Ruta San Mao

While wandering the streets and exploring the sights of Santa Cruz, you may occasionally see blue signs affixed at certain points, labelled 'Ruta San Mao'. Also known in the West as Echo Chan, San Mao (1943-1991) was a Taiwanese travel writer and novelist who married her Spanish husband Jose Maria Quero y Ruiz in 1973 and moved to the Canary Islands after living in Western Sahara together. While dwelling on the Canary Islands, the bohemian author and her husband lived on Gran Canaria and La Palma.

Upon publication, San Mao's autobiographical Stories of the Sahara (1976) won her a large and exuberant fan-base across Taiwan and, later, China. The author is still held in eminently high regard in China and Taiwan for her romantic and itinerant life but also, especially for the mainland Chinese, for providing a window onto the outside world, foreign landscapes and cultures during the uncertain post-Mao Zedong era.

Her husband Jose Maria Quero y Ruiz tragically died diving off La Palma in 1979 and San Mao, after returning to Taiwan the following year, eventually committed suicide in 1991.

Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong visitors come to the Canary Islands partly to pay respect to the writer, and leave flowers and messages in Chinese at the resting place of her husband in the Cementerio Municipal in Santa Cruz; visit the apartment where they both lived; and journey to the monument to Jose (called Hexi in her books) where he died near Barlovento on the north coast of La Palma and other sights dotted around the island associated with the couple.

The tourist office stocks a free map and guide called Ruta San Mao, detailing the route around town and the island.