Friends of Tenerife
This story is not celebrating an anniversary nor has it never been told before. It is a simple tale of a man who had a dream and fought giants during his journey. His early life, step by step, led him to the place he had to be – back in his own backyard.
Antonio Maria Hernandez was born in La Orotava on 12th October 1936. After leaving Tenerife at the age of 18 to make his fortune, he returned 19 years later having become a missionary in South America. Poor but contented.
In 1973 he was ordained a priest in the parish of La Conceptión, La Orotava.
In 1975, after a short spell in El Hierro he became the parish priest of Santa Rita, Punta Brava, in the environs of Puerto de la Cruz. Little did he know it, but he had reached his destiny. His epiphany moment came when he learned that one of his parishioners, an old lady, who had two sons with whom she had no contact, had drowned herself in a water tank. He was determined to ensure that a tragedy such as this would never happen in his parish again. He would build a home for lonely people giving them rest and security in their final years. But how would he raise the money?
Maybe, as he walked through the streets of Puerto, he was drawn to the windows of the Estate Agents’ offices. They were all offering plots of land for sale. That’s it. Eureka. He would sell plots of land in heaven. Audacious as it seems, his plan worked. For each donation he handed out a certificate from the Bank of Heaven. His idea reached the national press and Padre Antonio became known as “the priest selling a little piece of heaven” Astoundingly he raised 12 million euros. Hogar Santa Rita 1 was built next to the church followed a few years later by a larger more expensive home, Hogar Santa Rita 2, with better facilities including a spa.
Unfortunately there is not a happy ending to this fairy tale.
Towards the end of his life, Padre Antonio had his worst moments with his great project. In 2008 there had been a fire which had destroyed Hogar Santa Rita 1 and this is still out of commission.
Also, due to his ebullience and good luck, Padre Antonio had many detractors some of them political in high places. His plans for an International Alzheimer’s Centre were bogged down by red tape and still haven’t come to fruition.
To cap it all he had a long protracted illness through cancer.
He was dearly loved by his staff and the locals.
Padre Antonio died on March 21st 2011. There were around 2,500 people who attended his funeral service.
The Friends of Tenerife salute him.
By Ken Fisher