César Manrique: the most universal Lanzarote native
If you’re invited to take part in collaborative journalism with those that manage and promote CACT, and you’re also from Lanzarote, starting from the very beginning is your only choice.
As a small town boy, you’re also always aware of who the host of any home that you visit is. And here, within this structure of Culture, Art, Architecture, Tourism and Nature, the backbone of the Tourist Centres of Cabilde de Lanzarote, the original host was César Manrique.
I learnt of the death of César Manrique from the newspapers. And not just because I liked to stay busy, which I did, but because that September of 92 we were studying abroad. I say we because at that time some of us had the great opportunity to ride the wave of the island’s strong growth and we had decided to study at universities a little further away from home. Something which perhaps the innovator himself also had something to do with.
The world-renowned Manrique de Lanzarote
I was already aware that Manrique was the most renowned artist from the island, since it was the first thing that many of my friends from the mainland would say when you mentioned where you were from, “Ah, where César Manrique is from!”, they’d say… I sometimes think that they maybe only knew about Tenerife because their fathers or uncles had been on a stag do there, or maybe it was because Club Tenerife twice beat Real Madrid in La Liga (91/92 and 92/93). I don’t know…
Where were we. Some people from Lanzarote only came to know of the artist’s true value through the media reaction at the time of his death. I still remember holding the “Diario 16” newspaper, surprised and anxious, reading the pages inside dedicated to the most famous person from Lanzarote.
On the Saturday after his death, Carmelo Martín wrote a piece in “El Pais”, “a creator of important urban projects located in both tourist and rural areas of the archipelago, Marinque revolutionised what leisure could offer and practiced a new aesthetic style that captivated critics and artists around the world”.
It was both painful and emotional. It was painful not being able to be close to my own. But sometimes I think it was a good thing, it allowed me to get to know the different sides to the character of a person like him better. We perhaps sometimes fail to notice their importance by having them closer. Not just César, but Lanzarote’s Centres for Art, Culture, and Tourism is too like a flag for Lanzarote natives when they spend a little time away from the islands for whatever reason, because this is precisely one of the identifying symbols of our volcanic land, which leaves a mark upon those that visit for a few days or weeks. Indeed, I once got into César Manrique’s car. I remember the shiny green Jaguar, the same one in which he would later meet his fate, due to a fatal accident. I don’t remember any cultural encounters with Manrique in the El Almacén, nor carnival parties on the reef, because back then I was just a little kid, and because, as I said before, I’m a small-town guy.
I got into César Manrique’s car to show him the way,through the winding narrow roads, to the house of a friend who lived in a mansion on the vineyard, in the outskirts of Villa de Tequise.
We’d been playing ball in the middle of Calle Timanfaya, and he stopped to ask if we knew a gentleman, whose name I don’t remember, and we told him yes, we knew where he lived. He asked if we could show him the way, and I said yes, as it wasn’t far. I got in and we drove through a few streets, we arrived, I got out, and he gave me 100 pesetas… We stuffed ourselves with sweets. And from then on we knew that César was the best.