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1 posts from January 2012


The Canary Islands vs. Madrid

PlayaEnjoying some beach time in Tenerife.

The Canary Islands vs. Madrid
By: Jonathan Hanson (Wofford College)

This semester we took a weekend trip to one of the most amazing and beautiful parts of Spain, the Canary Islands.  We flew into Tenerife, the largest and most populated island of the Canaries, but we spent most of our time on La Gomera, a smaller, less-populated island.  We spent our week exploring the beautiful island of La Gomera, hanging out at the beach, and becoming acquainted with the new culture there.

There are many noticeable differences between these two islands and Madrid – in fact, they didn't really seem like Spain at all!  One of the most obvious differences is the accent of the locals.  The Spanish accent is very clear and distinct from Latin America, but the accent in the Canaries sounds exactly like some kind of Latin American accent.  For instance, they drop the s's off of the end of the words, they don't replace the 's' sound with a 'th' sound like in mainland Spain, and they also use 'ustedes' as the second-person plural in all cases, whereas mainland-Spaniards generally use 'vosotros'.  It's really interesting how much accents can change when you go to different regions of Spain, and the difference in the Canaries is extremely different.  Our guide for the week, José María, told us that many people from the Canary islands immigrated to Latin-America, and that the accent used in the Canaries has had tremendous influence on what we now hear today in Latin America.

The town of Arure on the island of La Gomera

Other differences include the fact that Madrid is a huge city, and La Gomera is a small island with few inhabitants (Tenerife is a little bit bigger, but it is still small compared to Madrid).  I have gotten so used to big city life, that is was kind of weird spending time on such a quiet island.  The culture is also just very different in general.  One thing you will notice is the level of touching when talking to other people.  Hispanic cultures have always been known for touching and standing rather close to people when speaking, and in the Canaries this was even more true.  La Gomera also has a unique language that its inhabitants still use – a whistling language!  They literally whistle out words (that mimic Spanish words) in order to communicate long distances – it is a required part of curriculum in schools. The food is also very different from Madrid; there are many different cuisines eaten there that don't resemble typical Spanish food.  One interesting food is gofio, a powder substance made from corn and barley that you put in drinks and on food for extra flavoring and texture.  I found it very interesting that they put a powdery substance in drinks like coffee.

There are many other differences between these islands and Madrid, and it is just a completely different place from what I have experienced so far in Spain.  It was an amazing experience and the highlight of my travels around Europe thus far.  I hope to go back one day and will always remember the unique and exciting experience I had there.

CanariesmtnA mountain on the island of La Gomera.