After a whole day of walking and exploring the squares, streets and grid streets of the pioneer neighborhood of Las Palmas, we decided to ascend to the city's panoramic heights.
The orography of Las Palmas has never been lenient with residents of the much newer San José and San Juan neighborhoods. In such a way that, in 2012, the city authorities were moved and inaugurated an elevator that allowed them to bypass the steep climb.
The equipment proved to be short-lived. When we reach its base, the abandonment in which we find it dictates, without reservations, the resort to the alternative staircase.
Ascent to the Heights of San Juan, Las Palmas
We climbed as high as possible. We investigated the top floor corridor in hopes of getting an unobstructed view of the houses in Vegueta and surrounding Las Palmas. From there, we managed to frame them, albeit only one section, far from satisfying our photographic desires.
Some residents of homes near the elevator notice our restlessness. One of them decides to intervene. “But what are you looking for anyway? Looking down there? Ah, but this is much better from the top of the hill”.
We have faith in your more than credible information. Finally, calmly, we scanned the alley and the houses that filled the slope.
The Prodigal Family of Mr. Miguel de San Juan
One of the buildings, orange and improvised and impossible to catalogue, stood out from the rest. The same interlocutor notices the attention we pay him. “I designed and built almost everything. What do you think?"
Truth be told, we lacked the words to respond to you in a dignified way. Mr. Miguel, at the time eighty-seven, feels our astonishment. Choose to develop. “And you know what? It was the best I did. My wife and I have ten children, four girls and six boys.
Eventually they began to have children. When we noticed it, among children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-grandchildren, we were forty-one living there. That building of ours has always been a true home sweet home.”
Of so many inhabitants of Mr. Miguel's family, one of his granddaughters soon appeared at the wheel of an aging car. He was going to take his grandfather to the service station he also owned. Upon learning of our demand, he told us to get into the car, which would take us to the top of the hill. So we do.
Minutes later, Mr. Miguel's granddaughter leaves us on the side of the road, which is untidy but, in fact, panoramic.
The Folklore Ranch at the Top of San Juan
Ahead, downwards, stretched a good part of the houses of Las Palmas, from the foot of the hill that supported us to the blue expanse of the Atlantic.
We were admiring the scenery when a couple in costumes that looked like folklore, traditional, made us look away. At that moment, a van stops. Seven more women leave, all dressed in the same style, two of them holding a kind of ukulele.
The appearance of that retinue leaves us intrigued. We question them to match. “We are from the folklore ranch of San Juan, we are on our way to a meeting in another town. We can take some pictures, of course. But it has to be fast. We're already a bit late!"
We dispatched a flash production as fast as we could, with the group's coloring compounded against the sky and sea blues. Soon, they get into the van that goes off.
We returned to contemplating the section of Las Palmas we had to the east, a cluster of houses and buildings dominated by white and warm pastel tones.
And that, due to its gray tone and the height of the towers, the top of a great cathedral stood out, from the few buildings that almost passed the horizon line to the level of the sky.
Around the Old Vegueta
Many photographic shots later, through streets and alleys of the San Juan neighborhood different from those we had taken on the way up, we returned to the smooth foothills of the hill and the centuries-old Vegueta.
The further we descend towards the sea, the more imposing, elegant and impressive the neighborhood reveals itself, with an obvious apogee in the square that precedes the temple that we used to see highlighted, Plaza de Santa Ana, at that time occupied by an event of children's competitions.
To the east was the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santa Ana de Canaria, built between 1500 and 1570, as the supreme Catholic expression of the island of Gran Canaria.
Even if the exterior remodeled in the XNUMXth century is neoclassical, its huge nave is still Gothic, supported by columns erected to emulate the palm trees that were prolific in that area before the arrival of the Conquistadors of Castile.
The Ultimate Conquest of the island of Gran Canaria
On June 24, 1478, the newly disembarked Castilian troops, charged with submitting once and for all the resistance of the Canarian natives, set up a camp in the vicinity of a ravine that was to be called del Guiniguada.
Right there, in order to guide the boats that would come to supply them, they preserved three huge palm trees. From this reference came the embryonic name of the island's capital, Real de las Tres Palmas de Gran Canaria, today the most populous city in the archipelago, with 375.000 inhabitants.
Affected by the strong resistance of the natives and, to top it off, by disagreements among the Castilians, the conquest dragged on.
It was only confirmed in April 1483, the month in which Guayarmina Semidá, the island's indigenous queen, surrendered to the invaders and caused the suicide of an influential tribal chief and his shaman.
Vegueta's Unique Colonial Architecture
From then onwards, with the stamp of the Crown and the almost infallible prospect of large profits, the construction of the first settlement in Gran Canaria was intensified.
A hospital, the Mudejar Chapel of San António Abad, is located where the chapel that spiritually served the camp of Real de Las Tres Palmas and predecessor of the current cathedral was built.
They were accompanied by the Episcopal Palace, the Town hall, the Royal Audience, the Tribunal of the Holy Office and the Diocese of the Canary Islands, at the time, the only diocese.
These ecclesiastical and government buildings alternated with others, residential, with open and green patios, abundant wooden balconies, in such a way that one of the emblematic streets of the neighborhood that, at first, welcomed the richest and most influential families on the island. it still calls Calle de los Balcones.
Both buildings and others display a unique architectural richness, an improbable mix of Gothic, Renaissance, Neoclassical and, as is common in southern Spain and the Canaries, Mudejar elements.
Over time, this amalgamation of buildings and styles formed the urbanistic unit that, step by step, continued to dazzle us.
Calle del Castillo up and down, we passed the Plaza del Espíritu Santo several times.
As we pass by its hermitage dedicated to Cristo del Buen Fin and the fountain designed by the Gran Canarian artist Manuel Ponce de León y Falcón, spring of waters that refresh the small garden full of tropical plants, but not the Elixir of Youth that the discoverer made so much to be found on land today in Florida.
Casa Colón and the Columbus Passage through Las Palmas
In the direction of Av. de Canárias and Atlântico, we enter streets delimited by the yellowish facades of the Ermita de San António Abad and the neighboring neo-Gothic House of Colón, each with its intricate coat of arms.
Over there, a musician from street plays fife tunes that reinforce the colonial charm of Las Palmas, the also port where Christopher Columbus anchored in three of his four expeditions, the first of which he even prayed shortly before setting sail for the unknown west.
Even if on a local scale, we soon arrived at a latitude in Las Palmas different from anything we had seen so far.
We skirt the Vegueta market and cross the road del Centro, to the other side of the GC-5 highway that establishes a road border in the neighborhood.
The Colorful and Surreal House of San Juan
A few hundred meters above, along Calle San Diego de Alcalá and a distinct urban core, we peered into the opposite houses, a side view of the high San Juan neighborhood where we had crossed paths with Sr. Miguel and the folklore group .
For, from there, San Juan filled the entire hill overlooking Vegueta in a multicolored profusion of houses and buildings of elementary and rigid geometry, which seemed to us a scenario from cartoons or the result of a legos game.
The vision aroused in us the strangeness of how the flow of the Ages had generated such contrasting “cities” within the same capital.
Below, like tough vegetables from the dawn of Las Palmas, a broken line of palm trees swayed in the wind.
We let sunset settle west of the even higher heartland of Gran Canaria.
When the afterglow starts to settle in, we are already back at plazas of Vegueta, delivered to reeds and the inevitable potato canaries wrinkleds.