Arrecife is a place of contrasts. Around the port where we were anchored the ground was littered with broken glass, and derelict buildings close by provided a home for squatters as well as a canvas for creators of graffiti. There was some engaging street art here, images created with thought and care and an obvious desire to communicate – but there was far less of it than there was tagging, which was splattered across much of the public space along the waterfront. There were sudden areas of beauty, little oases amongst the commerce and the combination of gentrification and decay in areas where fishermen had once lived to be close to their work, before the fish grew scarce. There were areas which made the back of ones neck prickle, and around them a ring road with a tree lined centre for walking in and roundabouts graced with unique and interesting sculptures.
Above the port of Naos, a short walk from where we were anchored along a road lined with broken glass and litter that took us past the old salt flats, we found one of those uniquely beautiful spots. The Castillo de San Jose was beautifully restored under the direction of Cesar Manrique and houses the Museo Internationale de Arte Contemporaneo, an exhibition of works by contemporary artists including a few by Manrique himself. The age of the fortress set off to perfection the contemporary nature of the pieces, the space arranged so that there is room to see and enjoy the uniqueness of each image or sculpture. And as we looked at the works inside we followed stairs down to a restaurant with more pictures and beautiful views over the part of the harbour in front of it. From the restaurant we followed a path back up to the front of the building, through grounds landscaped with native plants and black lava rock, as artistic as anything else in and around the Museo.
I know too little about Cesar Manrique, though I came across his works as we travelled or walked around and there are constant references in the guidebooks to his role in creating some uniquely Lanzarotean attractions. But even so, the range of his works and interests, the sense of proportion and reach for perfection inherent in the things we saw and the pride in his own landscape suggest a man of great creativity and ingenuity. The world is poorer for not having him now.