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An article by Bernie Power with The Voice

Bernie Power

Well as the theme this month’s magazine is fun and games, we decided to take a peek into the past and look at the things that used to entertain the people in days gone by.

Aside from the usual music and dancing, most Canarian pastimes were sport orientated and consisted of contests which tested the skills and talents that the locals learned in the fields, as farmers. Whenever an excuse to party occurred, whether it be a religious fiesta, the end of the harvest a special family occasion or just a simple market day, it was seen as a day to quit work and spend the day having fun with friends.


As with most areas around the world, card games or dominos were very popular choices. But there was one particular game which really was a sight to see. It is called Saltor de Pastor, which means the Shepherds pole Jump, and is still practised across the islands nowadays. This unusual sport involves the use of a long pole with a metal tip, called a Lata. The men use the pole to leap up and down the rocky terrain whist performing various moves. Each move would then be awarded with points and the best pole jumper, with the most points, would be the winner.

The shepherds used this skill for centuries to get around the very dangerous ground, and you will often see the pole at Canarian festivals incorporated into part of the traditional dress today.


The other main preoccupation was a form of wrestling only found in the Canaries. Known as Lucha Canarias or Canarian fighting, is a trial of strength and wits. The opponents grapple each other in a sand ring and throw each other out of the ring or fight to get them outside the line. The size of the opponents is not always important, but some of the wrestlers are huge, however dirty tactics like pulling on each other shorts or using their legs to rip each other up, is all a part of the game. You can still watch Canarian wrestling on television at the weekends, and there are teams of all ages, across all of the islands. Most villages will still have a sand pit in order to host the odd fight or two, and it is still a very popular sport across the canaries today.



Another use for the local sandpits is a ball game called Bola Canaria. It is a derivative of the French game of Boules and closely related to the Canarian Game known as Marro. The game begins with a stone being thrown into the sand. Each opponent then takes turns to thrown their heavy bowls as close to the stone as possible, by knocking the opposition out of the way. The game is usually played among many people, and often, as with all the above sports, is accompanied by booing and cheering from the on lookers. Competitions and championships are held in high regard across the islands and screaming encouragement and dissent is necessary at these events, as it adds to the fun and gets all the family and community involved.

Although these games seem like simple pleasures, the competitions were always looked forward to by all.

They were a welcome distraction from the hard daily toil on the land and the winners were awarded with prestige and local fame.

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