Author Archives: Proyecto Tarha

The Essentials (VIII): The Comedy of the Reception

Comedia del Recibimiento. Cover of the 2005 edition by Professor Oswaldo Guerra Sánchez.

DORAMAS

Guanda demedre tamaranone tasuguiet besmia

mat acosomuset tam obenir marago, aspe anhianacha

aritamogante senefeque senefeque.

CURIOSITY

What does he say, sister?

WISDOM

He is inviting us to lunch; and he says

he will give us many potages, Canarian style, and he asks us

to sit down.[1]CAIRASCO (2005), p. 34. This translation by PROYECTO TARHA.

Although not being a core work to know the ancient history of the Canary Islands, joining this to our Essentials is justified by its literary and philological significance.

Composed between 1581-1582 by Canarian canon, musician, poet and playwright Bartolomé Cairasco de Figueroa (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1538-1610), the so-called Comedia del Recibimiento (Comedy of the Reception) is a small stage play whose destiny was to be represented to welcome the new bishop of Canaria, Fernando de Rueda. In this play, six characters –five allegorical: Wisdom, Curiosity, Invention, Gáldar and Guía, the two latter representing the homonymous Grandcanarian locations, and one historical, Canarian warrior Doramas– introduce the Archipelago virtues to the Prelate.

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Footshapes at Teguise

¡Tindaya no se toca! (Don’t touch Tindaya!) campaign logo showing a pair of footshapes (source: www.lacasademitia.es).

Footshapes are rock carvings showing what appear to be human feet plants. Although present in different cultures, on the Canary Islands they were an artistic expression of Maho indigenes common to both the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, whose exact function is enigmatic by now but does not seem unreasonable to think they were related to magical-religious rituals.

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The Essentials (VII): The Cabitos' Inquiry

Teguise

A view of Teguise town (Lanzarote) in 2016 from Mount Guanapay. Named Gran Aldea (Great Village) by Europeans in the fifteenth century, it was the capital of the Seigneury of the Isles of Canaria and the scene of residents insurrection against Inés Peraza and Diego de Herrera’s rule that gave rise to Cabitos’ Inquiry (source: PROYECTO TARHA)..

[…] and we as people few and poor, miserable, ignorant, living on this island, poor having nothing to provide us or feed us but the skies and goat herds, and we have no other property or income to live on. For, Lord, if we pick bread one year, two years we do not pick it, and so we are living on this land, in our misery and poverty, and they take the above said tax from us […]. And about that all, the above said Lords Diego de Herrera and Doña Inés, his wife, are not contented […] every day they do us more harm, taking us out of our homes, making us abandon our wives and children, taking us by force against our wills to other islands of infidels where many of us died and still die and make us keep towers and fortresses […] not wanting neither to give nor to pay us any wage […] and we dare neither to tell them nor to repeat to the above said Lords nothing of such grievances they do to us because of the great fear of them we have until make it known to Your Highness, to whom we plead with loud voices, as very miserable and aggrieved people, that Your Highness remedy us with justice, for, Lord, we are isolated on the islands, on the said island of Lanzarote, which is far apart from the kingdoms of Spain, westwards in the sea. [2]Aznar Vallejo (1990, pp. 173-174) –adapted from old Castilian by PROYECTO TARHA–.

Promoters of this plead never imagined that their requests would give rise to the most important public file kept on the conquest of the Canaries.

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On tarjas and pintaderas (2/2)

The famous dragon-tree at Icod de los Vinos, Tenerife. This tree-like plant (Dracaena draco) was used by ancient Canarians to make the shields that some authors called “tarjas” (fuente: Wikimedia Commons).

In more or less plausible relationship with the pintaderas cited in the first part of this post, ethnohistorical sources mention the use of badges or emblems among Gran Canaria indigenes. Let us quote some relevant texts.

From Antonio Sedeño‘s account:[3]MORALES (1978, pp. 367, 369). Translated from old Castilian by PROYECTO TARHA.

[…]  they brought bucklers taller as a man, made of rough light wood from a tree called dragon. The sword they called Majido and the shield tarja; swords were thin and pointed; they brought their badges painted their way in white and ochre red over the bucklers, played the sword with great skill.

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On "tarjas" and "pintaderas" (1/2)

Partial view of the pintaderas studied by Professor René Verneau (source: VERNEAU (1883), pr. VI).

The indigenous artifacts known as pintaderas are some of the most remarkable objects of study and analysis to the Canarian archeology. These are small tools made of baked clay –terracotta– or wood, featuring geometric patterns of varying complexity –triangles, circles, rectangles, broken lines– being either incised, excised and/or printed on a round or polygonal flat surface called field, and generally provided with an appendix, often perforated by one or more holes.

