The Women Potters of Arguayo

Mon, May 27th, 2013 - By Andrea Montgomery

In the hills above Santiago del Teide lies the pretty little village of Arguayo where you can find a living piece of Tenerife history and even buy a small piece of it to take home.


 Cha' Domitila Museum and Pottery, Arguayo


Isolated from its nearest neighbours and a long way from the centres of Spanish trade after the conquest, the village of Arguayo remained a Guanche settlement for many years, plying its trade of hand thrown pottery while the rest of Tenerife gave itself over to the production of sugar cane and the wishes of its new masters.


The potters of Arguayo produced ceramic pots and plates in the same way they had been doing for centuries, the designs traceable back to their Guanche roots and even to their Berber forefathers. With skills passed from mother to daughter, the distinctive red ceramic pots were produced by the women of the village while their daughters and daughters-in-law carried the finished products on their heads to sell or trade for goods in markets across the island from Buenavista in the north to Adeje in the south.


 Cha' Domitila Museum and Pottery, Arguayo


At the beginning of the 19th century a local historian records that there were 15 women potters in Arguayo and the pottery enjoyed its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when its pots were in demand across the island. But as mass production and cheap materials began to permeate the market in the mid 20th century, the pottery wheels of Arguayo slowed, finally falling silent in 1950.

But thanks to the efforts of a small collective known as the Collectivo Arguayo, backed by the Canarian Government and the Tenerife Cabildo, the Cha’ Domitila centre was renovated and its doors reopened on 15th May 1986.


 Cha' Domitila Museum and Pottery, Arguayo


Today the centre is a museum and working pottery where you can watch the ceramics still being thrown by hand in the traditional way and you can buy a small pot to take home as a souvenir and to make a small contribution to ensuring the survival of the potters of Arguayo. There’s a pretty courtyard in which to sit and lots of exhibits of pottery produced on the site and traced back to its Guanche origins, while outside a bronze immortalises the women who gave their lives to the craft, women like Amara Quiteria Rodriguez who was known as Cha´ Quiteria. Amara was born in Arguayo in 1861 and learned the craft at her mother’s knee. All her life Amara produced ceramic pots and finally laid her tools to rest when she died in the village in which she had lived her whole life in 1961, aged 100 years.


 Cha' Domitila Museum and Pottery, Arguayo


Cha’ Domitila Museum and Pottery, Carretera General, 34, Arguayo; (+34) 922 863 465; entrance free; open 10.00-13.00 & 16.00-19.00, closed Monday

Posted : Monday, May 27th, 2013 at 11:34 am
Category : about tenerife
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4 Responses to “The Women Potters of Arguayo”

  1. Alex says:

    We have similar situations here in Gran Canaria. Atalaya used to be a cave village that made pots for Las Palmas and tourists used to go up and see it. Now its a modern village with no potters at all. There are some places left that still make pots the old way: Hoya Pineda (crazy, cliff-edge place) is one.

    • I’ll have to go to Hoya Pineda next time I’m in GC to take a look. The collective at Arguayo have done an excellent job in preserving the tradition (even though they let men work the wheels now too!) and hopefully they will be able to maintain it.

  2. Alex says:

    Not sure if they used potter’s wheels: Mot old-style Canarian pottery is made using coils.

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