The first impression that you have visiting the town is that here the rural past and the present dominated by tourism have merged perfectly, creating an incredibly balanced combination of quiet areas and events of major social relevance.
The city of Santa Brígida has 17,600 citizens and it’s located about 14 km to the interior of the island, starting from the capital Las Palmas, and its urban core is concentrated in a gorge of volcanic origin, rich in palm trees.
The spectacular villas and independent houses still retain all the elements of traditional architecture, while other buildings (such as the Parish Church) have been built and maintained in completely different styles.
The first settlement dates back to 1522, and it was immediately recognized as an exceptional place for its agricultural yield: to this day its local market is particularly famous, and it happens every weekend. You will find every typical product, as well as a wide choice of cheeses, country bread, jams, various types of honey and homemade cakes.
The richness of the landscape of Santa Brígida is not far behind! A few kilometers from the city takes place the Natural Monument of Bandama, in other words … the volcano! We have already talked about the Volcano Bandama and the possible routes of walking in this article, to which I refer you! → Read about Bandama 🙂
Now, instead, let’s look more in detail at the other scenic and historical beauties that the pueblo offers with its surroundings …
La Atalaya de Santa Brígida, for example, is a village of casas cuevas (means “cave houses”) dating back to pre-Hispanic times. Here, the typical pottery is still being worked out, following very ancient techniques, which were already used in most of the island’s homes at the time. The artisans themselves are known as producers of porcelain vases and manufacturers, to the point that the art itself is called “Majolica”. Not to be missed, if you are interested in the topic, is the Eco-Museum Casa Alfar Panchito, that shows an important collection of handicraft pieces and take the name by the artisan Francisco Rodriguez Santana (here’s some links to know more).
Since Santa Brígida is a renowned agricultural center, it would be a pity not to appreciate its fruits… and visit at least the market or the Casa del Vino, right in the historic center of the city, which offers excellent tasting of d.o.c. wines with provenance, of course, Canaria.
Among other things to do in the area, there is certainly a visit to the Cueva de Los Frailes, the name by which the caves near the Bridge de la Calzada are known, excavated in the Volcano Caldereta. It takes its name from two friars, Juan de Lebrija and Diego de las Cañas, who tried to intercede between the Spanish government and the aborigines, with poor results. Rediscovered in 1933, the complex of 37 caves is today considered an important archaeological site for the pre-Hispanic history of the island.
La Cuesta de la Grama is a very beautiful natural site, to be seen absolutely if you are surrounded by nature and greenery! It is located just before the entrance to Santa Brígida, along the GC-015 road and refers in particular to a rock ridge with plants known as “Grama”, a name that derives from the Gramineae family, with a typical cylindrical and creeping stem. , which shoots radicles through the knots. These plants have short, flat and sharp leaves, which in the appropriate season become three to five flowers in thread-like spikes.
These types of plants are very common and, even if we consider them bad-weeds, they are very important for their diuretic, expectorant, purifying, emollient and antipyretic value.
Ideally you could create an imaginary triangle between the city of Santa Brígida, Cuesta la Grama and San José de Las Vegas … a triangle of a few kilometers that is wonderful to follow on foot, during an excursion.
The history of this small neighborhood is linked above all to the Hacienda de los Manrique de Lara and in particular to the chapel of its owner Agustín Manrique de Lara y Bravo de Laguna, which was then ceded to the city and converted into a parish.
The original chapel was dedicated to the invocation of San Jose and Maria, and it was built in 1711 by Pedro Alvarado Orellana, but was later rebuilt in 1939 on the foundations of the early seventeenth century oratory under the technical direction of the architect Antonio Cardona Aragon, which also created a new high bell tower. In the adjacent house was also invited the great historian and priest José de Viera y Clavijo, whose name is today connected to the larger Botanical Garden of the island. He wrote several verses to enhance the beauty of this district.
Another place is Mount Lentiscal, that identifies an area that is concentrated between La Caldereta de Tafira Alta in the north and El Roquete in the south, developed on the edge of the GC-15 road and including various urban centers and plots.
In ancient times the name defined a wider territory and originated from the plants, in the dense forest of lentisk (used for the production of oil and for the precious wood, sought by the artisans to make the best inlays). Furthermore, from the resin of the lentisk, mastic is obtained, useful both for its health properties but also… for the construction work! 🙂
Despite the prohibitions and ordinances issued by the Cabildo, and despite attempts to repopulate it, the forest completely disappeared at the beginning of the 19th century.
The land on which it stood were divided into parcels and resold for ordinary crops, giving the umpteenth demonstration of man’s inability to sustain a rhythm of natural life. This continuous search for speed and development has brought in a short time the resurgence in the whole valley in the form of vines: today, in fact, the area’s wine production is one of the largest on the island.
Here’s a map of GC-15, a road that is very important for the history of the island, and also for you to know something more about the area you’re going to visit! 😉
Last thing… but not least! The town Vega de Santa Brígida was for a long time one of the places chosen by the upper bourgeoisie to establish their official residence, since the end of the 18th century. This, as you can imagine, has encouraged the creation and growth of services in this area, as well as participating in increasing interest and tourism towards the rural area of Gran Canaria.
One of the improvements, in fact, concerned the condition of the roads that connected Vega with the other inhabited centers, and the first birth of groups of entrepreneurs dedicated to the “collective transport of people“.
The activity began with considerable efforts, both for draft animals and for the muleteers, and also for the amount of intermediate stops (which also involved taking care of the horses with food and water, replacing irons, etc.).
According to the sources of the time, there were three important stages: one was El Monte; another one in La Alcantarilla, in the center of the city; and the last, in a place called (guess why!) the Great Stop. 🙂
Already the press of the time spoke of coachmen “always in a hurry”, with “the love of speed”, and the business therefore was developing gradually in a spectacular way, despite the protests of certain travelers, who ended the journey scared . Nothing in fact changed, indeed in the 20th century with the introduction of motorized cars all acquired, if possible, an even greater connotation of speed linked to the transport service. The first car of the newborn Compañía de Automóviles de Santa Brígida (1920) was carved from the chassis of a Renault, to which were then added four other cars all painted yellow, which were called precisely because of their speed “cars per hour” .
It was instead in 1940 that small vehicles began to emerge, called fotingos (probably a mispronunciation of the name Ford Type or Ford T), which were a great success in the sector, as they began to drive on the same roads as the “cars per hour” but with the advantage of a few minutes… so basically today we would say that they made unfair competition to the company of the city. Being a group of cars of private workers, they were soon recognized as piratas (the meaning is clear: “pirates” of the road).
Because of the too strong competition, the Compañía de Automóviles had first to change its name and then definitively close in the ’70s (better to say, it was absorbed by the Aicasa company). For the resolution of the problem the entrepreneurs and the workers had to wait the Decree-Law of the Interurban Transport of the island, that definitely assigned the routes of the North and Center to a new company called Utinsa (Union of Insular Transports), formed by the pirates, and the routes of the South to the new company Salcai (Canarian Anonymous Company of Intercity Buses), formed by the workers of Aicasa. At the end, in the 21st century they merged together into Global Salcai-Utinsa giving the definitive structure that we still know today.
So… what are you waiting for? 😉 Of all the places to see on the island, certainly Santa Brígida offers you many possibilities for all types of tourism and pockets! Take the Blue Bus n. 301 (here’s the schedule!) from San Telmo Station and… enjoy it!