazacorte
Fufo horses in Tazacorte in front of the Town hall.

And after the horses, there's a parade of carnival-style floats. To my surprise, there were only three of them, but they were beautiful.
Fufu horses in Tazacorte
Peter Pan float, Tazacorte fiesta
Fufu horses in Tazacorte
The beauty queens, Tazacorte fiesta

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