Guatiza is a farming village northeast of the island of Lanzarote. The town was prosperous in the nineteenth century thanks to the production of red cochineal, a dye produced by the cochineal cactus, which is high on the prickly pear. Although production has declined since the late nineteenth century, can still be seen in the eye of the fig trees fields, to inside the village. Today the town attracts many tourists thanks to the presence of a cactus garden that continues the tradition of growing cacti.
Guatiza has just over 800 inhabitants and is part of the municipality of Teguise.
Guatiza is located 2 km from the east coast of Lanzarote. The village was originally established at the foot of the mountain Guenia (359 m) - where now stands the cemetery and the pretty little chapel Sainte-Marguerite (Ermita de Santa Margarita) dating from the nineteenth century - but this position made the town visible from the ocean; after being looted repeatedly by Barbary pirates, the village was moved behind the mountains of Las Calderetas, concealing it from view of vessels at sea.
South of Guatiza are other volcanoes Tinamala (323 m) and La Caldera. Between these mountains lie the most fertile farmland and green that most of the land on the island.
Guatiza is located 17 km northeast of the capital, Arrecife, the LZ-1 road through Tahíche (9 km). The capital of the municipality, Teguise, is 10 km to the west by the LZ-404 road through Teseguite where you can see a volcanic dyke which is set in an old lapilli career. The village of Mala is 2 km north of Guatiza. The town of Haría is located 13 km north.
The village of Guatiza has a dispersed settlement with dwellings separated by cactus fields surrounded by dry stone walls. A beautiful avenue lined with tall eucalyptus through the village. The village church, the church of Santo Cristo de Las Aguas, has a single nave and a double bell tower that dominates the front; angles and openings are decorated with black volcanic stones; a large lantern surmounts the building.
The region stretching between Guatiza and Mala was one of the main production areas of red cochineal, a natural dye extracted from the cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus), an insect whose larvae feed on the sap of opuntias or snowshoes cactus (Opuntia species), including the prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica), named tunera the Canary Islands.
Cochineal cactus and its host plant are from Mexico and South America; the prickly pear was introduced in the Canary Islands since the sixteenth century, but it was not until 1830 that the cochineal cactus was high; in 1832 King Ferdinand VII approved by decree the production of cochineal dye Lanzarote to offset the decline in exports of wine from the island.
Raising mealybugs begins by placing the “racket” of opuntias a bag of fertilized females. Mothers (madres) lay eggs on the fleshy plant. After the eggs hatch, the larvae bite the flesh of the plant and suck the sap. The larvae have short antennae and a fluffy shell that leaves a whitish powder on green cactus rackets.
When adults - between September and November - mealybugs are harvested by hand scraping cactus rackets and collected in a bucket, killed in boiling water, dried in the sun for ten days and then ground to obtain a fine powder of an intense red color which will extract the dye. We must collect 150,000 larvae for a kilogram of powder. It is the body of the female cochineal containing carminic acid that gives this carmine red. The word “carmine” comes from elsewhere in the Arab and Persian name of cochineal “qîrmiz”.
The natural dye carmine (E120) from the cochineal has long been popular in the textile industry for dyeing fabrics; production Lanzarote was mainly exported to England and to France. The production of red cochineal Lanzarote was prosperous until the late nineteenth century when this natural dye was replaced by synthetic dyes from aniline. These synthetic dyes are toxic to humans, cochineal red is still used in the cosmetic industry (lipstick), food (ice cream, candy) and pharmaceutical (drug dye); is said that the famous Italian aperitif Campari has its red dye cochineal. However fig tree cultivation and breeding of cochineal are declining on Lanzarote.