Late September we visited the astonishing isle of Lanzarote. And before telling you a bit more about the island itself, I need to introduce you to Cesar Manrique, local artist and the savior of this Canary diamond in the rough.
Cesar was born on Lanzarote in 1919 and found a tragic ending to his life in 1992 due to a traffic accident right outside his home. But what he did with the last 25 years of his life is what he will always be remembered for.
Cesar had a profound love for his home (is)land. He was always one of the few people who saw the natural beauty of Lanzarote within its rough and seemingly barren appeal. After traveling the world with his art, he came back to the island in his early fifties and decided his greatest work of art would become the island of Lanzarote.
He was one of the first people in the 60’s to talk about a sustainable way of living. About preserving knowledge, nature and tradition, for it would be lost if tourism came sweeping in like he had seen in so many places all over the world. He called “man” one of the most dangerous monsters on this planet and he turned out to be right.
In all his enthusiasm and energy he succeeded in convincing the people of Lanzarote to follow his guidelines for living on the island and finally making them proud of living there.
He issued a book full of original Canarian architecture, to serve as a guide for the island people when they would build new houses. If he saw someone building a house that didn’t suit the landscape, he would tell them to stop and advice them how to move forward. Thanks to this, the island consist out of only completely white houses with green or blue doors and windows and you won’t find any tall, view blocking buildings or sea view apartments neither! What makes the landscape even more tranquil and almost like a painting is that there is close to no sign of advertising or bilboards. Cesar convinced the government that advertisements damaged the landscape, that there were enough ads on the radio, television and in magazines as it was, no need to hinder Lanzarote’s postcard views.
Cesar was fully aware that tourism would be the one thing to save the Canary Islands and that if they wanted to stay unique and appealing to tourists for decades to come, they would have to move towards a sustainable way of tourism so Lanzarote would keep its unique landscapes and wouldn’t turn out to be one in a dozen volcanic islands.
He was able to commission a vast amount of tourist centers on the island, starting out with his impressive first home, underground, consisting out of four empty lava bubbles.
But his final home in Haria, in the valley of a thousand palm trees, is the one that stole my heart. For it is clear that there lived a man, a warm hearted human being, with great taste and wonder. A restless mind full of energy, with an esthetic that suits my own eclectic style. It was forbidden to take pictures inside, so I had to scrape things off the internet to compose this post for you. If you ever visit Lanzarote, do not forget to visit this place.
Want to know more about Cesar Manrique and what he did for Lanzarote? Stay tuned for my visual and practical guide through the island later on.