Monday, 12 October 2009

Why Would Anyone Have Wanted to Live in the South of Tenerife?

It’s a question which crossed my mind as we sat eating lunch on an abandoned terrace in a little valley tucked away in the hills above Playa de las Américas and Costa Adeje. It was miles from any decent sized town, the earth was dry and hard and unwelcoming and yet there were empty agricultural terraces lining every slope.

There weren’t many people who made their home in the south of Tenerife before tourism brought the masses and the promise of sunshine and year round warmth made it a desirable place to live, but I wondered what sort of people they were and why they chose to settle in a place which must have been incredibly difficult to farm.

A girl in the Los Cristianos tourist office once told me that when she was young her parents used to bring her to Los Cristianos, but at that time there was hardly anything there. A lot of the inhabitants were fishermen living in caves. She said most of the people there were very poor. It makes sense when you think about it.

Until tourism changed the south coast all the well to do and educated people lived north of Güímar. The north coast is peppered with the most beautiful and grand haciendas, but south of Güímar you’re hard pressed to find anything which comes close to these historic buildings. The best lands (i.e. those in the north) were dished out to the noblemen, therefore the settlers who ended up with plots in the arid lands in the south must have been the poorest of the poor, unable to afford decent land in the more agriculturally friendly areas.

As for the fellow who occupied the remote abandoned valley, he really must have been at the bottom of the ladder, or maybe he was an outlaw, or even a pirate. It’s documented that slave traders operated out of the area and that pirates were in cahoots with some of the wealthier families hereabouts, so maybe he tended his farm some of the time and headed off with other miscreants to Africa to capture slaves the rest of the time. Maybe my imagination was running away with me.

I took a bite out of my bocadillo and gazed over the line of fancy new hotels in upmarket Costa Adeje which had replaced the cave dwelling fishermen, peasant farmers and outlaws and smiled.

How times change. It’s a funny old world.

1 comment:

Pegasus said...

Thanks for the insight and thought provoking comments!