The municipality of Valsequillo lies on the eastern slope of the island of Gran Canaria, within the Middle Mountain Region. It borders the municipalities of Villa de Santa Brígida and Vega de San Mateo to the north; San Bartolomé de Tirajana and the head of the Barranco de Guayadeque ravine, which runs through the municipalities of Ingenio and Agüimes, to the south; and the municipality of Telde to the east. The municipality of Valsequillo is particularly well located: it is only 24 km away from the island's capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; some 18 km away from the airport of Gran Canaria and at a distance of about 60 km from the tourist area of Maspalomas.
It has a surface area of 39.15square kilometres, and its territory lies between 300 y los 1,800 metres above sea level, a fact that explains the unique characteristics of its landscape. Within the municipality there are two great landscape units: the majestic Caldera of Tenteniguada, and the middle stretch of the Telde basin. Towards the upper end of the municipality there is an impressive erosion caldera carved from the eastern flank of Gran Canaria's Central Massif. The escarpments, slopes and ravines boxed into this semicircular megastructure reveal both the erosive power of water and the hardness of the material the caldera is made up of, mainly volcanic agglomerate and Roque Nublo cycle lava. This is especially noticeable in the case of some escarpments and of some volcanic plugs or freestanding rocks, such as Roque Saucillo, Los Picachos, Roque Jincado, Roque del Pino or the Tenteniguada outcrops, like Roque Grande, among others. Apart from these peculiar geological forms, there are also some colluvial and debris slopes that gradually descend from the steep walls of the caldera towards the vicinity of this large basin. Farming terraces can be found even in the most remote corner of these slopes, and they make up a landscape of enormous ethnographic value, as peasants have sought to make the best use of this wonderful land, so rich in water. In the High Mountain Region, the Caldera of Los Marteles is also worth highlighting for its scenic and geological importance: it is of volcanic origin, and its spectacularity is the result of the explosive combination of water and magma that brought it about.
The lower part of the municipality coincides with the middle stretch of the Telde basin. From a scenic point of view, there is a dividing line by the Barranco de San Miguel ravine, near the hamlet of El Colmenar. In this area ravines are much wider and U-shaped, due to the partial filling of the old ravine beds by recent volcanic flows belonging to the Post-Roque Nublo cycle, which formed large, rather flat lava terraces.
Like other municipalities in the Middle Mountain Region, Valsequillo enjoys mild temperastures, occasional rainfalls (average annual precipitation is 400 mm) and is subject to the influence of the sea of clouds caused by the trade winds. Though infrequent, the appearance of the sea of clouds is aesthetically a stunning phenomenon.
The municipality can boast a large diversity of flora. The Caldera of Tenteniguada is one of the most representative areas of study of the island's flora. Plant communities grow here that are endemic to the Macaronesian region, to the island or indeed to this area itself, like the Grand Canary Borage (Echium callithyrsum) or the legendary flor de mayo leñosa(1)) (Pericallis hadrosoma), which is under threat of extinction. The Barranco de los Cernícalos ravine is host to the best preserved thermophilic forest on the island, with wild olive tree groves (Olea europaea ssp. cerassiformis) and willow (Salix canariensis) thickets of high botanical value. In Tenteniguada and San Roque there are also important palm tree groves (Phoenix canariensis) with differing scenic characteristics. In ancient times the laurel forest in Gran Canaria occupied a wide space that ranged from Agaete to Tenteniguada, which was its southernmost point. There are still some species typical of monteverde (moist forest made up of laurel species and myrica-erica shrub forest)to be seen in this area, such as the Canary Islands madrone (Arbutus canariensis), the mocan tree (Visnea mocanera) and the aderno (Heberdenia bahamensis). The widespread presence of natural bioindicators of this stratum of vegetation, like the Canary Bell Flower (Canarina canariensis), shows the importance that the laurel forest once had in this area. Further up, in the upper sector of the Caldera of Tenteniguada and the strip bordering the High Mountain region, replacement shrubs such as brooms and flatpods grow alongside reforested pinewoods of Canary Island pine trees (Pinus canariensis).
The main protected natural spaces in the municipality of Valsequillo are the following: the Protected Landscape of Lomo Magullo, the Special Nature Reserve of Los Marteles, the Protected Landscape of Las Cumbres (High Mountain Region) and the Natural Monument of Riscos de Tirajana, all of them shared with bordering municipalities.
The history of Valsequillo is closely linked to its aboriginal past and to the fact that it belonged to the municipality of Telde until its independence in 1802. In Montaña del Helechal, in Valsequillo, there was in prehispanic times an almogarén or sacred site where the ancient aboriginals peformed their rites and worshipped their gods. There are also some cave dwellings in the Barranco de San Miguel ravine, specifically in Tecén and Los Llanetes, that were inhabited by prehispanic Canarians. It was there, near the present day hamlet of El Colmenar, that Castilian troops engaged the aboriginals in a hard-fought battle.
"... when the conquerors reached the town of Telde they saw there was an important settlement in Tecén, and throughout the whole area as far as Tenteniguada, and they tried to conquer it, for the area was rich in water, fruit and honey. (2).
