Tenerife heritage? Tenerife national trust?
A notice to you, the reader; this article is more of a plea to the cabildo and the ayuntamientos, the central government and local governments of Tenerife, than my normal story from the island’s past, but do stay with it.
Regular readers of the ‘Tenerife News’ will have guessed that I’m rather keen on the history of Tenerife (this is the sixty-first article I’ve written on the subject over the past six years), and I’m not alone in having an interest in the past. Back in Britain, every year millions of people visit historic sites that are owned or managed by English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Heritage Wales, and the National Trust, or similar organisations. What is missing in Tenerife, I believe, is the same coordinated form of historic tourism. Most local governments here have their own heritage attractions, some promoted more vigorously than others, but there is not an island-wide consistency.
Tenerife is missing a trick. Admittedly there’s not as much to go on as in mainland Europe, there are no stately homes surrounded by parkland, no mediaeval castles, no prehistoric remains such as Stonehenge, no Roman forts and little or no industrial heritage. At first glance the only obvious historic structures are the multitude of churches, chapels and shrines, and, yes, they do have a great appeal. Then of course we mustn’t forget the grand houses in the older towns, particularly in La Laguna, Orotava and Garachico, but most of them are either in use or sometimes abandoned in rural areas and not accessible to the public.
But what else is there? Take a close look and you’ll see that there is much more to the island. On the internet the ‘Historic Quarters’ of various towns are illustrated, inviting visitors to stroll around, but something a little more specialised is needed. Here’s a random list of potential attractions; a railway locomotive, a railway crane and a line of forts in Santa Cruz, La Casa Fuerte in Adeje, possibly the oldest house on the island (part of which the owner would love to open to the public), there are Second World War gun batteries, tobacco factories, a very ruinous house that belonged to the ‘pirate’ Amaro Pargo, old piers, a disused lighthouse, not to mention the many Guanche caves (although how many of these could be made accessible is problematic). There’s quite a bit to go at, more than enough for the tourism department of the cabildo to publish a guide book to the historic attractions of the whole island.
A lot of historic attractions are publicised by local governments and private owners, for example the House of Balconies and the House of Carpets (sand and flowers), next door to each other in La Orotava, the Route of the Forts (La Ruta de Los Castillos, in Spanish only at present), the Museum of Nature and Man and the Military Museum in Santa Cruz, the Museum of Science and the Cosmos and the Museum of History and Anthropology in La Laguna, La Casa de Carta in Valle de Guerra, the Butterfly House in Icod, and the Castillo de San Miguel in Garachico. Others are not mentioned anywhere, for example, two small archaeological sites (one tucked out of sight and the other rather neglected) in La Laguna, and the little mineral train on a roundabout beside the motorway, while a leaflet for a walking trail of Santa Cruz would be very interesting.
The vast majority of British, and north Europeans in general, are here for the sun in the south of the island, but surely there’s a limit to the novelty and there comes a point when something different is needed, such as exploring the culture of Tenerife. Taking the English Heritage handbook or the National Trust handbook as a model, can you picture a handbook to Tenerife, in sections similar to the county-by-county arrangement as in Britain, itemising the attractions with a photo, a brief description, opening days and times, contact details, and any charges involved. Also whether the property is in private ownership or can only be viewed from the outside. And then – there is the potential for an island-wide tourist organisation to arrange the outdoor ‘Family Fun’ days and re-enactments a la English Heritage/National Trust with historical themes that are so popular back home. The added advantage with Tenerife is that good weather can be guaranteed – which is not always the case in Britain, it has to be said.
As I wrote earlier, this is a plea rather than a story, but if you’ve read so far and agree that your holiday or your residency in Tenerife could be a richer experience, then make your opinions known in your holiday company’s ‘feedback’ invitations, to tourist companies and guides, and your local government. Coordination is the key. In the meantime here are a few photo’s to get you thinking. Where will you see these little-known attractions? Answers in the next edition of the ‘Tenerife News.’