When I travel to a new destination, I’m game for exploring … but I lean on the knowledge and experience of insiders. In the case of my mid-September press trip to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, it was our group’s guide, Maria Lezcano, who shared with us her island’s history, culture, language, and lore. I took note of several comments and insights Maria provided that added to my understanding of—and appreciation for—the people of this island.
“Gran Canaria is populated by African people with European minds and Caribbean souls.”
Greeted warmly everywhere we went by store owners, attraction hosts, wait staff, and other guides, Maria said, “I always need to behave. Everyone knows me!”
Maria told me how to recognize a Canarian pine tree. The needles are especially long, nearly 12 inches, better to catch the moisture of the trade winds. She said the needles “milk the clouds.”
“When people come to the Canaries, visitors think of the beaches and sun, but in the center of the island, we have palm trees and plants that are unique. Isolation plays a role in how a plant or animal develops through the centuries.”
She explained how to cook the potatoes that are served with most every meal. “Less water and more salt. Heat them until you think they’re stones, then turn off the heat, drain the water, and cover the potatoes with a towel. The steam will cook them.”
“You’ll see many palm trees—and many types—but the Canary Island date palm is the only indigenous palm,” Maria said. “We have much flora but not so much fauna.”
In the north of the island, there’s a phenomenon in the summer when low-altitude clouds build up and block the heat of the sun. “We call these clouds panza de burro, donkey’s belly. It’s perfect for an after-lunch rest during siesta.”