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The Seven Partidas

Alfonso X de Castilla

King Alfonso X of Castile depicted in a miniature included in the Cantigas de Santa María (source: Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes).

Barely having any relationship with the history of the Canary Islands, we could say today we are sneaking an intruder into this project. Not without a good reason, of course.

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The 520 splendours of the Moon

Indigenous pitcher found at Agüimes (Gran Canaria), kept at El Museo Canario, catalogue number 260, featuring two shapes presumably depicting a sun and a solar eclipse (source: El Museo Canario).

To the Canarian historiography the legendary episode of the raid over the indigenous village of Agaldar (Gran Canaria) by Portuguese captain Diogo da Silva de Meneses is a well-known one.

After landing under cover of the night, the Luso-Castilian expedition, composed of about two hundred troops, tried unsuccessfully to raze the islander village at dawn getting trapped in turn by a threefold contingent of fighting men. Sieged inside a large facility surrounded by high walls of dry stone, the invaders remained locked there for two days and one night until the Guanarteme -chieftain- of Agaldar, uncle of the future Fernando Guanarteme, agreed to parley with Diogo da Silva. Chronicles tell that after berating the Portuguese his audacity and contravening the desire of his own warriors to end the lives of all the besieged, the indigenous leader pretended to fall into the hands of the Europeans to facilitate their release, who as a result of this supposedly pious act began to name him Guanarteme the Good.

But here we are not interested in describing the different versions of this story, from the shortest, most sober offered in the Cronica Ovetensis[4]MORALES (1978), pp. 116-119. to the novelistic rewriting by Leonardo Torriani,[5]TORRIANI (1959), pp. 120-126 but to draw attention to a curious datum provided by this Cremonese engineer in the baroque speech he makes the islander leader pronounce. This particular passage is as follows:

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The Essentials (VI): History of Our Lady of Candelaria

Front cover of History of Our Lady of Candelaria (source: Memoria Digital de Canarias).

This is what on the customs of the natives, with great difficulty and labor, I have could acquire and understand; for them old guanches are so shortsighted and crouched that if they know them, they do not want to tell about them, thinking that divulging them is to lessen their nation.

Brother Alonso de Espinosa (On the origin and miracles of the Holy Statue of Our Lady of Candelaria […] (1594), Book I, Chapter IX – This translation by PROYECTO TARHA) 

In the absence of a chronicle specific to the conquest of Tenerife, the work of the Dominican friar Alonso de Espinosa (Alcalá de Henares, 1543 – c. 1600)  can be regarded as the first written history on the island of Mount Teide, as well as the second book went to press devoted to the Canary Islands.[6]The first printed book dealing with the Archipelago dates back to 1583 and is titled A Pleasant Description of the Fortunate Ilandes, being its author the English merchantman Thomas Nichols.

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The statute on killing the girls

indigenas-gc-torriani

Indigenes of Gran Canaria as per recreation by Leonardo Torriani (16th century) (source: Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra, catalogue number Ms. 314, folio 36v.)

In thriving societies, population control is a topic that inspires debates subjected to ethical, moral and religious considerations, often distorted by the conjuncture of a welfare state that is supposed to hold an indefinite durability. But in human communities subject to limiting factors, whether temporary or permanent, either of productive –scarceness of drinking water, arable land and / or pastures–, environmental –plagues, epidemics, droughts, floods, fires– or political nature –wars– the survival of these could depend largely on the application of restrictive measures on the birth rate, while it is true that, in many cases, these measures seek to promote the interests of the privileged classes by means of eugenics or selection of individuals deemed most convenient.

In the Canarian historiography, specifically in Gran Canaria, the so-called statute on killing the girls is paradigmatic, so named by its best known reference, Brother Juan de Abreu Galindo:

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Canarian slaves at Valencia (A tribute to Vicenta Cortés Alonso)

Professor Vicenta Cortés Alonso in Colombia among some yagua indigenes in 1959 (source: Archivo Histórico Nacional – Archivo Vicenta Cortés).

As it has been repeatedly emphasized, the conquest of the Canaries is like the test tube in the first reaction between two elements that were to intermix very soon and in greater proportions as the large oceanic routes unfold: the European and the aboriginal, each with its own material and spiritual baggage.

Vicenta Cortés Alonso[7]CORTÉS (1955), p. 501. (This translation by PROYECTO TARHA)

Past the International Archives Day‘s celebration, we would like to pay a humble tribute to Professor Vicenta Cortés Alonso (Valencia, 1925), a tireless master of archivists, recalling one of her most significant work for the Canarian historiography: The conquest of the Canary Islands through the sales of slaves in Valencia.

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