Having published the story of mainland Spain’s Romeo and Juliet on my other Tenerife blog I wondered did Tenerife had their own lovers. Not quite, but La Gomera has….
The story of Gara and Jonay is a beautiful Guanche legend reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere, Cathy and Heathcliff – Donald and Daisy Duck.
According to legend, on the Guanches festival Beñesmen the girls of La Gomera would go to the Epina jets to discover their future lover. If the reflected image was calm and clear, this meant that within the next 12 months they would find their love, but if the reflection was cloudy, no handsome lover would be shortly appearing on the horizon.
Gara was a beautiful princess from La Gomera. When she looked at her reflection her image was clear but then her face became a fiery sun and the water viciously bubbled and boiled – not good signs as it meant only disaster lay ahead.
For the Beñesmen festival, the Menceyes (Guanche royalty) travelled from Tenerife, the land of fire, to La Gomera, the land of water, to take part in the celebrations. The Mencey of Adeje was accompanied by his son, Prince Jonay, who took part in all the competitions and when Gara and Jonay saw each other they fell madly in love.
Legend tells how Jonay sailed his raft every day across the ocean to the neighbouring island to visit his love, but their happiness was short-lived. The great volcano on Tenerife began spewing out lava, the sea around La Gomera turned blood-red and the Epina jets prophecy was remembered. Gara and Jonay’s love was impossible, the fury of the volcano was confirmation that water and fire should not mix.
The couple’s parents forbade them to meet again and forced Jonay to return to Tenerife but he couldn’t forget Gara and needed to be with her. In the middle of the night, Jonay tied two inflated goats’ hides around his waist and swam across the sea. Exhausted but guided by his love for Gara he reached La Gomera.
Gara and Jonay fled through the forests hiding in the woods until they reached the highest mountain on the island. When Gara’s father found out, he ordered his army to follow and surround them.
Neither of the two could find a way out of their situation so in a last desperate act they took a lance made of laurel, sharpened at both ends, held it between their chests and in a final deadly embrace drove the stick through their hearts. The lovers met their deaths and Gara, the water and Jonay, the fire were one, their spirits united forever.
Today, the mountain, the beautiful misty forest and its national park go by the name Garajonay in memory of the young couple who chose death rather than living apart.