Tenerife has many myths and legends. One of the most fascinating is the legend of the Guanche goddess Chaxiraxi. If you have ever visited the Basilica of Candelaria, you may know her better under the name 'The Black Madonna of Candelaria'. Here is her story :
Once upon a time...
We go back about 700 years in time. Although the Canary Islands have already been 'discovered' by passing ships, they have not yet been conquered (read: converted). The primitive inhabitants of Tenerife, the Guanches, live as shepherds in organized tribes. Each tribe has its own Guanche king called Mencey.
One day, the legend goes, two Guanche shepherds find a wooden statue in the surf of Socorro beach in Guimar. The statue is about one meter high, and represents a woman carrying a candle or torch in her left hand and a small boy in the right arm.
It is suspected that this (Mary) statue fell from a passing ship and subsequently washed ashore. Others claim that the statue was left on the beach by Fransiscaner intentionally, with the goal of gently introducing the local population to Christianity.
In any case, the shepherds take the statuette, and it takes place of honor in the local Mencey's hut, where it has been revered for years as the Goddess of the Sun, Chaxiraxi.
Chaxiraxi becomes the Virgin of Candelaria
The surprise must have been great when the Spanish conquerors, during the conquest in 1496, discovered the statue. Due to the smoke from the torches, the statue was black with soot, but it was unmistakably a statue of Mary.
In 1559, Pope Clement VIII proclaimed the Virgin as the patron saint of the Canary Islands. Unfortunately, the original statue was lost in 1826: during a severe storm, it was dragged back into the sea by a mudslide.
A year later, a copy of the statue, including a layer of soot, is made by the local sculptor Fernando Estévez.
In 1959 the famous church of Candelaria was built and the Black Madonna was given a place of honor in it. In 2011, the church was elevated to a basilica.
The holy day of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is actually on February 2. But in Tenerife, the day the statue first appeared, August 15 , is also celebrated. This is accompanied by a pilgrimage to the basilica. Pilgrims come from all parts of the island to fulfill their promesa (promise) or ask for protection from the Virgen de la Candelaria. Traditionally, this pilgrimage is done on foot and can sometimes take up to two days.
As an ode to the Guanches, there are nine bronze statues of the Guanche kings next to the basilica.
Be sure to check it out, it's very impressive!
Stay safe and Hasta Pronto!