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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Fountains that quenched the thirst of the population in Santa Cruz de Tenerife

The first public fountain - La Pila - in Santa Cruz Koppchen, CC BY 3.0

Originally, these fountains provided water to homes and quenched thirst of the population in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Those that survived have become an ornamental element of the city.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the 2,200 inhabitants of Santa Cruz were supplied with the water that ran through the ravines, that which they extracted with norias (machine used to lift water into a small aqueduct, either for the purpose of irrigation or to supply water to cities and villages) - the street to which they gave their name - and from the wells or cisterns in the orchards or patios of the houses whose owners could afford this luxury.

For this reason, in 1706, Captain General Agustín de Robles y Lorenzana ordered that water be brought from the source of Mount Aguirre, through 12 kilometres of wooden culverts that, upon reaching the town, passed through underground canals along Calle de las Canales Bajas (today Doctor Guigou), continued along Calle del Pilar, crossing San Roque (Suárez Guerra), Barranquillo (Imeldo Serís), until it reached the Casa del Agua (water house), located on Calle de las Canales (Ángel Guimerá). From here, it was taken to the garden of the Santo Domingo convent, current Guimerá Theater, and to the Pila that was placed in the square that would later bear his name, currently La Candelaria.

The first public fountain - La Pila - that Santa Cruz had so that its inhabitants could obtain water at any time of the year, made of volcanic stone from the country, had, in its centre, a spout through which the water came out and fell into a small circular pool, from where, in turn, it overflowed from the mouths of six masks, like gargoyles and on which there were two cartouches with the royal arms of Spain.

In 1802, with unknown cause, the pedestal that supported the cup that crowned the fountain broke and it fell to the ground. This pedestal would be replaced by a smaller one and the pieces were joined with metal bolts. In 1844 it was taken to the municipal warehouse, from where Anselmo J. Benítez rescued it and exhibited it in the gardens of his Museo Villa Benítez. When he remodelled the Plaza de La Candelaria, in 1886, he would return it to its place of origin, although not in the centre as it was at the beginning.

Fuente de Morales Koppchen, CC BY 3.0

As residents continued to draw water from the norias or had to queue up at the aforementioned source, a place where agglomerations, conflicts and disputes took place, especially in summer, due to the low flow, another captain general, Francisco Tomás Morales y Afonso, would inaugurate (1838) in the neighbourhood of El Cabo the second public fountain in Santa Cruz. In gratitude for having provided the population with abundant and permanent water, the City Council agreed to call it Fuente de Morales.

The basalt stone fountain is made up of the bowl with the arches, the cornice, the entablature, four pipes in the shape of human heads and a receptacle that collected the spills where the animals watered. In 1907, it would have twice the number of water sources, by placing pipes in between the existing ones. In 2010 it had to be moved a few meters due to the opening of the street that bears its name.

The Fountain of Isabel II Photograph by Mike Peel, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Fountain of Isabel II (Isabella II of Spain), in the Plaza de Isabel II, would be the third to be put into operation, at the beginning of La Marina street, on August 25, 1845.

Made of basaltic granite, bluish in color and with the characteristics of romantic classicism, it is made up of a receptacle, a body formed by six Tuscan columns that support the frieze, and a finial, crowned by the city's coat of arms. Between the columns there are five spaces in which the bronze heads of the lion stand out, which "throw" the water from their mouths that falls into the oblong basin, which is accessed by a staircase. At its back is the reservoir that supplied water, for the irrigation of the Alameda de la Marina and to supply the ships.

Fuente de Santo Domingo with La Aguadora (The Water Carrier) Frobles, CC BY-SA 4.0

As we said at the beginning, Captain General Agustín de Robles had granted (1706) to the friars of the Dominican convent of La Consolación the right of water to irrigate their garden but, after the Ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal (1836), these assets passed to the municipality and the Guimerá Theater and the Old Recova (market) were built on the vacant site resulting from the convent's demolition.

The four-pipe jet that was in the aforementioned orchard, formed by a receptacle in the centre of which stood a square basalt stone pillar crowned by a large sphere, also made of stone, would become, in 1893, the Fuente de Santo Domingo. This work by the municipal architect Antonio Pintor y Ocete, carved in local stone, with four taps, was topped by a chandelier of streetlamps (now disappeared). It was used by residents of the neighbourhoods of Consolación (Puerta Canseco) and Vilaflor (Miraflores) because it was located in the square resulting from the confluence of La Luz (Imeldo Serís) and Canales (Ángel Guimerá) streets.

Next to it is, since 2000, the sculpture of La Aguadora (The Water Carrier) by the artist Medín Martín, commissioned by the City Council to pay tribute to one of the professions that the women of Santa Cruz carried out until the beginning of the 20th century, consisting of collecting jugs of water from public fountains and taking it, on their head, to the homes that requested it, in exchange for a remuneration. The role was very important, especially during periods of drought, since the water supply service was not regularized and many of the homes did not have this particular resource.

As in all these fountains and jets the water flowed continuously through the pipes, being lost through the streets and ravines, it was proposed to provide them with taps with keys that would allow them to be kept closed.

Although the fountains and jets that survived (La Pila, Morales, Isabel II and Santo Domingo) no longer have their original purpose, their centuries-old stones have turned them into an ornamental element of the city, forming part of the historical heritage of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Therefore, municipal officials, in order to recover these important items in the history of the City, have been carrying out a series of conservation and decoration actions, providing them with water and adequate lighting, while protecting their environment.

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