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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Concentration Camp at Fyffes, Tenerife

Not all of Tenerife's "secrets" are pleasant ones, as this image reminds us. It is of the first Spanish concentration camp, installed in the British company, Fyffes', banana packing plant in Santa Cruz in Tenerife. (The Fyffes Banana Company bought their first terraces on Tenerife in 1922, in Santa Úrsula, and built galleries to provide water to the crops.) Thousands were imprisoned there, in inhuman conditions, after Franco's coup in 1936 - launched from the Canary Islands on July 18th of that year - during the Spanish Civil War and beyond.

Spanish writer and poet, Pedro García Cabrera, who was born in Vallehermoso, on the island of La Gomera, was imprisoned at Fyffes in 1946 (after initially escaping and being re-caught), showing that it was in use as a prison for many years. In the Canary Islands, there wasn't a Civil War, exactly, but there was massive repression that cost many lives. Many of those who sympathised with the opposition were either taken out and shot, or "mysteriously" fell into the sea. But, as well as the deaths, an estimated 4,000 were imprisoned, mostly without trial.

Some 2,000 political prisoners were held at Fyffes. Unlike many of the other prisons, there was no forced labour on site at the Fyffes plant (only because of its location). Instead, prisoners were taken to Los Rodeos and Granadilla and forced to work on various public works, such as the construction of the roads up to Mount Teide.

Remember that, next time you drive up to admire the scenery!