ARRECIFE de LANZAROTE
Surface: 23,95 Km2.
Altitude: 8 mts.
Arrecife Coat of Arms
The city of Arrecife began as the port of entry to Lanzarote for people and goods; it was the gate into the island and to its Capital, the Royal Village of Teguise. Around 1495 commerce and trading were in their infancy, but they were the reason for the arrival of personnel to the island, the other reason being the military presence in the port of Arrecife. Slave traders and pirates also shared the port, adding to the population of the island, which at the time was estimated at about one thousand; close to one hundred lived in Arrecife itself. In 1503 the passing migratory currents to América counted for the first buildings destined to store food and navy materiel; small houses for the workers also began to mushroom in the area, their pointed roofs made with the traditional mix of straw and mud. This gathering of houses gave birth to a neighbourhood called "La Puntilla" and, under the auspices of San Ginés, Bishop of Clermont, a small church was built at about sixty eight metres from Charco La Caldera; the Bishop's portrait, frame and all, appeared one day at the shores of a cove that was later named after him. The continuous sackings made the inhabitants flee the island in droves; the Governor in 1574, Pedro de Escobar, requests that the Crown forbids the islanders to leave; the Crown accedes to this request. After the countless abuses suffered by the Port of Arrecife, the Fortress of San Gabriel is built on the islet of El Quemado. It was a small rectangular construction of about fourty feets long and with bulwarks known as diamond points. All of its interior was made of wood, which burned down to the ground when a morning in July of 1586, Morato Arráez attacked the fortress and made his way into the island; on the 23rd. of August of the same year he left, after the signing of a treaty with Argote de Molina. It is rumoured that in those times, due to the lack of aggressiveness of the soldiers, women were forced to go into battle.
In 1590, the Italian engineer Leonardo Torriani arrives at the island and designs the defensive system that stands today in the Castle of San Gabriel, merlon shaped walls, main barbican, new interior layout and the bridge of Las Bolas.
The ports of the Canary Islands in general, and Arrecife in particular, suffered great losses at the hands of pirate merchants, swindlers of every ilk and the neglect of the Crown. In 1720 the Canaries were flooded with a coin called "realillos falsos", a currency without any legal status that came out of a barrel of herrings, as if by magic. The result was a general alarm: "the coins are worthless" and it caused the closure of shops and the disappearance of all basic need goods. The following year, 1721, as if these hardships were not enough, a terrible hurricane sweeps through the islands, leaving death and destruction on its wake. But another blow was coming; in 1722, the very next year, strong winds knocked down whatever was left standing on the ground, and in 1723 several families from Tenerife and Lanzarote left for Veracruz.
In 1726, many of the inland inhabitants, fleeing from the underground rumbling and shaking, sought shelter in the port of Arrecife and, on the 1st. of September of 1730 the feared eruptions began, lasting until the 16th.of April of 1736.
Between 1778 and 1779, Don Carlos III ordered the construction of a castle at the north end of the harbour, overlooking the port of Naos, between the inlets of San José and Perejil, and that had been attacked by the English privateers Lord Hanson and Hawque with the purpose of robbing the vessels that used to anchor there for the winter. There were artillery exchanges with the Castle of San Gabriel, that commands over Arrecife, and whose fires went out twice. A group of one hundred sailors landed at the shore of the cove of Los Mármoles and the islanders, using their camels as tanks, destroyed the invading English forces; but when reinforcements disembarked, the camels, terrified and wounded, turned against their masters and proceeded to bite them, causing a near catastrophe. The English, upon seeing that the vessels they were looking for, and that they assumed to be anchored at the port of Naos, were not there, re-embarked their men and left. Due to the dearth of food and the lamentable conditions that befell the inhabitants that year, the Castle of San Jose ,was nicknamed "The Fortress of Hunger." The Castle was built on a cliff 70 metres high with a surface of 700 mts.2, its shape is semi-circular and its main gate looks northward. Among the many reasons for grief that the islanders had at the time, the palliation of their misery being one of them, the death of Don Carlos III, King of Spain in 1788, was a painful moment for Lanzarote and in particular for the port of Arrecife, and its Regents declared a period of mourning throughout the island.
There was a port on the avenue La Marina, and on the 29th.of June 1792 a new pier was inaugurated by Bishop Antonio Tavira y Almazán, who gave it the name of Las Cebollas. (At present a beautiful park).
On the 25th.of June of 1798, Bishop Manuel Verdugo y Alviturria, originally from Las Palmas, creates the Parish of Arrecife. (Today the church of San Ginés).By then Lanzarote was inhabited by about 4705 people, 600 of them in the Port of Arrecife; its first priest was Don Francisco Acosta Espinosa. Legend says that a picture of San Ginés showed up floating on El Charco, and from that moment the "porteños" (port dwellers) made him the Patron Saint of the city.
