Why I Might Just Have to Leave Tenerife

Posted: September 14, 2010 in Life, politics, Spain, Tenerife
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A Canario, an ex-pat and a tourist walked into a bar…
This sounds like the start to a joke and in some ways this is a joke, but it’s not a funny one.

The other day we went to the Beehive Bar in Puerto de la Cruz to watch the football. Whilst waiting for the game to start we had a gander at Tenerife News and Island Connections.

A couple of reports in Tenerife News were about the problems being faced here in Puerto de la Cruz with one report being about tourism being in trouble and the other about Puerto being in the financial mire as a result of “massive debts inherited from previous administrations.”

It turned me into ‘outraged of Puerto’ sparking a debate in the bar between ourselves, a Canario and an ex-pat resident. The reason the articles annoyed me was that a year ago both papers ran stories about how good for Puerto the overthrow of the socialist council was and generally agreed the new administration was the right one to revitalise Puerto.

It was suspect reporting at best considering the new council was more or less the ‘old’ council under the same leader who for the first few years we lived here did nothing at all to move the town forward. So the newspaper reports demonstrated either a lack of political understanding, or worse treated readers as though they were stupid. An approach that is clearly continuing. Using the term ‘previous  administrations’ was a cheap and deceitful way of not telling people that ‘previous administrations’ (apart from the short period the Socialists were in power and things did actually move forward) is actually the current administration. They have inherited their own debt.

Anyway it opened up a debate about the state of affairs in Puerto. The Canario complained that one of the main streets into the town, Calle Zamora, had been blocked for months whilst work moved along at a snail’s pace. Without any help from the council during this time and a loss of passing trade, unsurprisingly eight shops on the street have gone out of business. He pointed out that road works outside of Loro Parque had been completed in two days. His conclusion about why one set of works should take months whilst the other would take days was ‘money talks’.  However, he wouldn’t go as far as to criticise the current mayor because the mayor is a ‘friend of the family’ and his mother once asked a favour of him which the mayor duly carried out – good old fashioned politics. Bizarrely, he attributed some of the  problems Puerto is facing to a small Gay Pride parade last August for which money was allegedly taken from the Carnaval budget to stage, with the rationale that we shouldn’t by staging things like that for small groups (that’s all minority groups shafted then), we should keep things the way they are.

It says it all; some people just don’t want to move forward. Some may see this as commendable, but when tourism is your main income, you’re playing a very dangerous game by adopting this approach.

Then the ex-pat joined in, saying that the politicians were all liars, the  council had millions to pay for a huge brand new marina so they weren’t skint (they don’t) and that the Canarian government were lying when they said that tourist figures in Puerto had gone up by twelve percent.

As I get the tourist figures as a press release and I’d never seen that claim, I questioned the accuracy of this statement.

“It’s bloody well true,” he insisted, adding. “Somebody told me that in the Robin Hood last night.”

Somebody told him in a bar! Even when I told him I’d seen the actual press release he wouldn’t have it. His source in the bar was apparently more reliable than the actual document with the statistics on it.

As Andy and I realised that quoting facts as opposed to spouting rumours was a complete waste of time, two thoughts occurred to me. Ex-pats like him didn’t have a clue what was really going on and I’m not sure how much they cared. Worse, some of the Canario population seem quite happy to be led into an abyss because they’ve been hit with shameless propaganda and lies for so long that they no longer can see what’s in front of their faces.

Then the final straw arrived in the shape of a female British tourist who came up to the bar and announced:

“It’s not a very nice day is it?”

“No, it’s a bit too hot,”
Carlos the barman replied.

“No, I mean, it’s cloudy.”

It was 30C and apart from 2 hours max, there was about 8-9 hours of sunshine that day. Eight to nine hours of sunshine and it had been like that nearly every day last week! But I’m willing to bet that when this woman returns to Blighty she’ll confirm that the north of Tenerife is cloudy. No doubt she was warned that the north was cloudy and the first sight of a cloud simply confirmed that.

Between the Canario who doesn’t want to move forward, the ex-pat whose information come from bar room gossip, the tourist who only sees cloud on what would be considered a hot and sunny day just about anywhere else in the universe and newspapers printing contradictory features willy nilly, Puerto faces a hell of an uphill battle.

This is what we battle against…the 300 Spartans had it easier.

  1. islandmomma says:

    I SO hear you! But my first reaction is, do you think there is anyway it’s better?

    So far as the local politics go, it was just the same in Blackpool (still is so far as I can make out from the snippets I hear).

    So far as the ex-pat goes, basically, people are stupid and wear blinkers. I used to be in estate agency (not something of which I’m especially proud!), both in the UK and here, and I lost count of the number of times, the company for which I worked would take a property onto their books, advise the vendor of its value, and then the next day the vendor would come in and say, “I’ve been talking to Fred next door, and he reckons I could get XXXXX€ more for it.” Since our commission was per centage based in the UK, that was pure stupidity. Yep, here, that might be a bit different, I guess. The worst stories come from friends in the medical profession, whose patients take more notice of friends, family or “newspaper” articles in “The Sun” than they do of their expert opinion.

