The promoters of Cradle of the Soul tourism macroproject in the Port of Adejein the south of Tenerife, have continued this Wednesday with the works to urbanize 430,000 square meters of a ravine and one of the few beaches on the island that have managed to stay out of the reach of mass tourism. The works, whose total cost exceeds 350 million euros, continue on 98% of the plot, but in the remaining 2% they have been stopped by order of the Territorial Planning and Historical Heritage Directorate of the Cabildo de Tenerife, which verified in two inspections to the area that the works they have destroyed part of some archaeological remains.
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Cuna del Alma plans to build more than 400 luxury villas, hotels, restaurants, swimming pools, beach clubs, spas and other infrastructure such as a 20,000-meter orchard next to the Adeje Protected Nature Reserve Site of Scientific Interest. In addition, the beach is located in a protected marine strip, the Teno-Rasca Special Conservation Zone, with a very rich marine biodiversity, especially in cetaceans. Behind this macro project there are two Belgian investment families (Vandermarliere and Van Biervliet) with “a strong portfolio of real estate projects, both in Belgium and internationally”, according to the group the day the start of the works was staged (although the works had already been running for some time) at the beginning of May.
Sixto Domingo García is the president of the Tegüico Heritage Association, which filed the complaint that has led to the precautionary stoppage of the works at Cuna del Alma. He explains to this newspaper that he found some remains “by chance”. It was last May 14, the day a citizen assembly was held on the Puertito beach to protest against the tourism macro-project. At the end of it, which was attended by about 500 people, he decided to walk along the cliffs near the beach with his pet, “an orphan goat.”
In the middle of the arid landscape of yellow rocks and cacti, he located a deposit “with the naked eye”, on the surface. “Then I got worried,” he says, because it was so easy to see them but no one seemed to have noticed their presence, or they had ignored each other. They will have been there for several centuries, exposed, within the reach of anyone. The team that makes up the Tegüico Heritage Association So he made a “small, humble” report, explains Sixto, without any prospecting on the ground because “everything was in sight.” Then he presented it to the Cabildo, which ordered a precautionary halt to the work.
However, Sixto does not know exactly what the works have destroyed because the Cabildo de Tenerife has not provided that information and the Government of the Canary Islands has not yet received the file from the island corporation. Once these documents arrive, sources from the High Heritage Inspection of the regional Executive explain, it will be necessary to “review their terms, all the information sent and carry out an inspection of the place.” Once there, “we will have to check and assess the damage caused.” If applicable, an infraction would be processed, which can be serious or very serious. “All archaeological remains are very important”, highlight the same sources. In order to continue the works there, there must be an archaeologist hired by the promoting company, they explain, with the aim of supervising that nothing else is damaged and, in the event of new remains appearing, stop the work immediately or expose themselves to a sanction.
“We know that there are quite a few archaeological sites in that area,” insists the president of Tegüico. Throughout the southern part of the island, but especially where Cuna del Alma will be located, there are remains such as stone engravings, structures such as cabin bottoms and surface material, such as ceramics, shell middens or obsidian, he explains. Regarding the relevance of these vestiges, he is blunt: “For us, anything in the Guanche world is fantastic.” Therefore, he says he does not understand that whoever carried out the initial inspection “did not take this finding into account.”
Sixto, who defines himself as a fan of archeology and passionate about the “millennial culture that inhabited the islands”, believes that “you cannot speak of sustainability by destroying everyone’s heritage, burying an engraving, moving it or destroying it”. In addition, he considers it a serious mistake that the heritage catalogs of each municipality, mandatory by law since 2019, are not updated. He considers that it should not be necessary to wait for new deposits to be discovered by carrying out works, but to undertake new prospecting on the island to update the catalogs and be “very thorough on this issue” when reclassifying a piece of land: “There was a culture that lived here, in all corners of the island,” he says. For this reason, the association defends that the staff of Heritage technicians be reinforced both in the Cabildo and in the Government of the Canary Islands. This way “these problems would be avoided”.
