This is my idea of an historic wall.
I was baffled after reading reports about plans to destroy an historic wall in Puerto de la Cruz and the outrage they had caused. The question that immediately sprang to mind was – what historic wall?
The San Telmo Project
The ‘controversy’ started when the council and the Tenerife Government announced plans to renovate the promenade that runs from the San Telmo church to the start of the old town in Puerto de la Cruz.
This area is a bit of an eyesore. It is narrow, the pavement tiles look perpetually dirty (see above) and the façades of the buildings date from those dark days of bland architecture, the 70s.
In short, it is in urgent need of a facelift.
The plan, in brief, is to widen and modernise the promenade to create a more attractive walkway that is also more accessible to people who have mobility issues. This includes replacing the wall that runs along this section of the seafront with an open, steel barrier similar to the one at the mirador above the Pomodoro restaurant.
The cost is an estimated 1.5 million and it is expected to take around 10 months (if pigs actually learn to fly).
The Case Against the San Telmo Project
When I heard about the San Telmo project my heart plummeted. Not because of the proposals, but because on Tenerife projects like these take forever. Deadlines are pure fantasy that are rarely met.
Subsequently the town looks a right mess whilst the work is being carried out. Worse, people have lost businesses as a result of prolonged, restricted access to their shops, bars and restaurants.
However, this doesn’t seem to be the main concern of the protests. The most vociferous opponents seem to be revolting at the loss of the ‘historic’ wall that runs along the seafront at that part of the town.
This historic wall is the cause of my bafflement.
The Historic Wall
The council say it’s not historic as most of it was built in 1977.
Those against the loss of the wall say it is a part of the town’s history and dates back to 1918… although they concede it has been built on and renovated in the intervening century.
Ironically, photos posted online to support the historic wall stance reveal two things.
The first is that the 1918 wall looks nothing at like the wall that exists now.
The second is that the only thing that’s historic about that area now is the San Telmo church. That part of the promenade is historic only if we’re now classing the 70s as historic. The images also show how beautiful this part of Puerto used to be – the key phrase here is ‘used to be’.
In interviews I’ve seen with local people, the argument against the San Telmo project seems more of an argument against change – e.g. ‘the wall has been there all my life, I don’t want to see it go.’
The wall is not a pretty one, especially if viewed from the sea side. There are ugly, exposed concrete sections. A town like Puerto deserves better and the idea is to open it up more to the sea.
Aesthetics aside, there are other reasons why the work should improve the promenade. Since the changes in smoking laws, there are now tables and chairs at the narrowest sections which can result in a bottleneck at times.
There is also another very good reason why removing the current stone wall will be better for the image of the town. I’m not going to say what it is, but those who know the town very well may know of what I speak. Those who don’t know the town will have to remain in the dark, sorry.
I am no fan of the mayor and have concerns whenever there is talk of modernising. I have concerns that truly historic aspects of the town will be discarded in favour of things that are new and shiny. Opposition groups reflect these concerns; however, it’s vital not to let red herrings obscure the important issues.
Saying that, the modernisations that have taken place so far have enhanced Puerto de la Cruz. Avenida Familia Bethencourt y Molina and Calle La Hoya both look much better now than they did pre renovation.
In the old part of town, the pedestrianisation of Calle Mequinez is a vast improvement to a street where there was hardly room for one person to walk on the pavement. If anything, it has gained more character as a result.
Unless someone comes up with credible evidence to the contrary, I’ve no real reason to believe the renovation of San Telmo will be any different.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+