Icod de Los Vinos
Icod de los Vinos is a municipality in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife on the island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands (Spain). It is in the northwest part of the island. People from Icod are known in Spanish as "icodenses".
Icod has an area of 95.90 km², is situated at an altitude of 235 metres above sea level, and has a population of 22,958 as of 2003.
Icod de los Vinos is located on a continuous smooth slope that stretches from the extensive forests of Canary Island Pine down to the sea, and has almost 10km of shoreline. The city is surrounded by a very fertile valley, and its streets and corners offer impressive views of the volcanic mountain Teide, as well as dense pine forests which descend like hanging gardens from its summit to Icod's higher-altitude districts. Its banana plantations, orchards and vineyards give rise to a lively commerce.
The community is bypassed to the north with the highway linking Santiago del Teide and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and west of the TF2, superhighway as well as north of TF38 and TF1 superhighway. Icod de los Vinos is located about 80 km W of the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, north of Los Cristianos and Playa de las Américas, NW of the Reina Sofia Airport.
Founded in 1501, the city is a collection of seigniorial houses, ancient palaces, churches and convents.
The name comes from the former menceyato of Icoden, together with a reference to the product for which the area has historically been best known: the local wine (vino in Spanish), which has recently regained its ancient prestige. The Spanish conquerors were quick to colonize this fertile and well-watered region, and introduced the cultivation of sugarcane and grapevines; the latter came to predominate.
Monuments and places of interest
In the Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres stands the monument to General José Antonio Páez, founder of Venezuela's independence, whose great-grandfather came from Icod. The town's neighborhoods are sprinkled with innumerable hermitages and other buildings that give Icod great symbolic and artistic value, which can be appreciated at the Museo de Arte Sacro in the church of San Marcos.
Ancient Dragon Tree
The Dragon Tree at IcodIn Icod stands a famous dragon tree (Dracaena draco), said to be thousands of years old. In fact, no study seems to have confirmed such longevity for the tree, which is more likely to have an age in the hundreds of years. In any case, it is a tree that never goes unnoticed, and it has always been the symbol of Icod. No one speaks of the city without mentioning the dragon tree. It would perhaps be exaggerated to say that Icod owes its progress to the tree, since its valley is a fertile and agriculturally rich comarca, as shown by the town's full name, Icod de los Vinos (Icod of the Wines).
A tour of Icod is a stimulating opportunity. One route might follow all of the local shrines: Buen Paso, San Felipe, El Tránsito, Las Angustias, San Antonio, El Amparo... Within these shrines we can observe a wide variety of rich artistic treasures. One must also visit the Plaza de la Pila, with its ancestral homes; the Cáceres house, the former San Francisco convent and its chapel of Dolores, the former San Agustín chapel, León Huerta Plaza, Lorenzo Cáceres Park, and above all, the church of San Marcos and its Sacred Art Museum. Images of the most famous sculptors, altarpieces and works of fine gold- and silversmithing, like the celebrated Filigree Cross, are part of the important artistic treasure that may be observed in Icod. We find its origin near the end of the 15th Century, with the establishment of the first settlements, conditioning of the farmland, opening of communications links and the construction of homes.
Church of San Marcos
The Church of San Marcos (St. Mark) is located on the Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres, the spot where, according to tradition, the Guanches already venerated the saint's icon - una pequeña talla gótica-flamenca - before the conquest. Near the plaza is the Drago de Icod, the dragon tree, symbol of the town, which is probably more than 500 years old.
Plaza de La Pila
The Plaza de La Pila, near the Parque del Drago, is bordered by grand old homes, among which the Casa de los Cáceres (house of the Cáceres family), now a museum, is distinctive. The Plaza itself, with its small botanic garden, is considered the most beautiful plaza in the Canary Islands.
Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres
The Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres with its varied vegetation is located in the environment of the Parque del Drago. This is also the location of the parish church of San Marcos, a Canary-Islands-style church built in the first half of the 16th century. The church has five naves, three of them separated by columns, and two of them having side chapels. Worth seeing on the church's exterior are the stone bell tower and facade. In the interior are kept important images, as well as valuable sculptures; among those that stand out are the statues of St. Mark the Evangelist and Our Lady of the Kings, in late Gothic style, and interesting paintings, including one of the Annunciation.
