Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

The legend at the Heart of a Canarian Village: Vi la Flor de Chasna


Vilaflor is a village usually overlooked by tourists as their  buses hurtle past in search of the dramatic landscapes of the Teide National Park, and whilst I have no desire to rob the 2,000 or so inhabitants of the village of potential revenue, I breathe a sigh of relief as I type that. If the pueblo does cross the consciousness of the average visitor to Tenerife, it’s because it boasts the title of “Spain’s highest village.” That is disputed, and, hard to get into my skull, having stood on the slopes of the snow-clad Sierra Nevada. Even in chill mid-Winter the snow doesn’t come down this far.

poppies vilaflor

Today I am in search of spring, yet again. You must excuse my excessive enthusiasm. You see I’ve never been too much of a fan of the season, and certainly have never seen it throw such an extravagant display on this island as it has done this year.

Driving up to Vilaflor I take the snaps you saw in the previous post; appropriately canary-yellow wild fennel, delicate, mauve poppies, and sunny California poppies.

Flor is Spanish for flower, and it’s understandable that you would think the village  is named for the glorious displays we’re seeing. Not so, and the story of its rebirth, if not its founding, is sad, and romantic, and to put it in modern terms, it’s a story of culture clash.

flowers vilaflor

Tenerife was the last of the Canary Islands to fall to the Spanish conquistadors in 1496. The indigenous Guanche, described later by their conquerors as noble and brave, had fought fiercely, but in the end succumbed to the superior weaponry and equipment of their foes.

Although the dimensions of Tenerife couldn’t be more different from those of the Americas, the stories of what happened to the Guanche often have a ring of what happened to the natives of those continents. A people who lived in harmony with the earth, whose gods represented the universal order of things – the earth, sun, moon – were beaten, humiliated, enslaved, exhibited in the Spanish court and probably died of diseases brought by their captors. Some were converted to “Christianity” (ever the excuse for conquest and colonization), and absorbed into “civilized” society, leaving their inheritance to whither. Only in fairly recent times have historians begun to really try to piece together what information remains to form a more complete picture.

This then, is the background to our story, and into this scenario rides one Pedro Bracamonte, a captain in the conquering forces of Alonso Fernández de Lugo. Pedro is dispatched by his commander to explore the verdant hillsides around Chasna, a Guanche settlement. With the arrogance typical of tyrants, seeing a beautiful, young Guanche maiden, he holds her against her will for several days, before she is able to make her escape into the surrounding forest.

His arrogance, however, is his undoing. In those brief days he falls deeply in love with the girl. He pursues her desperately through territory which is her friend and his foe, with its deep valleys, caves and thickly wooded slopes, but he can find no trace. Within three months our conquering “hero” dies from a broken heart. With his last breath he indicates that at least he dies having seen the flower of Chasna – Vi la flor de Chasna.

purple poppies and california poppies vilaflor

wildflowers on steps vilaflor

As with many so-called “love stories” my first reaction is a long sigh, and then “serves him right” cuts in. As Guanche culture clashed with Castellano, so my modern perception of history clashes with this charming tale. Still, it’s a story, and stories make the world go around.

Today’s Vilaflor de Chasna truly is a contrast to “el cemento” on the tourist coast of Tenerife. It is sleepy (except for fiesta days!). It fairly twinkles with well-kept pride, its streets clean but not sterile. And despite the legend, its name seems apt, as flowers fill every nook, cranny and corner.  A lovely, 90-year-old lady I meet in the village square tells me that  the delightful juxtaposition of modern water feature with beds of wildflowers, the renovations of the carved-wood, Canarian balconies, and the general loveliness of the tiny town is all down to the mayor, who always has her vote “even though he’s a socialist”……..a true democrat! Perhaps it’s that sense of truly shared civic pride which is reflected in the atmosphere, and makes this place special. I certainly don’t know anywhere else quite like it on this island.

water feature vilaflor

wildflower beds square vilaflor

Carved wood Canarian balcony and tajinaste vilaflor

Today seems quite busy for a weekday. The little tourist information kiosk in the pretty and peaceful square has something of a queue – three groups of people, including me, and another dozen or so sip coffee outside the bar nearby. All dressed in walking gear, they are mainly German and Scandinavian, save for one middle-aged lady in a pretty red and white dress and a sun hat. I can’t help hoping that her husband is going to take a photo of her in one of the glorious fields of California poppies we passed, the colors would be so good.