In 1813 life began again to be unbearable in the islands; besides the drought, great earthquakes started, lasting until 1824, year in which the volcanoes Clérigo Duarte, Cuervo and Tinguatón began the eruptions.
Arrecife was named Capital of the island on the 17th.of March 1852 (there are rumours of the existence of documents dated in 1847 saying that the Administrative Offices from Teguise were transferred, and another document from 1849 requesting that the Capital of the island be moved back to Teguise; this would mean that Arrecife must have been named the Capital in 1847. We have not seen these documents so we are in no position to confirm the story) In October 1857, the Arrecife City Hall inaugurates the first public lighting, consisting of the traditional oil burning lamps, and in the same year the construction of the new cemetery begins.
By decree of the 23rd. of October 1883, a telegraph cable was supposed to link Lanzarote to the communications network, but Juan Ravina, taking advantage of, and abusing his position, made the link with Tenerife instead, frustrating once again the legitimate rights of the island.
According to the memory of our elders, life in Arrecife revolved around the piers of Naos, La Cebolla and Comercial. At the Naos pier the salt trade was essential; the fish were cleaned, salted and then displayed for sale.
Some of the boats were repaired at a place called "el calinero", a small beach where today stands Agramar, and in these works the blacksmiths were of paramount importance. They achieved the "welding" using their furnaces to heat the metal (at the time welding material did not exist.) Masters of the trade, like Maestro Antonio, used to make a kind of wedge (called "escarva") in the metal, they would then heat it almost to the point of melting and, superposing one of top of the other, would hammer the metal until it "welded" together. They also used a paste vulgarly called "little shit" that helped in the process of joining the metal parts; prior to that they used sand brought by ship from Cabo Blanco and which contained boracite.
There was a ship owned by Antonio Armas called "Las Telenas", that made the run between the islands carrying goods; another ship called "El Correillo" transported passengers and mail and came to Lanzarote every Tuesday and Friday. On Fridays the young men of the island dressed in their best and came to the pier to get their mail; coincidentally, young girls also came with the same purpose, so everybody took advantage of the occasion to have a party.
People from San Bartolomé came down to Arrecife to sell their sweet potatoes and other produce, leaving their "burros" tied down in a hole, where the local children used to play with their toy boats when it rained. Other people came down from Tiñosa to sell their fish in a place called "the camel's pad", a field around Zerolo Street.
Close by, next to Fube, there used to be a football field with stone bleachers that in other times was a salt pit.
Private homes used to throw parties called "Bailes del Candil"(Dance of the Oil Lamp) because the party would go as long as the lamp kept burning. One of the places where these dances took place was a mill near La Harinera, on Tenerife Street.
There was a hospital next to the market La Recoba.
At present Arrecife is the capital of the island, with more than 30.000 inhabitants, and close to the islet of Fermina the beach of El Reducto can be found, where sporting activities like volleyball, Canarian wrestling, swimming, football and boating take place. As if presiding the entrance to the island, next to El Reducto, the majestic Gran Hotel stands tall so it can be seen from many points throughout the island. In 1994 a fire swept through it and its causes are still unclear. At the charco of San Ginés you can find a quiet spot to stroll, just a few metres from the church bearing the same name. There are two big parks along the main avenue crossing the city and, on what is called Calle Real (León y Castillo), which is only for pedestrians, you can find almost every bank, store, cash machines and lots, lots of people. At night "la movida" starts around José Antonio street, quiet cafes, "bacalao" pubs, and other spots where you can find from salsa to karaoke and more. There is an area called "La Rapadura", but we would advise you not to go there since drug-addicts and prostitutes mostly frequent it. The police have raided this area in more than one occasion, but so far they have succeeded only in reducing the problem, not solve it. Since this site is on the outskirts of the city it does not affect the regular nightlife.
Arrecife is home to the Ciudad Deportiva, which has an artificial grass football field, basketball court, handball, tennis, indoor-football, track and field, canarian wrestling, aerobics, etc.
The main festivity is on the 25th.of August. (San Ginés).
Alfombras de Sal
Arrecife Carnival 2001
Album with old photographs of Arrecife
Album with old photographs of Arrecife - 2
Album with old photographs of Arrecife - 3
Album with old photographs of Arrecife - 4
Album with old photographs of Arrecife - 5
Album with photographs of Arrecife
Album with photographs of Arrecife - 2
Album with photographs of old ships.
Album with photographs of old ships - 2
Old photographs from the Agustín Hernández collection.
Esta pagina ha sido realizada por Sarabel y Chino.
E-Mail: Sarabel y Chino
Colaborador Escudos municipios.E-Mail: j_paiz