The popular Fiesta del Charco in Gran Canaria

The Fiesta del Charco or Embarbascá, in La Aldea de San Nicolás, is one of the most popular and multitudinous events of the island of Gran Canaria and the entire archipelago. Every September 11, in the large pool of the municipality, hundreds of people gather to catch the fish that live in this coastal lagoon with their own hands. This celebration is considered an Asset of Cultural Interest and is based on a pre-Hispanic tradition.

El Charco: a natural setting

El Charco, located in La Aldea de San Nicolás, is the natural setting in which the celebration takes place. It is a small coastal lagoon located in a unique setting, between the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, occupying the center of the mouth of the ravine of La Aldea a few meters from the sea .

This type of natural manifestations are known in the Canary Islands as "marciegas" and are caused by the flooding and flooding of sea water when the sea level rises. This natural effect occurs at the time of the spring tides in September, also known as tides of the Pine Tree in Gran Canaria, added to the contributions of the successive runoffs of the ravine of the Village that occur as a result of rainfall.

The usual depth of El Charco does not usually exceed one meter fifty meters in height and the bottom is formed by sedimentary deposits and boulders from the dragging of the ravine. 

In addition, this small lagoon, where the Fiesta del Charco is celebrated, has been declared and recognized as an Asset of Cultural Interest by the Government of the Canary Islands, with a category of Ethnological Site, given its great symbolic influence, landscape and the representative force of the culture and history of the Canary Islands.

Origin of the famous Fiesta del Charco

The Fiesta del Charco tries to represent and pay tribute to the way of life of the ancient aborigines of the Canary Islands. This celebration revives an ancient aboriginal fishing technique called "embarbascada", the name by which this festival is also known, which consisted of pouring sap from plants such as cardon or tabaiba to cause a sedative effect on the fish in the coastal puddles and, thus, to catch them more easily by hand. 

This practice was present on the island and was used until well into the twentieth century. Nowadays, it has become a patron saint festival characteristic of the north of Gran Canaria. Near El Charco are El Alambique and the Cueva de El Roque, a hollow by the sea where the Mallorcans, in the mid-fourteenth century, built a chapel in honor of San Nicolás de Tolentino and, on the other side, the archaeological site of Los Caserones.

Procedure and rules of this festivity

As the custom dictates, participants must stand up, surrounding the pond without touching the water. In order to do so, the outer perimeter of the pond is first marked with a lime line, which must not be crossed until the starting gun is fired. 

On September 11, at five o'clock in the afternoon, a rocket launched by the mayor of the municipality gives the warning signal to start fishing. From that moment on, the race of the participants begins, who must immediately throw themselves en masse into the water to catch the fish with their hands, although it is also permitted to use baskets or sling baskets, thus recalling the origin of the festivity.

If you want to know more about the traditions and festivities of the Canary Islands, we leave you below the link to Marca Canaria section on Culture and well as several articles of interest: The aboriginal calendar or how time was measured; The popular festival of the Rama de Agaete; Festivals in La Gomera: the most popular ones.

Paula Vera



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