Las Teresitas – the people’s paradise

One of the first things I noticed after moving to Tenerife was just how little effort was needed by the islanders to find a reason for celebrating.

Whether walking the streets after the local football team had won (a rare event this season I’m afraid) or just simply enjoying the lively Latin ambience at a local bar, the Santa Cruceros refreshing joie de vivre was in stark contrast to the grey and reserved England I’d left behind.

As the bus I’m sitting on winds its way east towards the verdant Anaga Mountains, they’re at it again. Passing through the charming little coastal town of San Andres (full of excellent seafood restaurants) I wonder for a moment if I’ve been caught up in the Spanish equivalent of Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday. With laughing kids singing pop songs and elderly couples cracking jokes with the driver, it seems impossible to believe that our destination is merely a day at the seaside. But that, as I am soon to learn, is where I’m wrong. To the people of Santa Cruz, Las Teresitas isn’t just a beach. It’s the beach.

Strolling along the golden seafront, slapping on the factor 50, it’s immediately apparent that Las Teresitas is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Built in 1973 to satisfy the local’s yearning for a resort similar to those found in the south, the most challenging task in creating the beach was finding enough sand to cover the rather dour rock and shingle shore that nature had provided. Discounting a rather cheeky offer from their neighbours (and chief rivals) in Gran Canaria, the powers-that-be instead opted to import four million sacks of sand from a Spanish-owned part of the Sahara. After being thoroughly inspected for any signs of life (scorpions, spiders, etc) the powdery material was shipped to Santa Cruz and then transported the eight kilometres to Las Teresitas by road.

Once the sand had been located, conveyed and laid, there were other problems that needed attending to, ranging from the practical to the grievous. Whilst providing sufficient parking (1,000 spaces) caused few concerns, dealing with the ferocious underwater currents of the Atlantic was a different matter altogether. Although notoriously dangerous, in the years preceding the renovation of the beach, it was not uncommon for one or two people to fall victim to the ocean each year. To overcome this perilous quandary, a substantial breakwater was built 50 metres from the shoreline, which nullifies the pull of the tide and provides a tranquil haven for bathers. Today, this 400-metre long man made seawall is a popular spot for fishermen, who in typically relaxed Canarian fashion while away the hours chatting, eating and drinking, seemingly unconcerned about the lack of bites.

Continuing a leisurely promenade along the shell-shaped shore, the early afternoon sun making me grateful for the shade provided by a variety of native palms, I suddenly find myself confronted by something I’ve never before encountered in such a setting. Set to the rear of the beach and lined by a white picket fence stands a small cemetery. With each sandy plot marked only by a simple wooden or metal cross, the sombre aura emanating from this graveyard is in stark contrast to the lively adolescents playing volleyball just a few metres away.

By the time the sun finally dips behind one of the surrounding mountains, I’m already nursing my sunburn (and a cold beer) at one of the kiosks dotted around the beach. It’s only then I discover that widespread changes to the area’s appearance are afoot. It seems that Las Teresitas is about to become a bonafide resort, complete with grand hotel, plush apartments and an extensive range of leisure facilities. Whilst this would undoubtedly benefit the region’s economy and provide new employment opportunities, from my dealings with my bar buddies, Jacinto and Pedro, I get the impression that my fellow beach dwellers wouldn’t mind things staying just the way they are.

As dusk approaches, and the last sun lounger is being packed away for the night, I join the exodus streaming towards the bus stop fully expecting another joyfully riotous bus journey. But no. As the lime green guagua trundles back towards Plaza España, the singing and laughing has been replaced by a silent, glowing contentment. And when I think about it, I’m not overly surprised, as never before have I witnessed such a fanatical group of playistas, united in wringing out every last drop of enjoyment that their favourite local oasis has to offer. Fair enough I suppose, but for a single reason alone, I have to admit to feeling a little disappointed that the trip home is so lacking in the day’s earlier vivacity.