One of the first things I’ve noticed when I arrived in Santa Cruz de Tenerife has been the incredible amount of statues, sculptures and monuments around the town. Every square or crossroad hosts one: characters more or less historical, modern artworks, installations of every size.
I’m going to talk about some of them because they either have an interesting story or I’ve found them curious.
The first one is possibly the most loved sculpture in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a monument so famous that the square where it sits took the name from it: the Chicharro. I talked about it on my Instagram profile some time ago. It’s a fish, an Atlantic horse mackerel in the specific. It was given to the city by a Venezuelan cultural association in 1979. Since then, the bronze statue is overseeing Plaza del Chicharro in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
But what is the story behind the fish? When La Laguna was still Tenerife’s capital, Santa Cruz was a simple fishermen coastal town. The fish was sold to all the villages and to the capital as well, since La Laguna is up on the hills. The inhabitants of Santa Cruz got therefore the nickname of Chicharreros, aka “those of the Chicharros“, the Spanish word for “mackerel”.
A sculpture of the precious fish must have seemed a good idea to honour the citizen of today’s capital of Tenerife.
Monument to Victory: the controversy
Not all the urban artworks are well received in the community. Sometimes it’s a matter of personal taste. Other times it’s a moral or historical issue.
With the #BlackLivesMetter movement, we’ve recently seen a sort of “cleansing”. Many statues of people known for their roles or great campaigns but too close or even openly supporting the dominium of white people over… everybody else. And so let’s get rid monuments of kings and leaders that were in favour of slavery! Let’s remove presidents and generals too, and whoever had, centuries ago, a politically incorrect approach.
Within all the monuments in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the one that creates the greatest conflict is Monument to Victory (or Angel of Victory), commonly known as Monument to Franco. Franco was a dictator, he reigned during the civil war and he was silently supporting Germany during WWII. It’s easy to see why people don’t appreciate much a statue with a man (with his features, but totally by chance, obviously) riding with an angel towards victory. Likewise in Italy with fascism and in Germany with Nazism, in Spain it is illegal to openly support and exalt Franco and his regime. Besides whatever people think, this monument should therefore be removed by law.
Without entering in difficult political discussion, it is actually surprising to see how many don’t want to remove this monument. After decades from Franco’s death, “his” statue is still there, standing well visible on the sea promenade of the capital of Tenerife. As a matter of fact, an ex-major of Güimar, a town in the south of Santa Cruz, declared some years ago that we would gladly receive the monument in his own town, whenever it would be removed from its current place.
Enrique González Bethencourt
In one of the nicest squares of the city centre, between trees, gazebo, bar and green grass, there’s the statue of Enrique González Bethencourt, the famous and beloved founder of the murga Afilarmónica NiFú-NiFá.
To the most of us, this information has little importance, but you have to understand the cultural influence of murgas in canary islands to get the full meaning of it.
Let’s start from scratches.
What is a murga?
It’s a chorus of men only or women only. They sing a cappella or with drums and “pito murguero”, a sort of big kazoo. Using other instruments is considered a sacrilege. They dress up and paint their faces, with an inclination towards clowns over every else. The songs are usually well-known ones, but mixed up in mesh-ups and next lyrics applied n order to ironically talk about current news.
Why are murgas famous?
The most important moment for murgas is annual the Carnival. Precisely the weeks before the actual Carnival. During a week-long TV contest, the best murga of the year is elected following a show with a proper jury, exhibitions and a lot of public both live and behind the screens. The participants have the honor to take part of the Carnival events in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and other cities. The best ones are invited to other islands and have their own concerts.
The statue of the father of all murgas
Back to Enrique González Bethencourt’s statue. Afilarmónica NiFú-NiFá comes from Tenerife and it’s considered the oldest of all murgas. In 2001 Enrique González Bethencourt received an official prize from the back then king Juan Carlos for the effords to maintain the Carnival festivity alive during Franco times.
Basically, he’s a hero! And of course he deserve his own statue in front of the gazebo where, a long time ago, his murga used to sing!
The city centre
Walking around the (almost all) pedestrian city center of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, you’ll find tons of monuments, statues and artworks. Here are the ones I find more interesting, for a reason or the other.
Per Adriano, by Igor Mitoraj, sits in front of the city theatre. It rappresents a carved face that I suppose rappresents a stage mask. It’s very difficul to take a picture to it with the right light and without people in the background. But I find it one of the best placed and perfectly inserted artwork in town.
Lechera Canaria is in front of the city market Nuestra Señora de Africa. It’s the statue of a woman with a milk pitcher balanced on her head. Lechere were indeed those women who used to go from village to village to sell milk, indeed bringing it around on their heads.The most adventourous ones, could go up the hills into what now is Parco Rurale di Anaga with the help of a donkey.
A similar statue, not too far away from la Lechera, is La Aguadora by di Medín Martín. Since the year 2000 she is an homage to the women who used to go to get drinking water to the well.
In Plaza del Patriotismo stand 7 columns, each of which rapresents one of the Canary Islands. Siete Islas, by José Abad, dates back to 1987 therefore we forgive him. Since 2018, indeed, La Graciosa is been officially recognised the 8th Canary Island, having now its own townhall and capital. It deserves it’s own column too!
At the border of the city centre we find two contemporary art installation: El Sueño de Europa by Martín Chirino (1986), and Escultura Móvil, by César Manrique. This last one is a well-knows architect and sculptor from Lanzarote. He has created beautiful artworks on his island, worthy a visit
The Rambla and its surroundings
A large tree-line avenue with a central pedestrial area is a great occasion to show off some artworks. Therefore the townhall of Santa Cruz de Tenerife decided to fill it up with modern art installations, statues and monuments of various kind.
One of the most famous is El Guerrero de Goslar, by Henry Moore. It dates back to 1977 and you never know from which point of view you’re supposed to take a picture.
Ejecutores y Ejecutados are hanging from the trees. These are gigant red balls by artist Xavier Corbero.
Keep on waling past one end of the Rambla, the pedestrial area continues into Avenida de la Asunción until Plaza de la República Dominicana. Here we find Móvil, a red and tall monument by Francisco Sobrino. It’s been there since 1973 and it reminded me of a smaller version of the Atomium in Brusselles.
Close by there’s also Femme Bouteille, a Joan Miró’s sculpture, fairly different from his famous, very colourful paintings.
Other monuments and and artworks
There are many more statues and monuments in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, I simply don’t have enough time to talk about each of them. Exloring the town, even outside the city centre, gives you the opportunities to find dozens more! Try to count them all: It seems they keep on growing in number!