    The tourist? Well, she’s blinkered and small-minded too.

    I?m thinking of becoming a hermit, actually, and if you don’t want to approve this reply I will absolutely understand!

    • dragojac says:

      The short and depressing answer…no. I think it was that I was exposed at the same time to three people representing three different faces of people in Tenerife who all had one thing in common – they were all completely closed in their thinking. I was engulfed by an overwhelming feeling of futility. But it didn’t last long before I the ‘I’m right – it’s the rest of the world that is wrong’ belief reasserted itself : )

      Absolutely re Fred next door. The worst and most dangerous sources of information are friends and family giving ‘helpful’ information, it’s a curse in many occupations.

      By the way did you see the TV series Blackpool with David Morrissey and David Tennant? It confirms what you say about politics there – brilliant.

      Anyway, if you decide to become a hermit, make sure that that the cave (why did I assume all hermits live in caves – see stereotyping) has broadband so that I can keep up to date with what you’re getting up to.

  2. Leslie says:

    The failure is partially yours and mine. We disseminate information about Tenerife, change opinions and sell our perspectives. If we feel strongly enough about something, we actually do have the power to change minds. You met 3 minds we didn’t reach.

    If you think the politics suck, then join a party you believe in and get promoting. Or start one! If you think the residents don’t know what they are talking about, then you know channels to reach them… so go on the attack.

    Don’t underestimate your power as a blogger. If its off-topic, start a new blog. Start a cause! Start your own newspaper!

  3. dragojac says:

    You’re absolutely spot on Leslie. I took part in a protest march last year, but it was too little too late.

    But I’ve got contacts in a party I actually trust and intend to do all I can to support them before the elections next year.

    I honestly believe the ex-pat residents are being fed information in print that just isn’t good, comprehensive, or objective enough.

    But are people interested in the politics here? I’d love to carry out a survey to see how many people knew who their mayor was, what party they stood for and what the politics of that party was.

  4. Leslie says:

    Expats are interested if you catch their imagination. They don’t have to be interested in politics to do that.

    So… are you going into politics, then? You should stand! It would be fun 🙂

    • dragojac says:

      Good point Leslie – Going into politics? Isn’t the fact that someone wants to be a politician not a good enough argument that they shouldn’t be? On the other hand I could see myself as a Sam Seaborn (I wish).

  5. islandmomma says:

    Do you think that those kind of people know who the mayor of their home town was anyway?

    Generally speaking, ex-pats of any nationality aren’t that politically aware I think. Also, lots of people come here to drop out of the life they previously had, for one reason or another.

    Remember a high proportion of ex-pats here are retirees, which, I believe means they are disinterested in the life around them, because it really doesn’t affect them that much. Their pensions come from “home”, they have private health insurance, they have no reason to take an interest because very little impacts their lives. When it does, they don’t have enough background information for an informed opinion, because it’s the first time they’ve come across “city hall” or whoever it is they are up against.

    I can vouch for “misinformation” spouted by local English language press, some of which, of course, is the equivalent of the English gutter press……..but then, which are the best selling “newspapers” in the UK?

    • dragojac says:

      Probably not and I can understand to a certain extent people not particularly being interested, especially if they’re happy living the life here that they sought. Why care if people’s homes are being torn down along the coast if it doesn’t impact on them.?
      I’m happy living here, but I’ve always had a strong sense of right and wrong and any perceived injustice makes me want to stick my nose in, but it’s not fair to expect everyone to feel the same.

      Interestingly before the last local elections here, a German TV company in Puerto threw in its lot with the socialists. They broadcast programmes about the state of the town in German and proactively targeted the German expat community. I don’t know what difference that ultimately made, but the socialists were elected to power – deposing a mayor who had been in power for three previous terms. Maybe this is what can happen if you do give ex-pats some good, accurate background information.

  6. RTorres says:

    Great post!
    It’s quite sad to admit but it’s the truth. Local governments (both Puerto Council and Cabildo) seem to absolutely ignore Puerto’s needs to move forward.

    However, we can still try and make stuff better a step at a time in our own industry, for example, seeing the lack of cultural and leisure information on Puerto (both printed and online) I decided to start a website just about that. I feel I help the town at least a little.

    Don’t give up on us (yet)!

    • dragojac says:

      Thank you – it’s very satisfying to hear a local person say that. I have a great love of Puerto, of its soul and its people and despair that enough isn’t being done to make it the place it should be. Your point about information is sadly too true – a town which needs tourism and yet doesn’t have a good official website dedicated to providing the kind of information that potential visitors need to know. The last news entry on the ayuntamiento website home page is from June!

      Thankfully people like yourself and elpuertoproject do what the local council doesn’t – promote what’s actually going on in Puerto de la Cruz. The social media revolution has given us the ideal tools to change things and the dinosaurs living in the past aren’t even aware it’s happening.

      Vive El Puerto!

  7. islandmomma says:

    Sam Seaborn is my (imaginary) hero!

