Finding a Flavour of South America in Tenerife

Mon, October 31st, 2011 - By Jack Montgomery

I’ve spent two hours wandering cobbled streets, oohing and aahing at charming squares, trickling fountains, exotic palms and squawking parrots. My feet are tired, my stomach grumbling angrily and my throat as parched as old papyrus.

I fancy a beer and, as my stomach is impatient, something quick and tasty to go with it.  However, the first thing that springs to mind isn’t a beefy burger or even a jumbo hot dog. When I have a yen for junk food Tenerife style, I think of arepas.


Arepas are Venezuelan fried corn pancakes that come with a variety of fillings such as carne mechada (spiced shredded beef) or reina (avocado, chicken and mayonnaise). In most areperas they are served with a savoury avocado sauce and a picante salsa that can often have a similar effect on the inside of your mouth as napalm.

They’re cheap, tasty, different and, despite being Venezuelan, are as much a part of Tenerife’s culinary culture as tapas. Most are found in the more traditional towns and cities like Puerto de la Cruz, La Orotava, La Laguna and Santa Cruz but you can stumble across areperas anywhere on Tenerife  – anywhere there are Indianos.

Tenerife’s links with South America stretches back to the days when The Canary Islands were at the crossroads between the old world and the new. From Columbus to the present day, Canarios have crossed the waters to seek out a new life…some (Indianos) returning with not only wealth but also South American traditions, culture and cuisine.


The grandmother of freedom fighter Simón Bolivar, who helped Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, and Bolivia gain independence from Spain, came from Garachico where there is a statue to the South American hero.

A humble goatherd from Vilaflor, Hermano Pedro, devoted his life to helping the poor in Guatemala and founded the Order of the Bethlehemites. He was made a saint in 2002, there are statues dedicated to him all over Tenerife. A cave where he stayed with his goats is just outside El Médano.

The grid layout for the city of La Laguna was a blueprint that was used for the development of a number of South American cities.

Immigrants from the Canary Islands founded Montevideo in Uruguay, Sao Paulo in Brazil and San Antonio, famously known for being the location of the Alamo, in Texas.

The links with South America are evident throughout Tenerife, once you know to look for them. There are hot Cuban bars, hand-rolled cigars from La Palma in tabac shops and whispering fields of sugar cane in the hills. Tenerife’s zillion fiestas almost always feature Latino bands whose energetic vibes have revellers salsa-ing like they were in down-town Havana.


The most obvious and seductive example of the links with South America are found during carnival on Tenerife. For a week in February/March, the residents of Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz party almost non-stop to a vibrant beat that is unmistakeably Latino in rhythm.

With all night street parties, flamboyant parades and risqué costumes to look forward to, Tenerife is the ideal destination to enjoy a taste of South America and a full on Rio style carnival experience without having to fly over the Atlantic for 12 hours.

Posted : Monday, October 31st, 2011 at 1:25 pm
Category : about tenerife
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2 Responses to “Finding a Flavour of South America in Tenerife”

  1. […] at road level, opposite the pedestrian flyover. If you’ve never tried the wonderful Venezuelan snack of arepas on Tenerife, take the opportunity to pop to El Negro Mario, on the Al Campo floor, to try out their […]

  2. […] to Central and South America, bringing back flavours of Venezuela and Cuba in menu favourites like arepas and arroz Cubano rather than the spices of the dark […]

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