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The Bajada de la Rama parade in Agaete, Gran Canaria

Forty thousand people waving green branches and Tropical beer bottles paraded through Agaete town last weekend at one of Gran Canaria’s biggest festivals. The Bajada de la Rama is as impressive as many of Spain’s famous fiestas. I don’t think I saw a single tourist all day long!

La Rama is originally a Canarii or Guanche tradition. The pre-Hispanic inhabitants of Gran Canaria used to beat the sea with branches every year to pacify the rain gods and guarantee a bountiful harvest. The tradition survived and has grown into an enormous annual celebration. The beer is a modern addition but I'm sure the Canarii would have approved!
Carrying branches at La Rama

The idea behind La Rama is that people collect branches in the mountains and fields and bring them down to the sea. Nowadays the idea of carrying a branch from Tamadaba to Puerto de las Nieves is too much like hard work so the branches are brought in by lorry and dropped off at the top of the town. Everyone grabs a branch and marches downhill, led by local bands. 

Amongst the crowd are 12 foor papaguevos: Big papier mache figures with a person inside. The Agaete ones are modelled on local politicians and celebrities.

Like all Canarian events La Rama is friendly and there is never any trouble. Tourists are welcome at all fiestas but can expect to hear the word “Guirri”, Canarian for foreigner, about 1000 times during the day. The Bajada de la Rama is so crowded that it is not suitable for small children. It takes about an hour to get from one end of town to the other (about 300 yards) because of the crowds. Fortunately there is a more peaceful alternative to the main La Rama festival.

Gran Canaria papaguevos

La Rama is so popular these days that the Agaete Valley locals have created their own little La Rama (La Rama Chica) festival in July. They do the whole walk from the sea up to the forests and back down again. It’s a much smaller affair than the main La Rama event and is truer to the original tradition. There is, of course, still plenty of beer available.

If you want to experience the bedlam of the main festival arrive before 9.00 AM and park on the outskirts of town for an easy getaway later on. If you get to Puerto de las Nieves at about 13.00 you can still get lunch before the hungry masses arrive. Another alternative is to stay over at the excellent Roca Negra hotel just next to town.

The La Rama parade

The parade starts at 10.00 AM and takes all day to get the mile down to the sea at Puerto de las Nieves. The sea beating happens from 18.00 onwards. La Rama gets more and more drunken as the day wears on and by the afternoon the pebble beach is covered in snoozing revellers.

For good-natured fun and a spectacle that is unique to Gran Canaria you just can’t beat La Bajada de la Rama. Given the choice of experiencing a Canarian fiesta or spending another day at the beach, I know which one I prefer. What about you?

Bye bye La Rama, see you in 2013

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