THE SUPER WOMAN OF FUERTEVENTURA
An Article By Bernie Power with The Voice
Considering the hardships that have been experienced by the people of the island there are many names that can be ascribed the title “Super heroes”. From the farmers who worked tirelessly to contain what little water was available to feed their families, to the mothers who sent their children to new countries in South America in order to better their lives.
Here is a quote from Las Canarias weekly magazine dated 13th August 1909.
“Drought frequently arises in a terrible and disastrous way ! thirst!, ! hunger, !death !. They were relentlessly developed. With no water or provisions, this is a real scene of horror and desolation. Rustic and urban works are stopped, labourers, enveloped in poverty, asked for bread and water door to door for them and their hungry children: and meanwhile the constant emigration of the Unfortunate”
The date of this article is really important, as was a particularly bad time for Spain, and Fuerteventura was actually being abandoned. However, at this time one person in particular really stands out and definitely deserves to be called a super hero. Her name was Maria Nieves Manrique de Lara y del Castillo. She was a native from the village of La Oliva, in the north of the island, and was actually born in the now restored famous landmark, The Casa de Los Coroneles, way back in 1844.
Her father was the last Colonel, Cristobal Manrique de Lara Cabrera and her husband Marques de la Quinta Roja. Unfortunately both her father and her husband died, so she turned her attention into helping the poor and unfortunate people of Fuerteventura. She began by giving local people work and employed them to help rebuild the main house. She also allowed her fields to be farmed by the local people to create food and was the only form of social welfare on the island. Even when she only had a few chick peas to eat and water from the well to offer she still organised festivals and musical events to lighten the burden of the suffering people.
She worked tirelessly with the poor for thirty years, and became known locally as La Marquessa. The locals loving restored her house and it became known as El Palacio de la Marquessa. She also paid for a mausoleum to be constructed in the cemetery in La Oliva in remembrance of her father. She died in Tenerife in 1921 and unfortunately the house began to fall, once again, into disrepair. But her legend lives on and she is still remembered by many of the locals, as the only person who truly cared for the villagers and helped them in the harshest of times. She has also been immortalised in print for posterity by the famous Cuban Writer, Dulce Maria Loynaz. The play entitled ´The Empty Tomb´´ is a written testament to the truly selfless acts of the Marquessa and the way she stepped in helped so many of the poor and suffering people of Fuerteventura.