Grazing has accompanied the history of the Canary Islands since ancient times, and the first inhabitants of this archipelago were goat breeders, which moved from the summit to the coast, at different times of the year in search of food. The last group of transhumant shepherds left in the Canary Islands is located in the north of Gran Canaria, inheritors of a practice of two thousand years old that after the Castilian conquest, “It was integrating elements from other parts of the world, and the traditional pattern of grazing techniques from other sources intertwined, resulting in a highly complex and specialized pastoral strategies” in the words of the master cheesemaker Isidoro Jiménez, who prefaced the book “The last Canaries transhumant” which are authors Yuri Millares and Tato Gonçalves (the last one author of the photographs).
At present have been recorded 18 pastoralists, this is the number of shepherds who still practice transhumance living, but after those two single digits, there is a world of tradition and whole families with a unique style of life.
“It is very hard to live adapting to the vicissitudes of the herd, so it is not surprising that transhumant herders form a collective with very strong bonds of social connection”, explains Isidoro Jiménez in his prologue. “It highlights the survival of the customs of mutual aid, of which the most notable is the sheared. In early summer you have to shear the wool of sheep and this is a drudgery, so every pastor invites all colleagues to work which obviously culminates with a celebration to thank for the help given. Another day will be he who comes to help another partner to peel and so, for a couple of months, the sheared mark the work and holiday calendar of the shepherds. No wonder these meetings arise relationships among young people, so herder families are closely linked by ties of kinship and surnames Mayor, Mendoza, Jiménez, Gil Moreno, etc., are repeated over and over again among our transhumant.”
This ancient practice, living treasure of our history allows us to enjoy cheeses of excellent quality and you should not miss it if you come to Gran Canaria. And so is demonstrated year after year, in the “Word Cheese” international event held this November in London, and attended by 3001 samples of cheeses from all over the world, cheeses canaries have won 36 awards and 16 of them for to Gran Canaria cheesemakers and the remaining 20 awards were distributed among cheesemakers of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, and Tenerife.
Some information for this post has been extracted from the magazine www. pellagofio.es (July 25, 2013, Yuri Millares).