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Stopover presentation: Santa Cruz de la Palma

Fourth stopover of the cruise: Santa Cruz de La Palma.

La Palma is one of the Spanish Canary Islands, off the northwest coast of Africa. Its capital, Santa Cruz, has focused on preserving its historical heritage and promoting tourism. The city's well-preserved colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and cultural events make it an attractive destination for visitors interested in local history and culture.

Santa Cruz de La Palma
Santa Cruz de La Palma

A little history...

La Palma was initially inhabited by the Guanches, the indigenous people of the Canary Islands. They lived on the island for centuries before European explorers arrived.

In 1492, during Christopher Columbus' second voyage to the Americas, he sighted La Palma. The island was later claimed by Spain. The city of Santa Cruz de la Palma was officially founded in 1493 by Alonso Fernández de Lugo, who was instrumental in the conquest of the Canary Islands.

Santa Cruz de la Palma became a key port for transatlantic trade in the 16th century. The city prospered economically, serving as a stopping point for ships traveling between Europe and the Americas. For this reason, it had to face numerous pirate attacks during the 16th and 17th centuries. Defensive structures like the Castillo de la Virgen were built to protect the city and its port.

The city has experienced devastating natural disasters, including volcanic eruptions in the 17th century and earthquakes in the 20th century.

During the rise of fascism in Spain and the civil war in 1936, Santa Cruz de La Palma resisted and remained loyal to the Republicans until the arrival of the Canalejas gunboat.

Despite these challenges, Santa Cruz de la Palma has been rebuilt and some historic buildings have been restored.

El Castillo de la Virgen
El Castillo de la Virgen

My selection of sites to visit

Plaza España: Santa Cruz de la Palma's main square, Plaza España, is a bustling center surrounded by colorful colonial buildings. The square is a popular meeting place and often hosts events and celebrations.

La Palma Cathedral (Santa Iglesia Catedral): it is also known as the Church of El Salvador. Its construction began at the beginning of the 16th century. Outside, it is distinguished by its Renaissance portico and its annex tower, made of volcanic cut stones. The building is divided into three naves covered with Mudejar-style coffered ceilings, and the neoclassical altarpiece of its choir is illustrated by a painting of the Transfiguration by the Sevillian painter Antonio María Esquivel (19th century).

Castillo de la Virgen: Perched on a hill overlooking the town, the Castillo de la Virgen is a fortress built in the 17th century to defend against pirate attacks. Today, it offers a panoramic view of Santa Cruz de la Palma and the surrounding landscape.

Notre Dame des Neiges Sanctuary: Our Lady of the Snows is the patroness of the island. Originally kept in a cave by the first occupants, his image is today exhibited in a sanctuary located above Santa Cruz de La Palma. The church is a little gem of Canarian colonial architecture. We also visit the museum of sacred art located behind the sanctuary. Every five years, the statue of the Virgin covered in gold and embroidery is lowered in a long procession from the sanctuary to the heart of the city.

Museo Naval (Naval Museum): Housed in a historic building near the port, the Naval Museum provides an overview of La Palma's maritime history. It features ship models, navigation instruments and exhibits related to the island's maritime heritage.

Plaza de Santo Domingo: This charming square is surrounded by well-preserved colonial buildings and is home to the Church of Santo Domingo. The square is a pleasant place to relax and enjoy the ambiance of the historic city center.

Island Museum: This museum, housed in a former Franciscan convent, presents the natural and cultural history of La Palma. It includes exhibits on geology, flora and fauna, as well as the indigenous Guanche people. The museum is divided into three main sections: archeology and ethnography, natural sciences and fine arts.

The archeology and ethnography section contains a variety of artifacts from La Palma's pre-Hispanic period, including pottery, tools, weapons, and jewelry. There is also a display of traditional costumes and musical instruments.

The fine arts section contains a variety of works by local artists, including paintings, sculptures and photographs. There is also a section dedicated to traditional island crafts, such as basket weaving, pottery and weaving.


Some celebrities who left their mark on La Palma

They don't jostle each other, in fact... I will do a combo on the personalities who marked the Canaries. Instead, I'll tell you about the Guanches.

The Guanches are the only indigenous people who lived in the Canary Islands. They are the only Berbers not to have been Islamized. Their civilization disappeared, but left traces in Canarian culture and some vestiges. Some of the Guanches perished while resisting the Spanish conquest of the archipelago, others were sold into slavery, and most forcibly embraced the Catholic faith, some joining in marriage with the conquerors.

Several thousand Guanches were enslaved and deported to the huertas and agricultural estates of Valencia and Madeira. For the years 1489-1497, the historian António de Almeida Mendes found traces of 656 slaves arriving in the port of Valencia alone, 80% of whom were women15. Rather than using the Guanches in the Canary Islands mills, the Spanish preferred to move them off the island in order to cut them off from their environment and reduce the revolts.

Culinary foray...

Papas Arrugadas: This dish consists of small potatoes boiled in very salty water until their skin is wrinkled. They are usually served with mojo, a flavorful sauce made from garlic, olive oil, vinegar and various spices.

Mojo Sauce: Mojo comes in various forms in the Canary Islands and is a staple of La Palma cuisine. Red mojo (mojo rojo) is often made with red peppers and paprika, while green mojo (mojo verde) is made with cilantro or parsley. It is served as a condiment for meats, fish and potatoes.

Gofio: Gofio is a traditional Canarian flour made from roasted cereals, usually wheat or corn. It has been part of the local diet for centuries and is used in various dishes, such as soups, desserts and drinks.

Carne de Cabra: Goat meat is commonly used in traditional La Palma dishes. It is often simmered or grilled and served with local sauces or accompaniments.

Ropa Vieja: Translated as “old clothes,” ropa vieja is a dish made from shredded and seasoned meats, often beef or chicken, cooked with vegetables. This is a flavorful and hearty stew.

Ropa Vieja
Ropa Vieja

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the 19th century in France...


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