Canarians - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs and Practices. Canarians are mostly Catholics. Devotion to the Virgins is considerable. Each Island has a virgin as patron saint and islands make periodic pilgrimages to their sanctuaries. These pilgrimages are also important demonstrations of each island's identity; each Village also celebrates its patron saint's day. The church continues to play a major role in organizing this festival, although the event becomes more secular in nature each year. Baptism, marriage, and death are celebrated following the Catholic rite. In recent years, small groups have begun following other Christian rites. Although the state claims to be nondenominational, religious education is common in both public and private schools.

Religious Practitioners. In the past the Catholic church occupied an important place not only in the religious sphere but also in the social and economic aspects of Canarian Society. The loss of church lands and the secularization of public life have now weakened its influence in these areas. Priests receive a subvention from the state, but they also receive gifts and donations from the people.

Arts. Traditional arts focused mainly on the manufacture of domestic implements. Religious painting and sculpture were common until the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, painting inspired by the indigenous culture and traditional rural life has been a noteworthy development.

Medicine. The National Health Institute and private medicine provide services to the entire population. In the country and peripheral areas of the cities people often go to folk healers who rely on a variety of local plants. Although physicians enjoy a high social status, the healer ( curandero ) enjoys some recognition for curing certain diseases. For example, for afflictions called mal de ojo (evil eye)—thought to affect mainly children and domestic animals— insolación (sunstroke), and herpes, people go to the healer, believing the source of the affliction can be removed from the body.

Death and Afterlife. Beliefs about life after death follow Catholic tradition. Death is publicly commemorated, and family and community take part in funerals. Traditionally, when a person died, the relatives—especially the women—mourned for one year after the death. Regularly, one month later and one year later people celebrated the death in order to perpetuate the memory of the deceased and to ensure rest for his or her spirit. All Souls' Day is commemorated by almost the entire population, all of whom go to the cemeteries to bring flowers and to clean the tombs.


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