I’ve lived in El Médano now for six months this time. I lived here back in 2003/4, and close by, in Sotovento, at times in between. There is something about the place which sets it apart from other coastal towns. It’s a resort, but not brash or greedy like Playa de las Americas or Los Cristianos, the main tourist resorts. It’s a fishing village which really isn’t a fishing village any longer, not like Los Abrigos or Las Galletas, where families still cling to their traditional way of making a living. It’s a “local” place but not as undeveloped as Tajao or Abades, which are villages further along the coast. It attracts windsurfers, families and hippies to equal degrees, and all mix with an easy familiarity. The name means sandune, and people I’ve met who came here back in the 60s remember when there weren’t really any seafront streets, just paths of sand. From its tip at the foot of Montaña Roja the beach meanders along the coast, changing from yellow and rocky, to pristine tourist in the town centre, and then to dunes which are home to juniper, grasses and plants.
The main beach was recently awarded the European blue flag for excellence, and in these summer months there is a huge variety of events going on in the two main squares of the town, the coming weekend sees the annual triathalon; last week a documentary film festival was slated, but was abandoned, on the Friday at least, owing to high winds; last weekend was the National Windsurf Championships, and next month sees International Kitesurfing Championships; there are folklore concerts and art exhibitions, markets and concerts, and tons and tons of events for children, the list is almost endless. You can swim, windsurf, kitesurf, dive or just laze on the beach if you come to holiday or for a day, and it’s all just ten minutes from the Southern Airport.
In other words, it has a lot to offer, and this, I must be honest, without much of the attractive architecture I so like to harp on about, neither modern nor historic. Much of what is today’s Médano was built in recent years, and is comprised of not very attractive apartment blocks. Well, I said “much”, I didn’t say there was nothing. Prominently sheltering the main beach is the Hotel Médano, built in the 60s but with a kind of art deco feel to it. That, I guess, is because its terrace, built out over the sea, reminds me of seaside piers back home in England.
If you follow the road down the side of the hotel, you wind down a narrow walkway, flanked, on your left, by some colorful shops selling surf gear, trinkets and glorious cotton clothes made in all the rainbow colors of Asia, lots of stuff you don’t see in the bigger resorts, and then there are the tasty eateries, including the yummy creperia La Boheme. On your right, there are old bars and fish restaurants where you can sit on terraces whilst the waves lap the walls (or even come over on a rough day!). My guess is that these were fishermens’ cottages originally. The walkway leads to the old harbor, where boats are pulled up onto the rocks, and the old boys sit around having a fine old time most days.
It’s not a long walk, less than five minutes if you walk quickly, but most people stroll. These buildings, these surroundings are a big part of what gives this little town its unique atmosphere. So, what does the government want to do? It wants to demolish the buildings on the oceanfront side.
There is a law which states, basically, that coastal areas are in the public domain, and cannot be built on. Its full title, in its most recent incarnation is Ley 22/1988, de 28 de julio, de Costas. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Yep, that hotel terrace, which juts into the ocean is illegally constructed, and is under threat of demolition, or maybe even the entire hotel is under threat, it’s all a bit confused at this time. When I talked with staff in the hotel this week they told me that the entire block, including the old bars which you see in the photo below are scheduled for demolition.
Now, there is not the slightest doubt that, not only in Tenerife, but throughout Spain, this law has been abused, both in its current form and previously, and only last week Greenpeace Spain produced a devastating report on the state of Spanish coastal areas. The site is in Spanish, but that a look at their short video on the subject http://www.greenpeace.org/espana/.
So, here I am, unusually in opposition to Greenpeace. Well, not to anything they say in their report, nor the need for control – if it isn’t too late, of course, but it does seem to me that this little town is far better off with this hotel in tact and the cottages left in situ. Without a doubt, the zone has character, which it will lose if anything on it is demolished. Further it will expose those shops and cafés on the other side of the walkway to chilling winter winds – and they can cause a fair amount of havoc in summer too…..why do they think windsurfing is the Nº 1 sport around here? Next question is what would replace them? Presumably, since the intent is that the area should be a public one, then it would mean creating an extension to the beach. Now, the tide comes all the way in here, witness the small amount of space left on the main beach the other evening.
So, then, if sand is imported, or dredged up to create a new beach on top of the rubble of condemned buildings, what’s to stop it washing away in no time at all? And just how much will it be enjoyed when the tide comes in so far? It’s not as if there isn’t enough beach – see the first picture. There is a suggestion that only that pier of a terrace will be destroyed, but, honestly, without that terrace, isn’t the hotel pretty much just another block of concrete, a bit more elegant than many maybe? Sure, there are worse, but it’s the terrace that gives it character.
And – yep – I know that there shouldn’t be exceptions to a law – or should there? Shouldn’t each case be taken on its own merit, because this hotel has stood there now for over 40 years, and the cottages longer, and then there is the loss of jobs at the hotel, especially at a time when jobs are hard enough to find. I shudder to even think about compensations. I really have no idea what is offered in that direction. What’s more, there are only two hotels in the town (plus one a short drive along the coast), so how much more would the local economy suffer without that business? Would people still be attracted to the place if they couldn’t enjoy their evening aperitif watching the glow of the sunset along the coast, as it highlights Montaña Roja?
Depite all the modern concrete around here I really like El Médano. Some planning permissions have gotten through in the recent past for some god-awful buildings, including the one in which I currently reside, so just on the basis of making up for that can’t we get a break here?
This week I called into the hotel to sign the petition they are organizing against changes to its structure (to take the widest meaning of the threat). So, to anyone in Tenerife who likes El Médano as it is, please call in and add your signature, and I know some of you have holidayed here and feel the same, if you want to make your voice heard I will pop back and ask them if there is any way it could be done online, which I stupidly omitted to do the other day.