Gran Canaria and the Canary Islands are part of Spain and for the most part are very similar culturally to other parts of the Country. That said, the Canary Islands, like many regions of Spain, has it’s own unique cultural identity and traditions thanks to it’s isolated geographical position along with it’s former importance on the transatlantic trade routes.
Latin American Influence
The Canary Islands’ historical importance on the Atlantic Shipping Routes as well as emigration in both directions between South America and the Canaries has had a significant influence on the Islands. At one stage, Venezuela was jokingly referred to as the 8th Canary Island due to the number of Canarian Emigrants that were living there. This influence manifests itself especially in the Language – many South American words such as Guagua (Bus) are used in place of the Castilian Spanish equivalents. The Accent also has similarities to some Latin American Accents, with the letter “c” (think Andalucia) being pronounced strongly rather than in the lispy Castilian manner.
The traditional folk music of the Canary Islands is known as Folklore Music and features an emblematic ukulele-like instrument called the Timple. If you would like to hear some Folklore Music, Pueblo Canario in Las Palmas features regular exhibitions of both Canarian Music and Dance.
Popular Music is heavily influenced by Latin America, with Salsa and more recently Raggaeton both very popular.
Although most Canarians are Roman Catholic, Church Attendances have been in decline for many years and society is generally quite liberal.
As in Mainland Spain, most Towns and Villages have their Annual Festival as well as the main Religious Days.
The most important and popular fiestas on Gran Cnaria are:
Fiesta de la Rama in Agaete on the 4th of August.
Fiesta de la Virgen del Pino in Teror between the 6th and 8th of September.
Fiesta de San Juan
The Fiesta de San Juan, which is celebrated throughout Spain, coincides with the anniversary of the foundation of the City of Las Palmas and for this reason this Fiesta is especially important. The Fiesta takes place over several days, culminating on the 24th of June with Fireworks and Bonfires.
Carnival takes place the week before Lent in the Christian calendar and is an example of the Latin American influence in the Canary Islands. While not as big as the Carnival in neighbouring Tenerife (the Santa Cruz Carnival is second only to Rio de Janeiro), it is nonetheless a very big event.
In Spain, it is the 6th of January when gifts are given rather than on the 25th of December. At Christmas, the important days for the Family (when many businesses will be closed) are the 24th of December (Afternoon) and the 6th of January (All Day). Most Businesses in the Resorts are open on Christmas Day.
The Canary Islands have several endemic sports, some of which can be traced back to the Guanches. Lucha Canaria is a form of wrestling, which has some similarities to Sumo.
Palo Canario (Canarian Stick Fighting) is a martial art where the combatants wield wooden poles.
Salto del Palo is a sport where a long staff is used to spectacularly descend precipitous rocky mountain slopes.
Unlike Mainland Spain, Bull Fighting is not popular in Gran Canaria and there is no active Bull Ring.
Las Palmas is a cosmopolitan city with all of the Theater, Music, Cinema and Dance that would be expected of a City of more than 600,000 people. The City itself has about 380,000, the Greater Urban area more than 600,000 and the Island’s population is about 800,000.
Highlight’s of Las Palmas’ Cultural Calendar include the Annual International Film Festival (Festival Internacional de Cine de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) and the International Festival of Theatre and Dance (Festival Internacional de Cine de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria).
The Auditorio Alfredo Kraus features Symphonic and Chamber Concert Halls and is named after one of Las Palmas’ most famous sons. This venue plays host to regular Classical, Flamenco, Opera and Jazz recitals.