A million years ago, Raquel Welch scantily clad wet her feet in the amazing green lake of Lanzarote, but the Conejeros remember it as if it were yesterday. A huge prehistoric bird wanted to steal the beautiful actress and fly away with her. Nobody was willing for that to happen, so they lent themselves to be extras in the movie and beat the bug. The scene had to be repeated over and over again. What are the people of Lanzarote thinking …
“Raquel Welch was a spectacular woman,” says Juan Brito, letting the knife and fork rest for a moment. With memories like that, the unsalted bream you’re eating should seem more bland with every bite. Then he – today 88 years old – was still a young peasant retired prematurely because of a camel. He was recycled as a taxi driver on that island that was already looking at the big hotels with the eyes of Uncle Scrooge. And it was his luck to bring and take the actress from the beach to the inn. “We spoke little, the essential, he was friendly.” And also, she changed her clothes without going into the hut arranged on the beach. “She didn’t care about anything, she took everything off.”
Peasant and taxi driver, he is also the father of Lanzarote’s archeology
But the man you see in the photo is not known on the island for that. No. Juan Brito, don Juan, is the father of the Archaeological Museum of Lanzarote, where “the history of the island” is. And it is because when nobody dealt with ultraperipheral denominations, he was already in charge of collecting skulls, ceramics and everything he found in the caves next to the beaches.
Laughing, the children remember that there were not nine siblings, but 10, because for a long time, in the trunk of the car, don Juan arranged the mummy of a Guanche, “with hair and everything.” And his wife, Isabel, believed that the two skulls that slept under her bed were ceramic. They had come from the Rubicon Caves and were waiting for the museum to open one day.
Don Juan kept everything and, as a prestigious potter that he is, he shaped princesses, chiefs and ranchers, to recreate the mythology of the island, half taken from his imagination, half from the documents. Now all this will be exhibited in the Monumento al Campesino, a cultural and tourist center in the heart of the island with the seal of César Manrique, where waiters dress the memories of old Brito with gastronomic delights.
Juan Brito participated actively in that movement that today they call sustainable and that allowed Lanzarote to be the best preserved island of all the Canaries. When the political leaders sent for the United States to call the painter and sculptor César Manrique to put his name and his hands at the service of the conservation of this island, and some, like don Juan, had under their bed pieces of the precious historical legacy of the ancestors. They did a lot, although they couldn’t stop large hotels from besieging the shores. “It is no longer the time to throw them away, they should not have been built, but they have been part of the development and received people from all over the world.” Brito does not want any more to be built and proposes an idea: that tourists sign up in turns. The waiting lists, he says, “will contribute to the island’s fame.”