Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Snapshots from... Gran Canaria

In our regular series, we go exploring, finding out about the writing life around the world. Today María Henríquez-Betancor introduces us to Gran Canaria, the 3rd largest of the Canary Islands.
By JJ Marsh

What’s so great about Gran Canaria?

Well, It's a big island with many possibilities. You can bathe at the most beautiful golden beach and also go to the best classical music concert on the same day. It is an island in the Atlantic but it is very much open to the world, close to Africa and also close to Europe. It’s very multicultural, you can have a great time if you are searching for a cultural life and also go for a hike in the mountains to volcanic spaces. As I said, it offers many surprising possibilities...

Tell us a bit about the cultural life of the place.

Las Palmas offers varied and numerous cultural possibilities. It hosts an international classical music festival that is held once a year and brings musicians from all over the world. It also has a very popular film festival in March, an international storytelling festival which gathers a multicultural range of storytellers….Its cultural life has improved during the past few years. You can have access to national and local theatre plays… It's very attractive for South American singers, we have a very close connecton with Cuba and Venezuela, two places where Canarian people emigrated in the first half of the 20th century.

What's hot? What are the people reading?

Anything related to the sea is hot here: surfing, paddle surf, sailing, snorkeling…. Now we are close to San Juan, the night of June 23rd when the summer starts… We have the tradition of having big fires where people burn old stuff and also write those habits and feelings they want to get rid of…. People gather and celebrate the arrival of the summer, leaving what they don’t want behind…They say it’s a magic night!

People are reading authors such as Javier Sierra, Almudena Grandes, Gioconda Belli, Antonio Lozano, Juan Luis Cáceres….

Can you recommend any books set in Gran Canaria?

Local Canarian author Jose Luis Correa has set several of his books here, for example, Un rastro de sirenas, Muerte de un violinista. Alexis Ravelo also has Tres funerales para Eladio Monroy set in the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. They are both very popular, especially if you like detective stories.

Ragrding poetry my favourite authors are Pino Betancor’s Las oscuras violetas and Jose María Millares Sall’s Esa luz que nos quema .

Who are the best known local writers?

Pino Betancor (poetry), Alexis Ravelo, Jose Luis Correa (prose and poetry), Alicia Llarena, Milagros Álvarez, Antonio Lozano, among others.

Is the location an inspiration or distraction for you?

Well, in a way it can be both. For example, I have my weekly writing group in hhestudio, an art studio by the sea. We can see the ocean from the table where we write. It’s magic…We also wander around doing walking meditation before writing sometimes…I suppose I take advantage of the beautiful places, so that the can certainly be an inspiration.

What are you writing?

I am working on a non-fiction project dealing with family memories…I belong to a very big family. I’m the eighth out of nine siblings. My father had a banana plantation and it was a rather chaotic multi-generational family….My parents had their first child in the mid fifities when Franco wanted to build up the country’s population through big Catholic families…. My childhood is full of memories from my older siblings’ generational perspectives in a country which was certainly very distant from the Spain we live in now. I was able to live through musical trends, ground-breaking ideas, the transition from a very dark Spain into the land of revolution it turned into in the late seventies and eighties.

I am also working on a creative writing project. I love producing materials to help other people write like My Ten-Minute Journal which came out a year ago or La cajita de posibilidades (My Little box of possibilities).

Sum up life in Gran Canaria in three words.

Open sea, luminosity, multiculturalism.

María Henríquez-Betancor

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