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Monday, September 26, 2005

Simon Bolivar's Noble Tenerife Links

Statue of Simón Bolívar in the Plaza de la Libertad, Garachico

Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), the South American liberator, has tenuous links with the town of Garachico in Tenerife. His statue stands in the Plaza de la Libertad, Liberty Place (naturally). But exactly what that link is, seems to get lost among myths and tales.

I was given to understand and, have read various accounts that his mother (sometimes the story involves both parents) was born in Garachico. Then I later came across an account that suggested his grandmother emigrated from Garachico after the 1706 eruption that devastated the town and destroyed the natural deep harbour.

Whilst the eruption was certainly a reality (and its 300th anniversary will be celebrated in 2006), neither of those tales regarding Bolívar's immediate family are true.

Referring to a documented genealogical study of the Caracas, Venezuela, branch of the Blanco family, we discover that it was much earlier ancestors (great-great-great-great-grandparents, if my calculations are correct), Pedro Blanco Gerardts who married Beatriz Ponte Rebolledo in Garachico (Tenerife) on May 6, 1589 and who left Garachico, first for the Island of Margarita and, then establishing themselves in Caracas, in 1603.

Clearly this was 100 years earlier than the previous account and, around 200 years before the Liberator himself was making a serious mark on world geography.

Interesting point is that Cristóbal de Ponte (a banker from Genoa) founded the town and port of Garachico (then the most important town and main port of the island) in 1496, after being granted land by the conqueror of Tenerife, Fernández de Lugo.

Cristóbal de Ponte y Llarena was made the first Marquis de la Quinta Roja in the 17th century. And Cristóbal de Ponte was great-grandfather to Beatriz Ponte Rebolledo.

The Marquis' 16th Century Manor-Palace has now been converted into Hotel La Quinta Roja, whilst the town's other historical Hotel San Roque was constructed by one of Cristóbal de Ponte's descendants in the 17th Century.

The statue of Simón Bolivar that stands in Garachico's square, to the side of Quinta Roja, was given to the town by the Garachico "colony" in Venezuela, in 1970. It is the work of local Garachico sculptor, Juan Jaén and was inaugurated on the Anniversary of Bolivar's birth, July 24.

So, whilst it wasn't his parents or grandparents that various legends would have us believe, Simón Jose Antonio Bolívar y Palacios Blanco "El Libertador", had even more important, influential ancestors, who were from Garachico's, founding, noble families.

Speaking of nobles ... Apparently, according to Garachico historian, Carlos Acosta, Garachico used to have a whole street made of Carrara marble (lost under the flows of lava from Teide's 1706 eruption), which only the nobles were allowed to walk on - except Fridays - when they let the poor people walk across it to beg for alms. Big-hearted of them!

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