Playa de San Marcos
This sheltered bay on the north coast of Tenerife takes its name from the image of St. Mark the Evangelist venerated in the parish church of Icod which bears his name. This is the same image which appeared in a cave near the seashore during the conquest of the island. Several historians, including Licentiate Juan Nuñez de la Peña, mention its strange and mysterious discovery.
The safety provided by this harbor, protected against almost all winds, sheltered by its high encircling cliffs, having good anchorages and a very beautiful beach, has led navigators ever since the conquest of Tenerife to choose it as a refuge in stormy weather. These advantageous conditions, and the proximity of the rich pine woods which Icod then had in much greater abundance than today, promoted the timber trade and the fabrication of ships. Many galleons and frigates were built in its shipyards for the service of the King of Spain.
Don Luis de la Cueva y Benavides, Governor-General of the Canary Islands and President of their Royal Audiencia, chose this sheltered harbor for the construction of the frigates he had undertaken for the Royal Armada, and for this reason the people who stayed in this place while the ships were being built, including many naval carpenters and caulkers, came to Icod. Timbers were cut in the forest which then existed in the vicinity of the Ermita del Amparo, a place which still records this fact in the name of Corte de Naos (place where wood was cut for ships) which it retains.
The soldiers of the three companies of militia which were then stationed in Icod assisted with great willingness and care, during the construction of the frigates, in everything they were instructed to do by the persons who directed them, and everyone who lived nearby gave up their beds to give comfortable accommodations to the soldiers and workmen Don Luis de la Cueva had brought with him.
The Governor-General was so pleased with the comportment of the militiamen in Icod that before he left, on November 30, 1601, he issued a letter of praise through his scribe, Juan Nuñez de Cain y Zaraza. The letter granted them priviledged exemption from forced lodging, participation in night vigils or contributions to them, and exemption from personal service. Furthermore, he ordered that his lieutenants, militia leaders, captains and all other military officers should not compel their men to go to other towns for military parades, but rather that others should come to Icod to perform them. Only when other garrisons were on alert would they have to travel to attend them.
Those were times of constant alarm and fear for the inhabitants of the Canary Islands, because of the frequent appearance of pirates and corsairs in Canarian waters, and every town lived on a war footing to forestall their surprises and excesses. The inhabitants of Icod, attentive to its defense, kept an arsenal of 500 muskets and a reserve of gunpowder in a strategic and secret location. But since the chief danger was at Puerto de San Marcos, even though the latter had been fortified by nature, a strong wall was constructed on the beach, to make the place more accessible to disembarkation, and a watchtower was built on a prominent place in the town, from which its watchmen, which commanded a wider view of the sea than those on the coast, constantly surveyed the horizon.
Today the Playa de San Marcos, protected by shell-shaped cliffs and covered with the black sand characteristic of northern Tenerife, is a place of recreation where the town's residents and their visitors can enjoy the magnificent surrounding landscape as well as a swim in its tranquil waters.
Cueva del Viento
Thought to be the largest volcanic cave in the world, the Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind) has a known length of over 14 kilometers. It consists of a complex lava tube with several entrances. It presents great internal complexity, a wide variety of geomorphological structures, and a unique fauna, both living and fossilized. Other caves, also very extensive, are found in other nooks of the town: these include San Marcos, Punto Blanco, El Rey, and Felipe Reventón.
Casa de Los Cáceres
This was formerly the residence of Lorenzo Cáceres, a colonel of engineers. Its three-story neoclassical facade presents traditional quartered windows; a high arched central gate with a stone frame, cornice, and balustrade; this gate between large flowerpots; and a pretty hidden balcony sporting turned balusters in the main window.
Icod Public Library
The Icod Public Library has returned to its original venue. The new installations in which it is housed now can—and should—transform it into one of the best bibliographic and cultural centers of reference on the Islands. Today, the library has three branches.
The Central Library is still situated in the Casa de los Cáceres, and already contains close to 13,200 volumes.
