Metal was a completely unknown material for the pre-Hispanic settlers of La Palma. It came to the island with the Spanish conquerors, who used it mainly for agricultural, livestock and fishing activities. Because of this, the forge acquired great importance, so it was rare to find a village that did not have its own smithy. Today, with the development of technology and the import of mass-produced objects, this type of task is in the hands of a few craftsmen.

Sickles, cowbells, pruning tools, machetes, knives, keys, locks, bolts, latches, spear points, and padlocks were all made with metal. Another tool of the traditional Palmeran brass work is the jugs used to remove water from the collecting bowl of a traditional water filter known as a distiladera. The brass jugs had a spout in the rim so that nobody would drink directly from them.

The container known as a calabazo was originally made from a large dried gourd. They were used to raise the water from the irrigation channel through which it flowed to a higher level using the strength of the farmers’ arms. Now they are made of metal.

Lanterns, lamps, sulphur shakers, cheese dishes, baking trays and moulds, all of them of welded tin, are useful objects that continue to be produced on the island, although most no longer fulfil their original function.

Text: © “Guía de artesanía La Palma”. Myriam Cabrera, María Victoria Hernández y Vicente Blanco