Every year on 30 May the Día de Canarias (Canary Day) is celebrated. The holiday commemorates the first session of the autonomous Canarian parliament, in 1983.
By Sarah Schulz
The Canarian archipelago was conquered for the Castillian crown at the start of the 15th century. In 1516, with the union of the kingdoms of Castille and Aragón under Carlos I, the islands came under the political authority of the new kingdom of Spain.
The islands’ attempts to achieve autonomous status go back to the 1930s, the period of the Second Republic. In 1936, the two provinces of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas, which both had administrative functions since the 19th century, proposed the formation of an autonomous community with twin capitals. However, the Civil War of 1936 -1939 and the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, which continued until 1975, put a halt to these efforts.
After the death of Franco and the establishment of democracy, the 17 autonomous communities we know today were formed, between 1979 and 1983. In 1995 they were joined by two autonomous cities, Ceuta and Melilla. According to Article 2 of the Spanish constitution of 1978, the union of the nation is indissoluble, but it does guarantee the regions the right to autonomous status. A regional community is defined by its geographical proximity and shared historical and cultural heritage. On 10 August 1982 the Estatuto de Autonomía de Canarias (Canarian Statute of Autonomy) was passed and published in the Boletín Oficial del Estado (the oficial gazette of the Spanish Government): the Spanish national parliament conferred autonomous status on the Islands. The first elections took place on 8 May 1983.
The autonomous community
The Canary Islands consist of two provinces: Las Palmas, with the islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria, and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, with Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife are the capital cities of the Cana-ries and the seat of government is in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The President’s official residence alternates between the two cities with each legislative period, and the Vice-President never resides in the same city as the President.
On Canary Day local communities organise a variety of cultural activities. They are centred around traditional customs and celebrated with small festivals in the village squares. There is singing and dancing to folk music, and the sounds of the timple, a traditional stringed instrument, can be heard. The people dress in traditional costumes. Often there are sports contests, like Canarian wrestling (Lucha Canaria) and stick fighting (Juego del Palo). At asaderos (barbecues) meat specialities are served along with papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes with a salt crust) and traditional mojos (sauces).
The governments of the individual islands and the Autonomous Government organise bigger events for the holiday. Also on this day, the Premios de Canarias are awarded. These prizes are given by the President to people or institutions who, in their work have given continued service to Canarian culture in the fields of literature, sports and communications.