The president of Tegüico regrets that archeology is not given more importance on the island of Tenerife. The association, he adds, is “joining forces with other groups to put an end to the looting of such a rich heritage as the Guanche.” Archaeology, he affirms, “is a great value but many people believe that it can be bypassed. We should do as they do in other parts of the world, which is to value their heritage”.
No catalog of archaeological remains
These vestiges are not inventoried or included in any official document. The Adeje City Council does not yet have the Municipal Catalog of Cultural Patrimonial Assets, something mandatory according to the Cultural Heritage Law of the Canary Islands, of 2019. This law gave the local administrations three years to prepare the document, a term that expired on the 13th of June.
Given the foreseeable breach of what the law requires, United We Can Adeje requested in a municipal plenary session last May the preparation of this document as a matter of urgency. The motion was rejected. In the debate, the City Council argued that what exists is an “inventory” that is in the possession of the Town Planning and Heritage technicians in which the archaeological and ethnographic real estate of the municipality is collected. “When the staff or technicians of Urban Planning have to give a license (…) they request that report from Heritage and it is valued,” explained Juan Desiderio Afonso, councilor for Historic-Artistic Heritage. Consulted by this newspaper, the City Council affirms that it is currently “in the process of preparing the project for the archaeological catalog and heritage elements, both by the company that is drafting the General Plan for Urban Planning and internally; The Historical-Artistic Heritage Area is working on the cataloging of movable property of ethnographic and archaeological value”.
The works of Cuna del Alma began with a license from the City Council and then it was Tegüico’s complaint that forced the intervention of the Island Council, which confirmed that part of a site had been destroyed.
In the area, explains Gabriel González, councilor of United We Can Adeje, there are different types of remains, from stone engravings to shell middens and small buildings. “We already knew there were deposits,” he says, adding that the Teguico Heritage Association has more remains inventoried. However, since there was no catalogue, “the Cabildo or the Government of the Canary Islands were not informed”. The law is clear, it says that “it is mandatory to have a catalog” and establishes penalties ranging from 150,000 to 600,000 euros for destruction of heritage.
Pedro Martín (PSOE), president of the Cabildo, acknowledged this Wednesday that the infraction is “very serious” and therefore he will have to take charge of a possible sanction from the Government of the Canary Islands, to whom all the information collected must be sent. He also pointed out that the Adeje City Council has requested all the documentation that is required in a process that has lasted “many years” and in which data, studies, assessments and contributions from technicians have been gathered, for which he believed that it was “disproportionate ” that they want to blame the council for the fact that at a certain time and in “a very large plot” a company has been able to cause damage.
A walk was enough for Sixto and his goat to discover archaeological remains in the area.
Historical Heritage of the Cabildo considers, in its opinion this Tuesday, that “it is essential to carry out archaeological monitoring work by a specialist technician in Archaeology, who must supervise and execute all the planned protection measures.”
Two reports unfavorable to the project
United We Can Adeje assures that the Cabildo was already aware of the situation of Puertito since 2014. From that date, the administrative service of Historical Heritage of the insular institution records an unfavorable report issued on November 18 of that year. According to the party, in the Initial Approval Document of the Specific Modification of the Adeje General Development Plan (Scope of Sector S06 Puertito de Adeje, place where a part of the works is carried out), it was revealed “the impossibility of issuing the report for not having the corresponding archaeological study.”
There is also a second unfavorable report, dated May 12, 2017: “Consequently, the document presented is reported unfavorably, insofar as there is no guarantee that the appropriate protection measures will be adopted with respect to the patrimonial assets that, eventually, are located in the reference area.
United We Can affirms that it contrasted the information of the corresponding administrative file and verified that the project did not have a technical report from the Historical Heritage Administrative Service of the Cabildo. In addition, criticizes the party, the earthworks began without the supervision of any archaeologist. Gabriel González affirms that the works “were born without any guarantee and this determined that today we are in this situation.”