From the time he was born on the small Canary Island of Lanzarote, to the time of his death there in an auto accident in 1992, Cesar Manrique was a spokesperson for the island, an international island ambassador and favorite son artist. Lanzarote, 300 square miles of lava-covered landscape, punctuated by hundreds of volcanic peaks, never had the charm of neighboring Tenerife and Gran Canaria. It did not become populated during the Spanish colonial period to any significant extent until desalination plants were installed in the 1960s. It was Cesar Manrique who put Lanzarote on the map as an underpopulated and exclusive international holiday venue.
Manrique served in the Spanish army during the Spanish Civil War, with a man who became the island governor. As adults, the politician called upon the artist to design development projects that were environmentally responsible and captured the unique asset of Lanzarote, its hard, volcanic landscape. Rather than overcome the land, Manrique built into natural features, maintaining ancient lava tubes as rooms in his home, concert venues, and unique gardens.
Today, white condos along the black sand beach have a low profile that mimics the shoreline. Guests to Jamos Garden wander through a lava tube to arrive at their dinner destination. The Cactus garden is built into a volcanic depression, where strange natural rock features stand in ponds as art.
Late in life Manrique built a home, in which he lived for a few years, before he turned it over to a foundation as an art museum and studio of life in sync with the environment. Entrance to the home begins above ground, then winds through lava passageways that open to a succession of rooms. Around the property are Manrique sculptures and mobiles. The art is colorful against the black lava.
There are charming, small, Spanish towns on Lanzarote that date from the Spanish colonial era of the seventeenth to nineteenth century. The white plaster walls and brownish tile roofs have lively internal plazas to turn inward from the harsh environment. They are surrounded by farms, where plants grow in small groups protected from the winds by low, curved stone walls. The towns host cultural festivals and some of the farms have wineries, which host wine tastings in lava caves.
Lanzarote holds delightful surprises for cruise guests disembarking on the island for a shore excursion. Despite the wind, everyone has a great time, drinking wine, wandering the gardens and experiencing the opportunities for a lovely day in an exotic environment. Join the Gestalt of Cesar Manrique everywhere on the island.
Stories of Lanzarote and the Canary Islands will join other stories of Cruise through History Itinerary V – Ports of Arabia to the Atlantic, due out soon.
If you want to learn more about Sherry Hutt’s adventures check out one of her books on Amazon.com