A staggering identity in the face of mass tourism. Lanzarote

Our traditional craftsmanship is incompatible with the tourist model imposed on us. Airplanes full of tourists arrive in Lanzarote wishing to lock themselves in a hotel under the promise that everything is included, from the beers to the frozen fish of the free buffet, passing through the floor waitresses who make 28 rooms a day. The excursions offered by the tour operators are limited to visit quickly and running some CACT Manrique or a quick day on the beach at the Caletón Blanco after spending a couple of hours in the market of La Villa. A fast, impersonal and massive consumption without time for reflection or history.

Photo: Piet Bastine
Photo: Piet Bastine

In an economic environment such as this, the survival of our crafts is impossible. Neither traditional nor artistic crafts currently have any chance of survival if they are condemned to live in the institutional helplessness and consumerist vortex of mass tourism. They need a sensitive and reflective economy in which consumers are invited to act on the basis of social and environmental awareness and responsibility. Only if we succeed in ensuring that the historical and identity value of an artisan-made product prevails over the monetary perception of the same, will we succeed in ensuring that the artisans of the island can live with dignity, protecting our identity.

This simple and basic reflection seems incapable of reaching the people in charge of managing our public life, those who decide where our budgets are invested and mark the institutional path. An example of this lack of global vision is the absolute abandonment suffered by some of the most representative artisans on the island, such as Eulogio Concepción, the last traditional basket maker who has often been recognized in the formal but is totally neglected in the concrete. This gentleman, who treasures an incalculable immaterial value, has not been able to work regularly for months because the competent institutions, the Cabildo and the Town Hall of Haría, are incapable of sending him regular copies. How can this technique that defines us as a people survive in a voracious economy and without institutional support?

Photo: Darwin Vegher
Photo: Darwin Vegher

The other side of the coin is seen weekly in the markets of the municipality of Teguise, where despite the municipal regulations and the law itself, the counterfeits of big brands are taking over a large part of the purchases of a tourism eager for bargains and globalization. Faced with this nonsense, the crafts crumble. The people who work, weave, sculpt, paint and create with their hands are incapable of competing against absurdly cheap products that threaten even labour rights. Has anyone wondered what conditions the foreigners we see behind a counterfeit stall suffer? The burden of responsibility falls on the shoulders of Mayor Oswaldo Betancort, who knows full well that the law and the ordinances he designed are being violated week after week in the flea markets in his municipality. And, by the way, he leaves to his fate the traditional and artistic craftsmanship, which is one of the legs that sustain the Canarian identity that he claims to defend from its nationalism of etiquette.

It is clear that to defend our peculiarities as a recognized nationality, and therefore defend ourselves as a people and as individuals, only political will is needed. Neither acting against counterfeiting, nor taking pills to don Eulogio means modifying a budget or leaving the social emergencies of the island unattended. There are no excuses, if craftsmanship is dying and we are becoming a cloned destination of sun and beach is because the economic profitability of a few is not touched. Until when?

Author: Myriam Barros. By Myriam Barros,

Councillor of Lanzarote en Pie – Yes We Can in the Cabildo of Lanzarote