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Yaiza Socorro - Photographer

Aragüeme, Canarian heritage in a neighborhood store

Laura Cabrera and Rocío Álvarez are shopkeepers in Aragüeme, Agüimes (Gran Canaria), interview conducted by @loretosocorro.

Aragüeme is a place that many have discovered by chance, while walking through the old town of Agüimes. Some people entered because the beautiful objects that decorate the store caught their attention and, later, they fell in love with the products they offer and the professionalism of these restless shopkeepers.

Laura, how is Aragüeme similar to the traditional oil and vinegar stores?

«In the product, which is local and artisan: before there was not much industrial product. Also in the proximity since we know the clients, we trust, the neighbors know us and, although there are people from outside -from other parts of the island, tourists...- who repeat, we are a village store.»

What local products do you work with?

Everything that is organic and from the islands.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever sold?

Banana wine. At the time we also looked at the blood of drago, there was a company that had it dehydrated.

Respect for the natural environment, is it important for Aragüeme?

It was the main motivation. We wanted to contribute to the development of local agriculture and livestock, so that it would be something sustainable and respectful. We also care that people understand why we do it this way.

What do you take into account when choosing the products you offer in the store?

«We move with quality criteria: we test everything before offering it and we only sell the result of organic farming, cheeses where the cattle receive good treatment; that is to say, that they graze or that the animals are loose in large places.”

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How do you reach agreements to start marketing?

“On the ecological issue it is simple because there are cooperatives and everything is stipulated.”

And what about prices?

“We do it by buying directly from the producers.”

Was there a network established when they started in this world?

"We started from scratch. First we contact cheese factories and then with farmers and one takes you to the other; In this way we expanded our contacts and now there is a network, which is informal, although very important. It is about personal relationships and trust where it is not intended to get rich, but that we can all live.»

Could it be said that with Aragüeme it is possible to humanize trade?

"This point of humanizing is very important for us, both with the producer and also with the final customer... we are here four days!" -he clarifies with a gesture full of frankness and simplicity.

While Laura is serving clients we observe how a piece of what was a beehive protrudes from the ceiling.

“When we bought the house it was already there. When reforming we saw it and wanted to leave it. I still remember how honey dripped down the wall. Many of these old things were already here and others we have been buying or they have been given to us.»

Two German visitors tell us that they have come to buy and consume during their stay on the island but that they have already been browsing: We'll be back for more Wilko speaks to continue enjoying back in Germany and we will take away as gifts. They are high quality items. We like this site: good products, good treatment, nice store…”

Orlando Rial is another client who defines himself as a "discoverer" of sites: “I like archaeology”-jokes-, «On Sunday I was walking around here and, for me, a food freak, when I saw these products that are gourmet, ecological and that you can't find in a supermarket… I felt like a tickle. And that they are, from the islands is one more incentive.»

He is accompanied by Aida and Carmen - two sisters who observe and ask about cheese: “Finding one of these stores is good luck. I have always heard of Agüimes goat cheese. I don't know if it's because of what the animals eat or what, but it's great»

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We asked Laura about the most popular cheese among customers…

«It depends, Luci's -Quesería Era del Cardón- sells a lot, but there are those who come specifically for the flor or half flor. They all come out good, it goes according to taste…”

Apart from the counter sale, do you also do other types of distribution?

«We deliver house to house, to individuals, and shipments throughout Gran Canaria. They contact us through networks and by phone.”

Do you have the occasional showcase that is full of products that are not food...

“In the town there are many artisans and we put their things on sale. Sometimes we do individual exhibitions and that is how we show their work.»

Tell us Laura about the fresh produce baskets you make.

“Every Thursday we make baskets of fresh items. There is a list and customers tell us what they want. Some ask every week, others every fortnight. The baskets carry local produce from the island, where you can go fruit, vegetables, bread, eggs, sprouts... Everything is organic.»

You also do tastings in the same store, what days? 

«On weekends we prepare little things that we have here: cheese tastings, smoked breastplate from La Gomera. If Huga's smoked salmon comes, too... and some wines. While they taste we explain to them about each product.”

Speaking of cheeses, I see that they ask you for boards…

“We make them in two sizes: for four and for eight people. They carry a mixture of sliced ​​cheeses, nuts and jams. They usually wear them for celebrations and gifts. They can be ordered at any time, giving notice one day before.»

The walls, apart from remembering the Canarian past, also show an artistic touch with the works that they themselves do. These shopkeepers have a lot of ingenuity.

«These stickers, we designed them ourselves, to change a little. They are goats that were very successful and, when used, they provide an original finish, very Aragüeme…”

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How did you organize during the lockdown?

«Most of the producers had an excess of cheese, such as the flower cheese, and they called us to help them put it up for sale; so we did a network campaign. At first it was chaos but we still did it and we started taking it home, from six in the morning, with everything closed... nonsense, which turned out well in the end.»

Did they already have a database?

"We made it out of nothing. Everything was assimilating and practicing on the fly and it was so intense that we learned a lot. Many things have already remained as a work methodology and have been incorporated into our daily operations.»

As Laura tells us, an aragüeme was the place where our ancients stored the products.

"What better name than this for a store and, in addition, it is a little-known term that recalls the name of the town."

From the pre-Hispanic Aragüeme to the Aragüeme of the XNUMXst century, we have traveled flavors and smiles full of those tickles that people like Laura and Rocío cause. They have spent five years bringing the local organic product creatively and respectfully with the producers and the clientele, as a way of life and that is an investment for the entire Canarian society.

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