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“Favourable stars” of an extraordinary island
About 4,000 guests visit the Centro de Terapia Antroposófica and the Finca Lomos Altos in Lanzarote every year.Von: NNA correspondent Cornelie Unger-Leistner
The activities of both institutions are made possible by a less well-known foundation, La Fundación Canaria Antroposófica, which celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. NNA correspondent Cornelie Unger-Leistner was there. PUERTO DEL CARMEN/LANZAROTE (NNA) – “What are those favourable stars that watch over this island of Lanzarote?” This question, originally posed by the writer José Saramago, is also asked by many guests who have repeatedly visited the Centro de Terapia Antroposófica and the Finca Lomos Altos since the early 1980s and have experienced the very special influence of this volcanic island. Admittedly, as occasionally noted in the guest books of the Centro, the barren island with its lunar, dark landscape can be reminiscent of the slagheaps of abandoned mine workings and some visitors left the island again after only a short stay. Those who remain, return frequently and often become enthusiastic admirers of the desert-like landscape with its low building density all over the island. The latter is due to the efforts of the artist César Manrique (1919-1992). He succeeded in implementing an environmentally sustainable model for the development of tourism, combining economic growth with protection and conservation of the environment and nature. With this concept, the island was recognised by UNESCO in 1993 as a biosphere reserve. Manrique´s commitment also drew the attention of two German emigrants, Enrique and Lilo Winzer. Following the closure of a joint project with Manrique, they decided to establish a finca dedicated to biodynamic agriculture. In the late 1970s they purchased land at Lomos Altos close to Puerto del Carmen to develop their anthroposophical initiative on Lanzarote. When they noticed that ill guests recovered extremely quickly, it was but a short step to the idea to incorporate a therapeutic centre at the Finca. However, a general building freeze in rural areas prevented the constructions of the necessary buildings on the Finca. This obstacle was overcome when a holiday compound in nearby Puerto del Carmen became available for renting and was subsequently purchased. Thus in 1993 the “Centro de Terapia” was born in the “Apartamentos Tamarindos”. An adjacent building was purchased in 1997 which became the home of the medical centre which had previously been housed in a number of the apartments. This became the present Centro de Terapia with its many different cultural, medical and artistic activities based on anthroposophy. All of this was enabled through the foundation started by Enrique Winzer in 1988. The Foundation and the scope of its duties The founders Enrique and Lilo, who passed away after long illnesses in 2004 and 2008 respectively, are remembered with gratitude in the publication on occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Foundation: “Their life’s work is a great gift for us and we are glad that we may continue to develop it with all the impetus and dedication in our common understanding of what we received from them,” it says. During Enrique Winzer’s lifetime, Robert Schmid, an experienced manager at Daimler-Benz and EADS, became the new president of the foundation. He spent part of his early childhood near Madrid and is bilingual in Spanish and German. “Due to my lifelong international experience and the whole of my background, Enrique was impressed by and convinced of my capabilities. I quickly won his trust as I got to know him in the last year of his life,” Schmid told NNA. The manager left behind his previous activities to dedicate himself to the new job of which he had become aware through an advertisement in the journal Das Goetheanum: “I had already been involved in the foundation of a Waldorf school thirty years previously and wanted to contribute my experience and abilities to anthroposophical institutions like the Fundación.” In taking up his work on Lanzarote, where he lives for part of the year, Robert Schmid saw a whole range of possibilities and opportunities. The field of activities of the Fundación is very broad, ranging from agriculture, medicine and education to alternative forms of economic management. Besides the Centro and the Finca Lomos Altos, a Waldorf kindergarten with currently more than 40 children forms part of the life’s work of Enrique Winzer. The foundation of a Waldorf School is planned – Enrique Winzer had been looking for a possible location and had even commissioned a building design. “The potential for a school exists. Nevertheless we have to overcome considerable hurdles along the way as Spanish bureaucracy should not be underestimated. Even for the building itself we will have to comply with myriads of restrictions and constraints. Furthermore we require teachers who, apart from a Waldorf qualification, need additionally to be officially qualified as teachers in Spain too,” explains Schmid. The situation was helped by the officially recognised three-year training course for Waldorf teachers in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria which was also attended by two participants from Lanzarote who