What is the cultural history of the Canary Islands?

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Cristina Slattery

The cultural history of the Canary Islands can be traced back to a race of agrarian people called the Guanches, who were most likely of North African origin and lived in caves on this seven-island chain for centuries. One of the many interesting things about the Guanches is that they communicated in Silbo Gomero, a language of whistles still heard today on the Canarian islands of La Gomera and La Palma.

Today islanders celebrate their religious and cultural traditions in colorful festivals throughout the year. Carnival, held every February in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is the most famous, but our Forbes Travel Guide editors report that other notable fiestas worth planning a visit around include Corpus Christi in La Orotava, Tenerife, a Catholic festival in June that sees the town covered with flower carpets, Romeria de la Virgen de la Candelaria, when pilgrims come to Tenerife on August 15 to venerate the patroness of the islands, and the Fiesta del Charco, which takes place on September 11 in the remote Gran Canaria village of El Charco. During this festival, which began before the Spanish arrived on the islands in the 15th century, fully dressed locals leap into salt water to catch mullet fish, by hand, that have swum into the village’s lagoon.

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