The Library of the Institute of Lucas Martín Espino (11,000 volumes)
The Santa Barbara Library (2,500 volumes, specialized in children's literature)
The hours of operation of the library are the same in all three branches: Monday to Friday, 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. Use of the library is free, and visiting or consulting its contents does not require any kind of membership.
With an openly creative purpose, the library publishes a literary collection of Canary art and publications. These short notebooks were created in order to offer visitors some of the most exceptional artistic, literary, and written prospects of the Canary Islands specifically, and Spain generally. Titled Trama interior (The Interior Plot), the documents reunite three young Canary painters: Cristina Gámez, Eva Ibarria and Rosa Rodríguez. Other items included are:
La educación de Nausícaa (The Education of Narcissus), a magnificent essay by Alejandro Krawietz
El Burro y el buey (The Donkey and the Bull), a collection of poems by Joao Guimaraes Rosa
Los pájaros (The Birds), a notebook of poems by Jordi Doce
La pintura pensada (The Pondered Painting) , a conversation with painter Andrés Rábago
Once poemas (Eleven Poems), by Régulo Hernández, a book which celebrates the year of the beginning of the collection
The collection has also united the drawings of painters like Karina Beltrán and Carlos Schwartz
Folklore and Customs
Tablas de San Andrés.
On 29 November each year, the eve of San Andrés' day and the official festival of new wine, the storehouses open for all to taste the juice of the year's harvest, accompanied by roasted chestnuts. This festival, deeply rooted among Icod's citizens, involves sliding on "tablas" or boards (originally by torchlight [?]) down the steeply sloping neighborhood streets. The greatest spectacle of the party is seen in Plano street, where these slippery boards are seen speeding along, steered by daring and youthful riders.
This tradition was born from the need to transport wood from the highest zones of the municipality down to the workshops where it was used in handicrafts and in naval construction. The wood traveled down El Amparo street (then unpaved) on the back of a large board or plank, while "oars" of heather or fayatree (Myrica faya) branches were used to brake and steer, thus avoiding the endless obstacles that might be in the way. Nowadays other types of "boards" are used -- metal, plastic, automotive suspensions [?], etc. -- which leave the practice dull and far-removed from the origin of the San Andrés boards. Every year the municipal authorities call for an end to these different variations in an effort to preserve the tradition of the "tablas". Many visitors come from other parts of the island to see the annual festival, as do tourists.
Los Hachitos (literally, "the little torches") is a holiday of pagan origin, a remnant of a summer solstice fire cult that has remained well established, and its celebration never forgotten. Today, this parade takes place in Icod de los Vinos from San Marcos to El Amparo, passing through Las Charnecas and El Lomo de Las Canales. It is possible that the parade route approaches the sea in anticipation of the coming of the sun. To the son rhythm of the tajaraste drums, los hachitos come out during the festival of San Juan Bautista on 23 June. They are made of rags soaked in petroleum and placed in the high areas of the city, forming pictures out of light (stars, hearts, crosses, and so on), or are thrown down the mountain to evoke a lava flow. Others are decorated with branches, flowers and ribbons and carried up the mountain, giving rise to a magical, multicolored spectacle.
El Diablo y La Diabla
This is a tradition that was frequent in the neighborhoods and settlements in the time of Corpus Christi. In this they represented the fight of the forces of hell against the archangel Saint Michael. The male and female devils (el diablo y la diabla) left accompanied by their court of giants and dwarves, which amused the town with the rhythm of the tajaraste. This custom was prohibited, it being said that it only invited disorder and the distraction of religious devotion. But this custom continues to be practiced, evidence of this being that today el diablo y la diabla continue leaving in the middle of September through the neighborhood of Las Angustias (The Anguishes) in honor of the Virgin.
Los Guanches de La Candelaria.
In the zone known as La Candelaria, each August 15, the Virgin is put on procession, where townsfolk dressed like Guanches stage the first encounter of the Guanches with the Virgin. After this unique performance, the spectators accompany the procession to an area where they are honored with a shower of artificial fireworks.
The Pilgrimage of the Poleo.
