Rooftop Crow’s Nests

Traditional roof with a space to view the port of Santa Cruz de la Palma.
Traditional roof with a space to view the port of Santa Cruz de la Palma.

Three hundred years ago, Santa Cruz de la Palma was the third biggest port in the Spanish Empire. Almost every ship traveling from Spain to the Americas stopped here. In the 19th century, it was still a major port, and many of the inhabitants waited anxiously for a ship bringing their merchandise, letters from family members who’d emigrated to Cuba or Venezuela, or the loved ones themselves, as passengers or crew.

These days, Santa Cruz de la Palma is a bit of a backwater. But many of the older houses still have viewpoints on the roof, like a little crow’s nest. They’re all designed to give a view of the port, although in some cases the view is now blocked by a tall, new building, like these houses in the Calle Real. They’re a nice reminder of the past, and I have fun trying to spot them, even though I’m sure that nobody uses them to track ships in the internet age.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

This article has 1 Comment

  1. …and they were used as lookouts to give early warning of pirate ships approaching – often manned day and night. In years gone by the Canary Islands were often raided by pirates. These crow’s nests can still be found in most seaside towns in the Canaries where traditional houses remain.
    Thanks for an inspiring article and a great photo.

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