are state accredited teachers. There are Waldorf schools on the islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Palma. Challenges In contrast to the educational activities, the problem child in recent years has turned out to be biodynamic agriculture. “One of the problems has been to find people with the necessary training for the climate on Lanzarote and dry cultivation. Being an expert in biodynamic agriculture under German conditions for example is only a small part of what is needed here,” Robert Schmid points out. An own “Asociación” (Association to Promote Agriculture in Lomos Altos) will help to allow some investments urgently needed for irrigation and energy. Vegetables have been cultivated at the Finca and sold in the organic shop of the Centro since 2009. They are also used in Restaurant Tamarindos. The processing of medicinal plants also forms part of the activities of the Finca and there are plans to expand it through the cultivation of Bryophillum tubiflorum. This plant from Madagascar grows wild on the island. Since the early days of the Centro, the ice plant, scientific name Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, which also grows wild on Lanzarote, has demonstrated its efficacy for healing skin diseases. The Herdecke community hospital in Germany developed an ointment from the plant and there is an extract and a lotion which are used by the Centro de Terapia for cures. Outlook There is increasing demand to use the Centro and Finca for conferences. Last year the annual meeting of Waldorf teachers on the Canary Islands was held at Centro for the first time and, with the support of the Fundacion, turned out to be a great success, Schmid says. In September there was the first meeting of anthroposophical doctors and therapists on the Canary Islands. Here the Fundación also seeks to make it financially possible for everyone to attend. Supporting communication between the many different anthroposophical activities on the islands is an important aim of the Fundación and, in the view of its president, provides a future role for the facilities on Lanzarote. “But the question is not only to bring the Islands together. Over the last years we have also tried to connect more and more to “la peninsula” (Spanish mainland) offering cultural events in Spanish in the summer. Furthermore, following the recommendation of some English visitors, we are developing the idea to introduce a ‘GB-Fortnight’ in the autumn for example, with English speakers especially for our friends from the UK,” Schmid says. In spite of the many successes in the past, the Centro itself has to continue developing. Schmid has several ideas for a realistic expansion with, among other things, a cultural and arts centre as well as a small retirement home. Furthermore, Schmid is seeking a permanent presence of the Christian Community on the Canary Islands. An openness and interest among the inhabitants of the islands for this new religious orientation is very apparent. Similarly, by purchasing some larger areas of land adjacent to the Finca Lomos Altos, Schmid imagines for the long term a good opportunity to add a Camphill facility to the centre, “without affecting the unique characteristics of the Finca which is so much appreciated by all the visitors.” The infrastructure was already there, all that was needed were the right people. “It is always a question of the kind of spiritual environment which can be created by us. We want to develop the conditions cautiously but continuously so that people and impulses from the spiritual world can come together,” Schmid emphasises. From the perspective of the Fundación, Lanzarote still has enormous potential for further development. Controversial developments It remains to say that there are also controversial developments on the Canaries: a petition protesting against test drilling for oil off the coast of the islands is also supported by the Fundación and is available for signature at the Centro. The governments of the Canary Islands have protested against these activities, as they see the danger of pollution and serious damage to the islands’ attraction for tourists. The central government in Madrid has not responded and plans to go ahead with test drilling. The expansion of tourism areas like Playa Blanca demonstrates how the concept of sustainable tourism is being watered down. It is not just this town which is expanding into the unique landscape, other housing complexes are being built which no longer comply with the design principles of Manrique. Lanzarote and the Canary Islands is one of the regions of Spain with the highest unemployment rate of about 65 percent, especially among young people. Thus – under José Saramago’s “favourable stars” – there is undoubtedly a demand for alternative, sustainable ways of managing the economy of Lanzarote. The Fundación too sees further tasks for the island in this respect in approaches such as associative economics and increasing the level of education, one of the main reasons for the high unemployment rate among young people. A first step has been taken with the Waldorf kindergarten and Schmid hopes that this will expand in time with the future establishment of a Waldorf school. END/nna/ung Item: 141005-03EN Date: 5 October 2014 Copyright 2014 News Network Anthroposophy Limited. All rights reserved.