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Lanzarote is a tourist destination like no other in Spain thanks to the work of one man Cesar Manrique. A man of extraordinary vision, Manrique lobbied the local authorities in the 1970’s to steer away from the high rise hotels and tacky billboard advertising and to concentrate on developing tourism in a sensitive way, so as not to destroy Lanzarote’s intrinsic natural beauty.
When asked about what he had achieved the artist and architect said: “I think this is the first place in Europe where all the advertisements have been removed from the landscape. I used to go around at night, destroying the adverts. We have to advertise in the press, on the radio, on TV, and also when you go to see the nature? Enough!”
Born into a comfortable middle-class family in 1919, Manrique studied architecture for two years before giving it up to move to Madrid to study art at the prestigious Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.
Upon graduation Manrique travelled to New York where he lived among the young Bohemians in the city’s Lower East Side as the guest of Cuban painter Waldo Diaz-Balart.
Following two years of making a name for himself in the art world, Manrique returned to Lanzarote with the intention of turning his native island into one of the world’s most beautiful places devoid of commercialization.
Now considered to be not only an artist, but a town planner and ecologist Manrique faced his biggest challenge during the 1980’s when property developers flush with cash started to move in with the intention of turning the Canaries into a budget holiday destination.
The beauty and splendour of nature
Manrique true to his convictions started to organise protests at construction sites while lobbying to resist the over-commercialization of Lanzarote, claiming that certain parties were like the mafia only taking care of their own wallets while allowing architecture that even the fascist Mussolini would have not tolerated being built.
Despite his cries for help the resorts of Puerto del Carmen and Costa Teguise continued to grow, albeit the high rise buildings that are found on some of the other islands in the Canary chain.
At the time many people claimed that Manrique was a madman trying to hold back the island's economic development. Today, however if you look at the splendour of his creations such as the Jameos Del Agua volcanic tunnel he turned into a concert venue complete with a swimming pool that only the King of Spain is permitted to bathe in and a volcano museum that could have come straight from the set of 2001 A Space Odyssey it is clear to see that he was a visionary ahead of his time.
A self-confessed workaholic and misocapnist Manrique was tragically killed in a car accident on the LZ-1 roundabout in Tahíche in 1992 aged 73 years.
Wherever you travel on Lanzarote you will see Manrique’s legacy, The vision of a tourist destination in tune with nature, devoid of the commercialization that has destroyed so many other places of natural beauty.
Following his death, the non-profit Fundación César Manrique was established in his old house and studio to make people aware of his work and to carry on fighting against the uncontrolled commercial development of Lanzarote.
To learn more about César Manrique and his work, visit his former house in Tahíche for a wonderful day out.
Standard price: 8€ Children 12 or under: 1€
Joint ticket for
César Manrique Foundation (Tahíche) + House Museum (Haría): 15€
Special group rates are available.
House Museum (Haría) César Manrique Foundation (Tahíche)