He was born in Arafo on May 31, 1922 – in just over 7 months he would have been 100 years old – he did primary school in his town and took the entrance exam for Secondary Education, in accordance with the regulations of the Ministry of Public Instruction of the Republic, in June 1936. But on July 18 the Civil War began, which affected his entire family, of republican sensibility; thus his planned entry into high school was frustrated.
During the war and after the war, in the spare time left by the work in the fields – which he did from the age of 14 on his parents’ land – he reads everything he finds. Among the few books he had at his fingertips was a Civil Code, without covers or index, of a priest relative in the family. Having no index, he had to read and reread to find what interested him. And with his good memory he literally remembered quite a few articles. He continues reading geography, history, philosophy, classical poetry and narrative literature, of which he was interested in the plausible, and less in the fantastic. The library that was slowly being built reflects these tastes. He also had an interest in political history, from which his desire for active participation in society was born, although his ideal of politics – absent of demagoguery and altruistic – did not fit well with the times that he had to live, hardly suited to his life. ideal of democracy. He considered himself a frustrated politician.
He did his military service, during World War II, in the artillery park as corporal commander of the Arafo and Güímar powder magazines. Then the work of investigation, drilling and illumination of underground water from galleries and then from wells begins. The practical necessity leads him to be interested in hydrogeology and law, in a self-taught way, but of which he turned out to be a true scholar.
From a rural and peasant environment, he connected with water, especially with the underground waters of Tenerife, although later he extended his analysis and knowledge to other islands, especially La Palma. He participated, was integrated and directed the associative world of water users –initially farmers– through the Water Communities. He was secretary and president of many of them, until he crowned his actions in the Insular Chamber of Waters, an entity of which he was co-founder – in the eighties of the last century – and then president until recently, when for health reasons and age had to resign.
One of the main features of Jesús Mesa is conciliation, dialogue and mediation; relying on solid arguments, impregnated with empathy, patience and also firmness, all articulated from a great intelligence combined with an emotional closeness. Although this line of action extended to everything that was developed in its environment, it was more ostensible with regard to groundwater. Both in the internal functioning of the communities and in the relationships between them, promoting common objectives and the fusion of them in the face of disagreements in mutual differences. This process of pyramidal growth of objectives crystallized in the Chamber of Waters.
But this journey had to be parallel to the Canarian special legislative, whose origin (Royal Order of 1924) is almost contemporary with Jesús Mesa. In this period, the differences between the use of groundwater in the Canary Islands and the rest of Spain were evidenced, so that successively rules are issued that rationalize the ways of proceeding in the Canary Islands, with a predominance of private initiative in all actions. But in 1985 the national legislation was changed declaring the waters not lit as public and leaving the way to articulate it to the new Canarian legislation. The conflict was unleashed with the first Canarian Water Law of 1987. A turbulent period began, with a large public demonstration against the content of the new regulation and with the fall of the Canarian government that promoted it. Subsequent events, with court rulings, forced the achievement of a social and political balance, such as the Canarian Water Law of 1990, which was unanimously approved and still prevails, after more than 30 years. Well, in that five-year period the conciliatory but firm leadership led by Jesús Mesa, already invested as president of the Tenerife Island Chamber of Waters, was witness to the successive general directors of waters (Adolfo Hoyos and Emilio Alsina , both civil engineers) and prestigious jurists (Alejandro Nieto, Juan-Miguel De la Cuétara and Martín Orozco).
A major regulatory block of the 1990 Water Law was the creation on each island of an Insular Water Council. A singular prototype institution of a public Administration owned by the users themselves, with equal quotas in the executive collegiate bodies. The success of this structure has been evident in its successful operation for some 25 years; Each matter has been analyzed and debated in detail and practically all the agreements have been unanimously agreed. In this, that conciliatory spirit of Jesús Mesa was always important. His spirited and affectionate presence was highly valued by all the staff – almost a hundred – of the organization.
That spirit impregnated with rationality and common sense went beyond the scope of the Canary Islands. He was first elected a member of the National Federation of Irrigation Communities and then vice-president. In the development of the participatory structures of the users in the new national framework, he was elected Canarian representative in the National Water Council, a member of its regulations commission and finally a member of the Permanent Commission, which mandatorily reports all capital water issues nationwide. Jesús Mesa also left a special mark there that his colleagues at the time still remember – including the successive Presiding Ministers – in this body.
The actions of Jesús Mesa not only had the aforementioned insular and national projections, but also extended to the municipal scope. In the public company Emmasa was a member of its board of directors for three periods. His work both municipal and insular led the Santa Cruz City Council to grant him the corresponding recognition with the delivery of the La Aguadora award. He was always very modest in these actions, as reflected in his speech in response to that tribute, of which I keep a copy.
But perhaps the least known facet of Jesús Mesa is the technical scientist in geology and hydrogeology. His technical knowledge, self-taught but the result of a continuous study and analysis of these matters, amazed true experts (for example, doctors Custodio, Llamas, Heras, Sauquillo, López García…). Also to the locals (Telesforo Bravo, Juan Coello, José-Manuel Navarro, Carlos Bencomo, Enrique Amigó…). With my colleague Adolfo Hoyos – sadly deceased a few months ago – I witnessed high-level technical discussions with the directors and coordinators of the SPA-15 and Mac-21 (Sáenz de Oiza and Jiménez). He listened, pondered, reasoned, argued, and concluded like a true expert.
Already in a more restricted and personal environment, it has been the main reference in my professional life related to water. His fraternal relationship with my father allowed me to be an exceptional witness of exhibitions in his technical office (Gimeno, Díez de la Fuente, Angulo, Moisés, …) and to receive his advice (during the almost five decades in which I was able to share that proximity), always balanced and successful.
On July 21, 2014, the Island Council of Tenerife agreed to grant the title of Illustrious Son of the Island to Jesús Mesa Hernández. In the emotional ceremony held in the plenary hall, at the age of 92, he answered – with his usual modesty – feeling surprised by this recognition. His hometown, Arafo, also gave him the title of Favorite Son.
Although his mobility limitations were already evident, he continued for a few more years his activity in the collegiate bodies of the Insular Water Council, until recently when he was replaced by Felipe González Domínguez, his collaborator and friend for decades, as president of the Insular Chamber of Aguas.
Rest in peace. Our condolences to his family (Celsa, María and nephews and grandchildren) and to the entire island of Tenerife. Let us remember its trajectory and learn from it. On behalf of an innumerable group of friends and disciples of Jesús Mesa.