  8. Leslie Bedell says:

    Interesting and entertaining exchange. Has Tenerife had enough of tourism? Does it aspire to another identity? Is money really at the heart of action or inaction?

    • dragojac says:

      Tenerife definitely hasn’t had enough of tourism, but maybe parts of it do aspire to present another face. Personally I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with that as it’s been the victim of one sided publicity for too long – there has always, always been more to the island than many British people realise.

      However Puerto is a different case. An opposition politician told me that the current mayor was quite happy for tourism to run down. They suggested the plan was that hotels would be sold off cheaply and turned into retirement homes effectively turning Puerto into a one big third age centre.

      But that did come from someone in opposition. However…

      When the socialists held power for a short period and instigated some new tourist initiatives the current mayor’s TV channel accused them of trying to turn Puerto into Las Americas – it wasn’t meant as a compliment.

      Last summer there were fiestas nearly every week aimed at younger people. This summer under the nationalists there were virtually none. It wasn’t just the dance fiestas that were cancelled – anything remotely bohemian went; Mueca, the fantastic street arts festival and the Gay Pride parade as well. This had been predicted by the politician who told me about the retirement plan.

      Recently in one of the local Spanish papers the mayor more or less said there was too much fun at fiestas and that they should be the way they used to be with a focus more on religion. This was after a fiesta which attracted upwards of 35000 people to the town. How many tourists are going to turn up just to see a religious procession? Anyone who goes to any already knows the answer to that one.

      To me all of the above points to a move backwards. The big question is why? It seems like economic suicide to push potential visitors to the other side of the island and it is… for the town anyway.

  9. Thor says:

    Hi, I’m taking my family to Tenerife to stay on new years eve. Could you tell me what is a “must see” for that period and do I need to book a table at a restaurant in good notice. By the way, recomend any specific restaurant ?
    I’m flying from Iceland to enjoy the heat for a week.
    Thanks in advance,

    • dragojac says:

      A wee bit off topic there Thor. You don’t say where on Tenerife you’re visiting, but if it’s Puerto these are all places I’ve eaten at. Some are tapas places but others are perfect for a special occasion. I would book in advance.

      • Thor says:

        Thanks for your respond. We will be staying at Parque Santiago at the playa de la Americas. My kids are 12 and 17 years old. I was thinking about Bianco, but it seem that I need to call them for a reservation.

  10. Leslie Bedell says:

    Wow! Thanks dragojac for taking time to provide that valuable insight. The politics of Tenerife seem complicated. I first visited in 1977 and never imagined the scale of change that has taken place in just 33 years. I feel the island has far from lost its charm but without a consistent island-wide long tern strategy for the future at least some areas will face dereliction which in turn will jeopardise the economic stability of the whole island. How can those of us who have made an investment transcend the cultural barriers and offer help and be welcomed into the process of achieving sustainability?

    • dragojac says:

      “…a consistent island-wide long tern strategy”. You’ve just hit the nail on the head. Politics here completely get in the way of that happening at the moment. It might only happen if the ruling party in every municipality was exactly the same – and that is a frightening prospect.
      “How can those of us who have made an investment transcend the cultural barriers and offer help and be welcomed into the process of achieving sustainability?” That’s the 64000 dollar question. The problem is that Tenerife in general isn’t great at accepting advice and help from outsiders (that includes from Spanish mainlanders). Advice at all levels can often be seen as criticism (the idea of constructive criticism hasn’t quite made it here). It’s ironic given that 500 years ago the island was built on the ideas and hard work of a mixture of European nationalities not just one. You’re right, the politics are complicated here…but they’re also fascinating.

  11. william colhoun says:

    dear dragojac.
    i have been coming to puerto de la cruz for the past 35 years and the majority of your comments are so true at least 95%. but maybe im were one of the odd couples who enjoy the out of way spanish bars were we are always made welcome.
    we some times feel ebarrased because we had been offered somuch little taps to taste we had to have a very small dinner.
    but going back to puerto i first arrived at the xibana park hotel and my first impression was my god what have i come to but im very happy to say i finished up staying in the xibana for 28 years it was not a hotel to us it was a second home we knew all the staff personally and the families.
    again as tth comment on the cloud yyou are so right but over the years we expected a clody day or the nights rain but we never came home with out a suntan we still come for christmas and stay at the las vegas it very central because ofhealth conditions iknow all the level short cuts to my favourite hauntsthe little restaurant by the harbour its the nearest the sea and i can assure you they serve the best sardines in town.
    i think the only regret we have we didnt move there 29 years ago but unfortunately its to late now at 71 years old but it will never stop us visiting at least once a year i wish puerto de la cruz every success in the future.
    happy visitor

    • dragojac says:

      Thanks. I still believe Puerto has a strong enough heart and soul to climb out of the current problems it’s facing. Just the other day I was down at the harbour and the town was buzzing with a mix of locals and visitors tucking into roasted chestnuts. There wasn’t a spare seat, so I had to use the harbour wall as a table to enjoy mine. Puerto might suffer from suspect politics, but it has lost none of its charm. Viva Puerto!

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