16 Mar 2020

57. Street Art

Not so very long ago, El Pinar, where I live, woke up to a startling two storey high image squinting  at us on a previously blank wall just off the main road down to La Restinga. It represents José Padrón Machín, a journalist born in the village at the beginning of the twentieth century. Machín, as he was known, spent most of his life writing intensely about his island. I can vouch for that, for once he kept me awake the whole night bashing the hell out of his inseparable typewriter in the room below mine in a hostal in Valverde. It is with a vengeance that his portrait is on the wall of a building that stands where the Civil Guard once had their station. He spent years during the Civil War, and after, moving from one hiding place to another with them on his heels for his ideals were not always to the pleasure of the authorities.

In a recent post I said the sea around El Hierro is unpolluted. It is, relatively. Even so, a reminder of the ‘plastic menace’ in not out of place. The second mural to appear in El Pinar is again on the road to La Restinga, on the edge of the village. The portrayal of a fisherman and his boatload of plastic bottles is what nowadays we term ‘conceptual art’, a nice way of saying propaganda

Not so the third of our grandiose examples of street art. The story has it that a man from El Hierro went to herd sheep in the north of Spain. He hated the cold, the loneliness and being so far from his beloved island. His only solace was his dog, a German Shephard, that he called ‘Loba’ (she-wolf). The intelligent animal must have sensed something was about to change and, the night before their departure, went and got herself impregnated somewhere up in the Picos de Europa. Back on El Hierro she had her litter, undoubtedly fathered by a real wolf. And these pups were the start of our local Lobo Herreño (Wolfdog of El Hierro). The breed is lighter in colour and weight than an Alsatian. The Island breed differs also in that it has a straight topline and narrower muzzle. Its bright, playful eyes speak of the dog’s intelligence.

There was a strong breeze blowing the day I took this picture. Someone's lace curtain was trying to escape
through an open window upstairs near the Wolf-dog's right ear. I have no idea what the coloured lines are there for.

A bicycle lane running beside the road from Valverde to El Mocanal is enlivened – perhaps that’s not quite the word – with sheet-iron cutouts of figures, representing local peasants, and their negatives (two figures for the price of one blow of the oxyacetylene torch). I don’t recommend looking for them when driving along the road as their rusty colour makes them hard to distinguish and the traffic is often rather fast. There is one, though, that stands out from all the others. It is on the left going towards Frontera high on a ridge above the road, the silhouette of a Canary goatherd with his ‘lanza’ (lance), a pole with a metal point used for vaulting down the steep slopes behind stray animals. They’ve gone and spoilt it, in my opinion, by cutting the word ‘silba’ (he is whistling, or, he whistles) into the body of the cutout, probably in reference to the claim for recognition of the whistled language of El Hierro, like that of La Gomera.

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