Tajinaste close up

tajinaste church square vilaflor


california poppies

When Flor de Chasna fled her captors there were no California poppies in the Canary Islands. They arrived, intentionally or not, on the trade ships which crossed the Atlantic with treasures from North America, but, these flowers which seem to capture the very sunshine – I like to think she would have liked them.

Author: IslandMomma

Aging with passion; travelling with curiosity; exploring islandlife, and trying to keep fit and healthy.

18 thoughts on “The legend at the Heart of a Canarian Village: Vi la Flor de Chasna

  1. I remember the orange poppies in Tenerife – we don’t get those around here – ours are the red ones 🙂

    I hope Vilaflor continues to escape the hordes – rather just tick along, visited by those who might more appreciate its charms.

    Gorgeous photos, Linda.

    • Thank you. Re the photos not really hard with a blue sky and those colors 🙂 We have the red ones too, but they grow in different places. This day we saw a few, but a couple of weeks previously we’d seen an entire meadowful and no California ones. Stand to be corrected but I think they grow more or less over 1,000m (or ft ouch not sure which).

      Hope you’re settling back into Andalucian life 🙂

  2. Really enjoyed your piece Linda, almost as much as enjoyed being there with you!!

  3. Muchisimas gracias, amiga. Think I have another one yet. Gorgeous. place, isn’t it

  4. Gorgeous photos. Would love to learn more about the Guanche.

  5. Thanks, Regina……I have a half written post about the Guanche. Realize I keep referencing them with only a brief explanation! I’ve been waiting to find time to get up to a museum in Santa Cruz, where they exhibit some of the mummies (they mummified their dead) I went a few months ago now, but felt weird taking photos of them, but I think I’ve gotten over it now!

  6. I just love you’re piece and the pictures ! poppies are my favorite flowers ( look at my nick-name 😉 ) There’s a story behind that too…( but that’s a different story 😉 )
    I have pictures of the same house in Villaflor ( from the end of december ) one of them is the screensaver on my husbands computer…
    We’re counting the months now before we come back – hopefully one day to stay!!!

    • I hope you achieve your ambition to stay one day. If you want to see so many poppies time it for late April when you can see so many varieties. The California poppies are beginning on the way up to Vilaflor from Arona, and also on the hillsides of Güimar Valley, but in the Santiago del Teide valley a couple of weeks back we saw scores of “traditional” red poppies, also in Teno, and there we also saw beautiful purple ones. Wish I knew the correct names for them all – learning curve!

  7. I’m so glad she escaped. Too bad her people didn’t.

    • Yep. Pretty much the same story as throughout the Americas. The Guanche were enslaved, killed or died because of contact with diseases not known to them. A few were assimulated into the culture, but since records are so sketchy it seems it’s hard to trace what happened to them.

  8. just sayin’ …… is this the longest gap between your musings? feels like it. also, kept thinking as I look at your photo how nice that blue shirt is THEN lightbulb moment ahhh it is identical to my favourite blue shirt which I wore and wore until it all but fell apart!
    that’s all.

  9. Could be. Am in the midst of changing the blog over, and it’s taking a lot of my time! Hey, great minds think alike!

    • Christine, I was thinking about what you said. I know you don’t like FaceBook, but I don’t believe you have to join to see my IslandMomma FB page, because it’s open to all, like this blog. To see my personal profile there then, yes, you would need to have a FB account yourself, because that is private and restricted only to “friends on FB.” However, I do tend to post something to the FB page every day. Lots more fotos over there.

  10. will ava butchers! Off to Scotland for some R & R (in the cold wind and rain)

  11. Oh now look what I’ve started. I will read your volcanoes piece shortly, just to say – yep can read and see your islandmommaFB stuff and had a little chuckle as I had a quick second look at you modelling your pareo, because it ‘almost’ looks like you whipped off your knickers and waved them in the air. now that is what I call a beach day LOL, closer inspection shows it is a hat!

  12. Wow what a great floral tribute to this place. Great images to match a great story, I love hearing the legends which surround any destination. this one does not disappoint thanks for sharing.

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