There is a corner in the North that has preserved an ancient tradition that dates back to when human acuity He began to look for a way to make the best of what the sea also offered. If last week I talked about the water that emanates from the bowels of the earth and how skill, together with necessity, managed to make human beings enter through the galleries to obtain that precious good, this week I want to bring you another activity linked, again, with water, but in this case, the sea.
A tradition that probably would have already become extinct if a group of women had not decided to continue collecting salt that forms in certain puddles in the area of the Caleta de Interián, in the municipality of Los Silos.
There are a few families that still carry out this activity for a more sentimental than economic interest. Although some men have joined today, It has been the women who have traditionally been in charge of the entire process of obtaining the salt when the sea water evaporated, which they had previously deposited with buckets in the so-called slabs, the name given to these holes of volcanic rock located on the coast. . That salt resulting from the evaporation process, which usually lasts about fifteen days, is collected and poured into the dryers. Once dry, it is cleaned to remove any remains that may remain.
Candelaria Méndez, known as Inmaculada, has been carrying out all this work for more than 30 years, which also consists of keeping the puddles in optimal conditions so that they can produce the best salt, free of impurities. «Not all slabs are the same, there are rocks that do not provide salt. Its location and, above all, the heat it receives, are fundamental factors. Without sun there is no salt». She herself has been able to see how in recent years there has been a rise in sea level that has also affected the situation of the slabs. These natural cavities are expanded through the construction of small retaining walls traditionally made with a mixture of sea water, mud, sand and ash. In this way, water losses are avoided and the water stagnates, facilitating its evaporation.
As for the ownership of these spaces for exploitation, they are under the domain of Costas, but the traditional value has endured from generation to generation and respect for the “property” of the family that has exploited it for years is maintained. In its origins, the salt obtained was taken to other municipalities where, until the second half of the 20th century, barter was carried out as a way of subsistence. Coastal places like La Caleta de Interián brought fish and, in this case, salt, while those in the interior exchanged farm products and animals.
The barter system in Canary Islands It goes back to our aborigines who already exchanged products such as cereals, nuts, the salt we talk about today, skins, etc. among themselves. With the arrival of the conquerors, this activity continued, incorporating other products such as sugar, fabrics, etc. Its peak came in the 19th and 20th centuries when it became an exchange system between people who lived at the summit where the connecting trails between the North and the South were located. To remember that tradition, it is celebrated every year in Santiago del Teidethe ethnographic rescue activity called Al paso de la summit, with the participation of more than 100 extras dressed in period costumes who stage the exchange of products and services between the different areas of the Island.
Candelaria usually participates in these types of events so that “society does not forget our customs.” This desire has also led him to serve as a guide and explain this tradition to tourists who come to the area interested in learning about this activity: “Some of the colleagues are reluctant for curious people to come to see us work, because they fear that they will not take care of the area or dirty the flagstones, but I consider that it is important that ours is known so that this legacy is respected and kept intact. Her beginnings in this activity are not due to a family inheritance. The puddles that she takes care of during the three summer months belonged to the mother of a friend of hers who did not like that activity and that is how she approached and learned the secrets of salt. Now there are only seven women and three men who maintain the flagstones, but in her case, she trusts her daughters and her grandson to maintain the tradition.
The production of salt in La Caleta is completely artisanal, unlike that produced on other islands where machinery is used. Another difference consists of its origin, while the salt from the north of Tenerife It is a puddle, the salt mines of Lanzarote, for example, began to be produced in the 15th century with the Castilian conquest, which brought the salt culture from southern Spain and Portugal. It was then that the first salt mines were built in what was an old salt lagoon in the north of that Island.
The benefits of this type of salt are countless. As it comes from sea water, it is a completely natural product that is obtained thanks to solar evaporation, so it retains all its properties and no chemical process is involved. In the composition of seawater there are up to 80 trace elements, which is why what is extracted in this natural way has such a rich composition. Its high mineral content also makes it perfect for relieving skin pathologies, which is why it is widely used to calm irritations, improve circulation and relieve skin discomfort. Candelaria is aware of all these benefits of the product that sea rock gives us in conjunction with the sea and, therefore, feels a great responsibility when it comes to its consumption. “I want its use to benefit people’s health, so sometimes I have opposed selling it for something that has nothing to do with personal care, such as for drying meat or other similar uses.” , emphasizes Candelaria.
Once this report is done and knowing a little more about this tradition, I will think twice about what they say “a stone doesn’t matter.”
The images reflect the hollows in which a few families collect salt, an activity that is maintained for a more sentimental than economic interest. |