The first chapel was raised in 1670, and was instituted as parish church of San Miguel Arcángel (Saint Michael the Archangel) by bishop Verdugo in 1800. On 12th March 1802 it became a municipality independent of Telde, with its own mayor since then. Between 1903 and 1918 the present church was built on the site of the old chapel, and the church square was built on the site of the old cemetery. There are some valuable works of art in the church, like the green baptismal font, fired in Seville in the 15th century; a Flemish figure of Our Lady of the Rosary dating from the time of the conquest, or the figure of Saint Michael the Archangel, patron saint of the municipality, carved by Luján Pérez. The churches of San Roque and Tenteniguada are good examples of traditional architecture, as are the cavalry barracks at El Colmenar, a complex of military structures built in 1530 that served as living quarters for high ranking officers until the beginning of the 20th century. Canarian traditional architecture -elegant stone built homes with gable or hip roofs- is widespread throughout the municipality, and it is common to see these homes right next to old sheds or farm fields, which reveals the agricultural character of the area.
The main villages and settlements in the municipality of Valsequillo are the following: Tecén, Los Llanetes, La Barrera, La Cantera, Luis Verde, Valle de San Roque, Lomitos de Correa, Valsequillo village, Las Vegas, Era de Mota, Tenteniguada, El Rincón and El Montañón.
Economic activity in the municipality is mostly related to the service sector, building, transport and liberal professions. Farming is largely complementary and production is for self-consumption. The most common produce grown are potatoes and vegetables, as well as legumes and cereals. The municipality is the largest producer of strawberries on the island. Fruit production in general is of extremely high quality and diversity, and it includes plums, apricots, pears, apples, guavas, cherries, oranges, lemons, prickly pears, chestnuts, walnuts and almonds. Almond trees especially make for a very colourful landscape when they are in bloom. The municipal market opens every Sunday, and the whole range of agricultural produce grown in the municipality can be found there.
Livestock farming -mostly goats and sheep- also plays a significant role in the economy of Valsequillo and, given the fact that cavalry barracks were located in the municipality, horse raising was also a traditional activity that has intensified over the last few years following the popularity of local horse racing and riding competitions.
The municipality of Valsequillo had a population of approximately 8,700 inhabitants in 2006(3)The population is dispersed in small settlements, and linked to the farmland. The most heavily populated rural nuclei are the village of Valsequillo itself, La Barrera, Las Vegas and Tenteniguada. Other smaller settlements, but very picturesque, are El Rincón de Tenteniguada, Era de Mota, Valle de San Roque, los Lomitos de Correa, Los Llanetes, Luis Verde or La Cantera, among others. The welcoming and helpful character of their people, as well as the beauty of the surrounding landscape, makes every one of these villages and hamlets an ideal place where to live.
The imposing figure of Saint Michael has always aroused both admiration and fear. Luján Pérez carved a winged Archangel with a warrior's breastplate and helmet, brandishing a sword of fire over Satan -defeated at his feet-, the latter carved in the shape of a black dog whose threateningly opened jaws reveal long sharp teeth. Saint Michael restrains the dangerous beast with a chain. Triumph over evil is complete. The realistic depiction of the dog that lies at the feet of Saint Michael inspired the festivity of the "Release of the Cursed Dog". This cultural-festive event is held at midnight, on the eve of Michaelmas day. The world of death is represented around the village square, and villagers dress up in costumes that represent evil fantasy characters who move temptingly and threateningly about the gathered crowd. A popular verse that comes from an old folia is sung all over the village:
Every village has its own festivities, so between May and October they are decorated with flags and lights for the delight of locals and visitors. The festivities of San Juan (Saint John) in Tenteniguada (24th June) are worth highlighting; a spectacle is staged every year called Witches' Night -distantly related to Halloween- on the night of 23rd June, the shortest, most magical night of the year.
The Almond Tree in Bloom Festival is also held yearly since the 1970s. It includes, among other events, a craft fair where the many artisans of Valsequillo display the products of the traditional skills they have preserved over generations. Spinners, basketmakers, potters, mat weavers, blacksmiths and forgemen, among others, ply their craftwork at this event.
There is a wide range of restaurants in Valsequillo where visitors may try typical Canarian dishes. Some of the most popular ones are rocket or watercress potages -thick vegetable soups-, that are often had with a thick mixture of gofio and fish broth, kid, wrinkled potatoes with a spicy almond sauce, grilled meat or Canarian sancocho, a fish stew. These dishes can be accompanied by some of the excellent local wines produced in any of the three wineries found in the municipality. These local red, white and dessert wines have demonstrated their quality and won awards in local and regional tasting competitions.
Desserts are also an important element of Valsequillo's cuisine. Almonds, a common local produce, are the base ingredient of many local sweets, such as pies, bienmesabe or almond cakes. Strawberries and cherries (from El Rincón de Tenteniguada) are also used to prepare or decorate desserts. The artisan jams and the honey produced in the municipality are also worth trying.
If anything characterizes Valsequillo, that is the quality of its handmade cheese. There is a large number of artisan cheesemakers' shops that have been awarded different prizes at cheese tasting competitions both at island and regional level. Valsequillo cheese can be fresh, semicured or cured, and can be made from a single species milk or a mixture of milks.
(1) The Pericallis hadrosoma was discovered by the eminent botanist Eric Sventenius in 1947, while exploring the cliffs and summits of Tenteniguada. Already then he gave notice of the deplorable state of preservation of this plant, for he had only managed to find two specimens. In 1984 it was declared one of the 12 most threatened species in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
(2) SUÁREZ MARTEL, J. (1996): Aportaciones a la historia de Valsequillo, Ilmo. Ayuntamiento de Valsequillo. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
(3) Instituto de Estadística de Canarias (Statistics Institute of the Canary Islands). 2005
(4) SUÁREZ MARTEL, J.(1996): Op. Cit , p. 73.