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Taoro’s kingdom

It is dawn in Taoro, my father's land. Magec's sunlight fills the valley, waking up Teide's blue chaffinch birds that sleep under the pine trees. The chores in the village start with the first rays of sun, and I join my father, mencey king Bencomo, on his daily walk around his lands.

Daily life

My name is Dácil and my story begins with the arrival of the Castilian people. I am a princess because my father is a king, Taoro’s Guanches mencey king, the land that is nowadays the towns of Los Realejos, La Orotava, Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Úrsula and San Juan de la Rambla.
Mencey Bencomo
During the time of Guanches, life used to lively pass by in between the caring of the livestock and the growing of cereals, an activity that in this borough of Los Realejos has been as essential in the past as it is nowadays, because it still is a cereal region. It is here where half of the grain that Tenerife consumes comes from, we make bread and produce gofio (Canarian flour) with it. Every summer, the fields get dressed with a soft golden colour, and the people from Los Realejos get ready for harvest, in the same way we did in the past.

Gods, shamans and kings

The aboriginals of Tenerife used to live in harmony with our laws and rituals, linked to Nature as the beginning and end of life. Gods were born from that Nature, who ruled the world and existence, and also death. When a family member died, the body used to be embalmed by following a process that, even today, many researchers try to understand.
Guayota el demonio para los guanches, moraría en los volcanes, pero principalmente en Echeide
(castellanizado como el Teide)
It is true that most of the Guanches died in battle against the Castilian people who came to conquest us, others were sold as slaves in the mainland, but some of us also overcame the barriers of time, according to the chronicles of the conquest , and the investigations of experts about our lives. Our Guanche history is still beating in every corner of this land.

The conquest

Days before the arrival of the Castilian, we performed a ritual with the hope of knowing the gods’s predictions. I remember that I was by the sea shore, today known as La Fajana, and I was looking at the horizon while sitting on the black sandy beach. The daylight was dimming with intense blue colours, and a red moon, which I interpreted as bad luck, interrupted the night. Suddenly, a powerful conch shell blow sounded from high up the cliff warning us from danger.
Days later, we spotted the first boats deviously and quickly approaching. The end of our times also arrived with them. A worse curse than Guayota would fall upon the island. We would lose our land and our freedom. Our way of life would disappear with every battle, like wood on a fire.
Playa El Socorro

The great battle

When the moment arrived, Bencomo gathered every mencey king from the north of the island to join him in battle. Two great battles took place. We managed to stop the approach of the Castilian on the first one, and many of them perished in La Matanza de Acentejo. But their captain, Alonso Fernández de Lugo, didn’t give up. Neither did we.
The second great battle happened in the plain of Aguere. We then suffered an awful defeat. My father, the great mencey king Bencomo, died after fighting with all his strength. A part of us also died with him.
After these events, Bentor became the new mencey king, as it was tradition. He immediately led the resistance against the Castilian. We all believed in him, but how would he face that army of men, who were so eager in conquering our land and turning us into slaves?

“We only had pride to fight until the end.”

Bentor, the last mencey king

My father’s land was spread throughout a big portion of the north of the island. It is nowadays divided into three boroughs, one of them is Los Realejos, where my story continues.

When the conqueror Alonso Fernández de Lugo had his victory, after ending Bencomo’s life, he asked for Taoro’s Guanches to surrender, but my brother Bentor wasn’t willing to surrender. He would rather die than lose our freedom.

Bentor soon realised that the Castilian had conquered his kingdom and that there was no salvation for his people. Then, he climbed Tigaiga’s cliff in Los Realejos, joined by a few warriors, and there he screamed for the last time before jumping to his death.

The conch shells were blown again announcing the end of a lineage, the end of a race. It was the year 1496.

Mirador El Lance, estatua en honor a Bentor
Today, in that place called the viewpoint of El Lance, there is a sculpture in his honour. On the base, there is a quote from the most important representation of the Canarian Enlightenment — born in Los Realejos— the historian José de Viera y Clavijo: “The mencey kings from Tenerife have never known such vileness to submit or obey men like those”.

Bentor and every Guanche fought for their land and for keeping their way of life. This is the reason why all the inhabitants from this island admire their heroic deed through popular songs and poems.

I ran away to the southern lands, and started a new family with other Guanches who survived. Some say that I got married to the cavalry captain Gonzalo del Castillo, and others say that it was my daughter who did. Writers and poets have told stories and legends about my life, my beauty and my fate, where reality gets mixed with fiction. But what we cannot deny is that I was a Guanche princess, daughter of the great mencey king Bencomo and sister of the brave Bentor. My family’s memory is still present in every corner of these valleys, symbol of our history and aboriginal identity.

La Cruz Santa

Other times came after the conquest, marked by peace and cultural mix. The valley recovered its splendour thanks to the families who ploughed the lands and founded new boroughs. With their eagerness for community, they created festivals and adapted their customs, generally around a town square and a church.

One of those places, where I walked through so many times when it was just wilderness, is the colourful town of La Cruz Santa, in the western area of Los Realejos.

It has that name because it is where the cross from Santo Madero (the Holy Tree) was discovered. The legend that involves its finding is also part of the town’s history, and it marked the beginning of the festival of the Cross, which is celebrated every 2nd of May.

But that story is not for me to tell.