This softly spoken father of two received us in his new office a stone’s throw away from the Plaza Wehler. A graduate in philosophy and the arts with a specialisation in archaeology he studied at La Laguna, and spent some years working away from his native land before taking on the job as technical director at the Hispano Inglés School on the Ramblas where he taught for fifteen years.
He was able to combine this with some investigation with colleagues in the Icód area, specifically in the Cueva de Las Palomas , and the Cueva de Don Gaspar in 1987 and 1991. Amongst other interesting achievements they found certain seeds which seem to prove that the island natives were involved in long term settlements in the area and not totally nomadic and in the Cueva de Los Guanches, on the coast, they found possibly the oldest human remains in the Canarias, carbon dated to three centuries B.C.
Possibly thanks to his education in the fields of philosophy, history and archaeology, he was led into the world of thought, social organisation and politics almost unconsciously. Also because, “all my life I’ve had a great affection for my own land, that’s why I chose the nationalist option (the Coalition Canaria).” He began as a party worker, a job he did for many years. Then in 1999 he was asked if he would like to be included in the candidates list for election to office. He agreed more than anything, to see how an election worked from the inside, but in that year, the nationalists, under Miguel Zerolo, swept the board in the Santa Cruz elections and he became a councillor.
He was given an indefinite leave of absence from his job and took up responsibility for personnel, updating the council’s computer network and attention to the public, transferring after a mid-term shuffle to commerce and tourism, where he still is after being re-elected in 2003. On a bad day he wishes he was at home with the kids, but when things go right he is passionate about his job. “It’s a lot of responsibility, but you have the chance to achieve things for your city and achieve things for your people - the possibility to put your ideas into practice and see the results”.
As with many successful men he has little time now for his hobbies but I was intrigued when he claimed that his preference was also very expensive. Don Emilio is a car and motorbike fan and still has many contacts and friends in that world. I asked him if he’d managed to see the recent successful Motor Show in the International Congress Centre – “I just made it. Two hours before the close, on the last day, but I made it!”
With so many ambitious projects and developments in Santa Cruz, he is in for a busy time. The Island council project, the Oscar Dominguez Centre – a museum, exhibition and library area is under way. The work on the new train line to join Santa Cruz with Costa Adeje will be starting almost immediately and plans for the tram to La Laguna are well in hand. Work on the hotel and recreation areas in the Las Teresitas area is supposed to start after the summer holidays this year, although it will be divided in phases to bother the users as little as possible and also supposedly starting construction this year is the new development to join the port and the city - similar to the Barcelona model, but more extensive, with more squares, parks and open air attractions.
A new General Development Plan which will be up for approval in the next few months contains proposals for more than six thousand extra parking places, mostly satellite parking with bus links to the city centre. Under the same plan, within twelve to fifteen years, the refinery will be excluded from the city centre. “Although the refinery has already yielded a lot of territory, the city will need the space to grow”. The councillor also confirmed that there will be no more large commercial centres built as they wish to promote the smaller businesses. A pet plan of his is the education and formation of professional staff for this group.
The increase in the cruise traffic has been very positive for the city, “93 per cent of cruise passengers stay in Santa Cruz. There is a lot to see, 82,000 square metres of green areas, museums, historical sites, art and sculpture. The Henry Moore sculpture The Goslar Warrior is one of my favourites. I used to be able to see it from my office window. I believe in bringing the art to the people. Last year, together with some local businesses and the council’s cultural office, we organised some tall cubes with reproductions of artwork from the city gallery in the Plaza de Principe. We were surprised to see that there was absolutely no vandalism. More people entered in the museum to see the originals and other works on offer and it was great to see young people and married couples contemplating the works of art in the early hours of the morning.”
Another outstanding success of the last term was a gastronomic map of the city. A specialist chose a series of restaurants that he believed would be attractive to the visitor, separated into categories depending on the type of cuisine. The spectacular result was a demand for over 20,000 copies. A new map is being designed, with even more information and the council is involved with Ashotel, the hoteliers association, in specialist training for the waiters. There is also a shopping map, showing what you can buy and where. Either map is completely free from the information booths on the Calle Castillo. They also provide specially trained free guides for different tours (in English), historical, cuisine, or the sculpture route we highlighted in issue 454. To sign up, ring 922 531107 or ask at one of the information kiosks.
All large populations have their problems, but Don Emilio was quite positive about the current trends. “All cities have their no go areas, but with the growth of Santa Cruz, the larger nuclei have been practically eliminated. Street prostitution in the Calle Miraflora area has been greatly reduced and will end with the completion of the Oscar Dominguez development. There are more local police and more police visibility.” An example of the way things are changing is that, “In the last few years Santa Cruz has won several prizes amongst which it has been named the Spanish city which offers the best quality of life.”
It has also been mentioned as a great city for investment. “I want to better the investment offer. Another personal pet scheme is the setting up of a wireless communications system within the city, to make computer communication faster, easier and cheaper. I believe that would attract more businessmen.” With so much shortly on offer in the city: shopping, the Auditorium, the Oscar Dominguez Centre, new four star hotels which will double the current capacity, the new installations at Las Teresitas and the new port, together with the increased flight offer, Santa Cruz also has to be a contender for the ‘City Breaks’ market.
A gentleman in the true sense of the word, when asked for his future plans, Don Emilio modestly said “I just want to finish this term of office as successfully as possible, making as few mistakes as possible. We’re fighting to convert the city into a tourist destination and according to the statistics it looks as if we’re achieving it.” On past and present form this knowledgeable individual, so passionate about his homeland, will achieve almost all he goes after.
By Sheila Collis
|Gallery: A man for all ages|
|1 picture found: Go to gallery|