The Maxorata 72

Fuerteventura is a great place to get out and about and explore. All over the island, there are things to see and hidden secrets to uncover. Even the most desolate of plains, has a story to tell! 

An Article by Bernie Power with The Voice Fuerteventura

Bernie Power

Every year, people make their way inland to the village of Tefia and gather on the windswept plains to commemorate one of the greatest tragedies ever to have occurred here in Fuerteventura.  


Many people visit the inland town of Tefia every year, and spend a few hours looking around the restored, traditional village. But what many people do not know is that the area behind the large windmill, known as Llano de la Laguna, was once the site of Fuerteventura’s main airport. It was built inland to protect it from attack by the British Navy during WWII and was in operation from 1942 till 1952. The area was also used as a prison camp between 1954 and 1966, where communists, homosexuals, drug addicts, and anyone deemed a deviant, dangerous or parasitic to the community by the Franco dictatorship, were held. The prison block still stands. It is a red stone building, situated behind the observatory, which has now been turned into an interpretation centre. Inside there is information which tells some of the story of the Maxorata 72. 


On 11 April 1972, a large military manoeuvre was planned with thousands taking part. It was a simulation of an invasion from the skies, codenamed Maxorata 72. The plan was to drop 300 parachutists into the area, in preparation of the military offensive in Spain’s colony of the Spanish Sahara. It was an extremely windy day and although advised to cancel, the officer in charge scoffed and said that “his men were ready to die”. Unfortunately for many, that would prove to be true.


The men descended from the skies, onto the plains, but were viciously caught in the strong crosswinds. Soon all of the parachutists were out of control. Many were dragged across the rocky terrain and, unable to collapse their chutes, were smashed against the low walls. Some were dragged along the rocky plains for as far as 3 kilometres and others were found hanging in trees. Two soldiers were grabbed by a local  goat farmer named Fernando Pena, and saved only inches from death. But unfortunately, not everyone was as lucky. 


As hospital facilities were pretty much non-existent at that time, the injured parachutists were taken to the military base in Puerto del Rosario. There, the locals queued up outside to give blood and to find out the fate of their family and friends, but a news blackout was enforced. It was many days before the names of the casualties were released, which caused much unnecessary upset and grief. 13 men died that day; 11 soldiers and 2 officers. 40 more were badly injured.


MEMORIAL – Victory or Death

Today, there is a memorial erected on the field, which has a haunting appearance. It is a ghost-like statue of a shrouded figure, to symbolize a parachutist, and a tablet bearing the names of the fallen comrades. The inscribed motto says “Victory or death.” A memorial service is held on the site every year and many of the original team still attend, although the ranks have been thinning out as time passes. There is often a respectful fly over by air force planes and reefs are laid to commemorate the fallen. The whole area has a feeling of desolation and rightly so, as it was the scene of such sadness. But it is also a place to remember, which will hopefully ensure that acts like these, will never happen again.