Lanzarote’s arts and crafts and the opportunity to experience them.
By Salvatore Lampreu
The Mercado Autóctono Sostenible (Autochthonous Sustainable Market) – a place where you can explore the ancient traditions of Lanzarote’s country life
Apart from the landscape, the thing that makes a place unique are the people who live there, with their traditions, customs, languages, anecdotes and ways of doing things. Those who chose Lanzarote for their holidays will be pleasantly surprised by the welcoming nature of the residents, who are the custodians of an ancestral culture with deep connections to the land.
Before tourism became established as a dominant activity, the island’s economy depended principally on the products of its craft tradition and on the cultivation of species of plants that could be grown with little access to water.
There is a special place in Lanzarote where you can discover and rediscover all this in incredible surroundings: La Casa-Museo del Campesino (Museum-House of the Farmer), in the municipality of San Bartolomé. Here stands a structure designed by César Manrique who dedicated this work of art and architecture to the celebration of the role of the farmer in the improvement of culture and history.
La Casa-Museo del Campesino
The tall white monument, an icon in this magical place, receives visitors next to the plentiful parking which is located at the entrance to the Casa-Museo. This is no traditional, static museum dedicated simply to the exhibition of diverse objects and artefacts, but rather a place where local artisans live and work.
The cluster of whitewashed buildings with its touches of stone work and green-painted wood brings to mind the rural architecture of the past. The large central courtyard is surrounded by circular houses that are home to its craft laboratories.
This is the location of the Mercado Autóctono Sostenible (Sustainable Autochthonous Market), the best way to immerse yourself in the traditions of the island and to have authentic experiences, “by getting your hands dirty” and making mementos or preparing food under the guidance of knowledgeable experts.
Entrance to the market is free, but you can choose to live the full experience and participate in the craft workshops at a very reasonable price: just 3 euros per person and activity.
The activities at the Mercado Autóctono Sostenible
The combination of the words “sustainable” and “autochthonous” say everything you need to know about this market, and for those who are environmentally conscious and permanently in search of ‘genius loci’, this should be more than enough to encourage a visit.
In the Mercado Autóctono Sostenible, the artisans’ activities – each of which takes place in its own small house – are organised in a semi-circle around the large central courtyard.
Here there are laboratories demonstrating everything from the production of ‘mojo’, a slightly spicy sauce that accompanies several local dishes, and the creation of ceramics, to a textile laboratory, hat-making, manufacture of ‘gofio’ and even of natural dyes.
I visited several and participated in various workshops, including the ceramics workshop where I tried to work with a lump of clay following the ancient technique used by the pre-Hispanic population. I had never handled clay before, and for me it was an interesting experience, but above all a journey through the world of decoration, natural colours and the artefacts that human ingenuity has created over the centuries.
This experience that I can recommend to all took place in a shop where, furthermore, you can buy many lovely, original mementos to take home with you.
The second laboratory I visited was dedicated to the production of ‘mojo’, in both its green and red variants. This sauce accompanies many dishes (it’s excellent with ‘papas arrugadas’) and it is produced by faithfully following the recipe book and using a small wooden mortar and pestle. The ingredients are simple: garlic, a local variety of chilli, salt and other spices. Here you can make ‘mojo’ under the guidance of Stefania and then buy the materials and recipe needed to make it at home.
The textile laboratory is certainly worth a visit, and is home to a traditional wooden loom. Here you can admire Lanzarote’s textile art, with its motifs, colour and traditional techniques. Apart from the more classic pieces, such as rugs and saddlebags, you can also buy little souvenirs and articles such as bags made following more modern and innovative designs, but always using natural raw materials and traditional techniques.
Each laboratory requires half an hour to visit and this means you can spend several hours at the Casa-Museo del Campesino without getting bored, or even organise more than one visit, each dedicated to specific experiences.