Among the black volcanic sand of prehistoric beaches and the «malpaís», which arose with the last volcanic eruptions that took place in Fuerteventura tens of thousands of years ago, giving place to the current North-Western part of the island and from Majanicho to El Cotillo, we find the village of Lajares. What historically was a little scattering of dwellings where a few families lived on agriculture and livestock has become, nowadays, a meeting point between the ancient culture and the contribution of endless nationalities that at present coexist in this village of exchange, integration and cosmopolitan enrichment.
By Janey Castañeyra de León
Lajares traps people, there is no other explanation. If in the year 1932 Lajares had 258 inhabitants, like Corralejo, «nowadays the list of registered voters exceeds three thousand», the historian Carlos Vera states, after checking the registered voters’ data. And the most striking, coming from a total of 35 different nationalities. Among all of them, rounding off, one thousand are Spanish —how many of them from Fuerteventura?—, another thousand consists of German, British, Italian and French, and the rest of them are mostly European nationalities, although you also find Argentinian, Brazilian, North American and even some from Madagascar, among many other exotic origins.
It’s all a process, Vera adds, “related to the economic change produced by tourism, and that was sparked off in the north by Tres Islas and Oliva Beach Hotels. The inland villages were affected by this transfer of population towards tourist areas.
One the first to arrive in Lajares from Germany was Amemarie Junge, nicknamed as Ana María from the very beginning. She settled here in 1982 with her couple then, a man from Fuerteventura he met in Germany and their baby, only a few months old, who nowadays is the village’s vet: Inés Martín. Heretwo more were born: Vicente and María, two Spanish names, as Ana María is one more Spaniard. «What struck me most —she remembers— were the people in the village, the way they welcomed me on arrival». Then there was no running water in Lajares; people used to fill up cisterns with water they carried in barrels. And there wasn’t electricity either, but some people had a little generator they only turned on at nights, so they didn’t have a fridge. In the whole village there was just a telephone at Pepe Luis’s bar. «And however they were happy. From them I learnt the values in life, because they were people who having nothing gave everything».
Being a foreigner, Ana María started out working as a tourist guide in the tourist office, and teaching German to the first youngsters working at Riu Hotels, Corralejo, until she became a German teacher at the staff of Radio Ecca for twenty years. It was the beginning of tourism, and many strangers arrived in Fuerteventura to work as well, like any other resident, and then settled down, giving place to this internationalization process, so characteristic in the north of the Island.
With all of them the culture of wind and waves arrived, which nowadays is one of the main distinguishing marks in Lajares. Equidistant from the spots in Corralejo, Majanicho and El Cotillo, everybody knows, Lajares is a surfers’ village, having no waves. Many of them arrived attracted to this virgin surf, windsurf and, later on also kitesruf paradise, and they stayed. But there is something more in this strategic point which Lajares is, this Bermuda Triangle, as some people have called it, which traps you forever. It could be the peace and quiet, the hospitality of local people, the harmonic environment and respect that people (visitors and residents alike) highlight so much. In the whole urban area there isn’t a single building but a succession of detached houses that connect to one another in a romantic chaos of streets and paths. In each of them the same postcard could be taken: a terrace and a drink at dusk, the silence rocked by the breeze and the rumour of gardens.
The internationalization in Lajares has also created a special way of life, very different from the coarser cosmopolitan environment in Corralejo. A Trip Advisor user, quite rightly, defines it as «an eco-chic village. And this is because unlike other villages, it has barely caused any social disarrays. «It has been a more civilised migration, better educated and also wealthier», one of the best experts in social integration in Fuerteventura states: The president of the Cutural Association «Raíz del Pueblo», Concha Fleitas.
The contribution of all the cultures that coexist in Lajares is reflected in the atmosphere. Next to the endless surf schools and shops that proliferate in the village, the well-known concerts, before in el Point and now in Return, the jam sessions in Canela Café, international cuisine restaurants like Rojo Tomate, French Cafés, stores of products made with recycled materials, a fruit juice store… start to appear. Also, very particular businesses that neighbours are setting up offering yoga or shiatsu lessons. Some of them cook and bring food to other neighbours (Como Como); some others barter garden tasks for home-made bread, or home-made bread for cheese, or cheese for some orchard vegetables. Nothing of the sort happens in other nooks of the island. And in spite of this you can still find some bands playing their «timples» and guitars, which people from Fuerteventura organize now and then.
Those born in the village before the boom have their own view. One of the leaders in the northern livestock, a heir from a very ancient family tradition, Miguel Calero, born in Lajares in the 70’s, has a justified fear of «traditions getting lost». «When I was a child, there were about fifty families. All of us knew one another. You went out to the village to meet people, and the elderly spent the afternoon in a bar with some drinks and playing cards. Today those bars aren’t there any longer and nobody does this now because in restaurants they need the space to accommodate more customers. So, now people stay at home». «It’s something different», he states, although now «almost everybody has adapted».Also, «we have less space for the livestock to graze» and, although it isn’t very common, occasionally some colleagues and neighbours complain about the animals. But it isn’t our fault, we were here before»
However, this kind of incidences aren’t as common as they could be, according to Ana María Junge. She, coming from another culture, is still struck about how tolerant people are here. «In Germany» she says, «if a neighbour makes noise or anything similar they are sued rigth away. But here it is relatively good, nothing happens, maybe tomorrow I will be the one disturbing them».
If Spaniards are a third of the population in Lajares, people from Fuerteventura are just a few of them. Miguel Caldero reports this with an interesting expression: «to find a wedding between two people from the village you must go quite a few years back». But despite this, tolerance, hospitality, and the will to integrate new people that Ana María found thirty-five years ago has been passed on, somehow, until nowadays. Today, old neighbours and the first foreigners who arrived are as local as their children, and the traits they have are as singular and characteristic as the old ones. A reality that, if we are lucky, will survive throughout time.