In El Amparo, with the holiday of the patron saint, there is a pilgrimage to the rhythm of the "tajaraste," which consists of going to the mountain to collect the branch and the poleo to adorn the neighborhood during the festival days. In these festivals, at the beginning of August, the decoration of the better half of the church has always had a special character. The adornment of the main door, called "bollo" is an enormous sponge cake, coated with small sugar figurines, the "alfeñiques", all adorned with many colored ribbons. The rest of the arch is adorned with palm, poleo, etc... and some baskets of fruit which hang from the roof. Finally, in the corners of the roof, hang the "madamas", large bread figures, adorned with bows and dressed very colorfully.
Baskets and Pastries of Santa Bárbara
In August, in honor of its patron, St. Barbara, the characteristic fair of baskets and pastries is celebrated. This popular rite is typified by its ingenious offering, based on garden produce. The baskets are decorated with fruits and vegetables that are placed in the plaza, in the portico of the church, in order to give a colorful and dynamic aspect to the festivities with these spectacular artisanal works. The pastries are nothing more than figurines made out of sugar in the shape of animals, and adorned with multicolored ribbons by the artisans of the neighborhood. These singular figures are carried on the heads of the single women and matchmakers of the neighborhood to place them among the baskets in the church portico, as an offering and homage to the saint.
The gastronomy of Icod de los Vinos is unique; some dishes can only be made locally, as they require indigenous ingredients that can only be found in the Canary Islands. In fact, Canarian cuisine is eclectic, due to the Islands having been a port of call for centuries. Its most characteristic features include los mojos, or sauces  (mojo verde, made from cilantro, and mojo picón, a spicy sauce, are the most common) that serve as the preferred accompaniment to fish of great texture and flavor, such as bogas, samas, salemas, chernes, and the famous vieja ("old woman"). Papas arrugadas ("wrinkled potatoes") , potatoes cooked in seawater and served in their skins: Of all their varieties, the "black" is considered to be best. Icod is also home to a varied assortment of confections; bienmesabe , arroz a la miel (honeyed rice), piononos (stuffed fried plantains), leche asada ("roasted milk"), quesadillas and truchas (fried, filled sweet potato pastries; lit. "trout") are some of Icod's most prized desserts.
The Coat of Arms of Icod de los Vinos
To speak of the Drago milenario (declared a National Monument in 1917) is to speak of the essence of the town's fame. It is precisely because of this ancient example of Canary Island flora, a symbol which evokes the lively community of the hospitable northern population, that in the conduct of its famous festivals in honor of Christ on Calvary, the islands' feelings of patriotism and religion are given splendid tribute. This tribute recalls the numerous glorious dates of the isles' history, so closely linked from the initial conquest that began its recorded history.
It is fitting then, that the Drago and the Teide (which symbolizes the rise of the island toward all things great and noble) figure prominently in the city's coat of arms, which was bestowed upon the city by Royal Decree on 9 November, 1921. As one can see in the accompanying picture, it consists of two divided quarters. In one, the Teide appears over a field of blue; in the other, the Drago is over a field of silver. The blazon is encircled by eight clusters of golden grapes over a field of sinople (2). Four tenantes (3) symbolize the history of the island's conquest upon evoking a change of impressions between the menceyes Belicar de Icod, Rosmeu de Daute, Pelinor de Adeje, and Adjoña de Abona, with the aim of ending their valiant resistance against the Spanish troops which had already triumphed at two crucial points in the present-day areas of La Victoria de Acentejo and Los Realejos. The heraldic elements exalt the traditional courtesy and hospitality of the people of Icod; their laboriousness and extremely fertile countryside; their profound sense of patriotism and their dedication to the memory of the history uniting their two races under the auspices of Santa Cruz. As an official blazon, the coat of arms of Icod affirms and underscores all of the acts of the city. (1) CANARIAS - Magazine which is published in Villa de La Orotava. (2) Sinople - Heraldic color which in painting is represented by green, and in engraving by oblique lines which run from the cantón diestro del jefe al siniestro de la punta. It is also used as a noun. (3) Tenantes - Each one of the figures of men/angels that the sheild displays.