Chirche: A Living Museum for Tenerife

Fri, March 25th, 2011 - By Linda

All the villages and towns of Tenerife have their own fiesta (some have two or more, in fact), and each has its own distinct flavour. They usually include a procession, music, a mass and general merriment. The tiny village of Chirche ten minutes, vertically, from Guia de Isora, does things a little differently. They turn the entire village into a time machine and turn back the clock to the early days of the 20th century for just one weekend in the year.

This village clings to a hillside. My reaction the first time I visited was that you had to be pretty fit to live here and climb these streets daily, yet they do. People have been living here and working the rich soil of the surrounding land since the late 17th century, producing wines, tomatoes, bananas and grains, and before that it is thought to have been a Guanche settlement. It’s clear that life changed remarkably little in the more than two centuries up to roughly the 1940s.

On Chirche’s fiesta weekend, you leave the beaches of Playa de las Américas, Costa Adeje and Los Cristianos behind and step into a time machine. In the courtyard of a house a woman is making the local flour, called gofio, crushing grain between two great grindstones as her ancestors have done for centuries. Across the narrow street, in an outhouse, another woman is toasting the grains over a small pit, stirring continuously until they are the perfect texture to grind. Women of the village used to prepare their bread and then take it down to the communal, open-air oven for baking as a group are doing now.

Elsewhere the children of the village are having lessons in the old school house or playing games in the street using pebbles, chalk and sticks – no computer games or even television back then. Around the corner a group is dancing around a maypole and  in the shade a donkey is tethered, waiting to carry his load. Peeking into any alley or courtyard you find people going about daily life, weaving baskets, making cheese, making candles and lace and enjoying a singsong, some using simple, homemade instruments.

The highlight of the fiesta comes on Sunday afternoon in the form of a mock wedding. Villagers follow the wedding party through the streets to the church square, where a feast has been prepared for one and all – including tourists – and you can buy excellent local wine from the bar next to the church.

It really is a world away from the coastal resorts, and yet it’s easily accessible from Los Gigantes, Playa San Juan or Callao Salvaje as well as from the south coast.  Just drive or take the local bus service to Guia de Isora. From there the local council supplies a free mini bus service which runs in a loop up to Chirche and back and since the fiesta is the weekend of the second fortnight of July, the modern comfort of the air conditioned bus is very welcome!

Posted : Friday, March 25th, 2011 at 12:43 pm
Category : days out
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One Response to “Chirche: A Living Museum for Tenerife”

  1. […] Chirche we wasted no time in setting off from just behind Restaurante Las Brasas. Chirche is a tiny village of roughly 200 inhabitants, and was just waking as we tiptoed out. We were […]

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