Manuel Pereda de Castro (Santander, 1946-La Palma, 2018) knew very well what materials were capable of doing when they were raised to high temperatures. With the forge that he had in his house he created a good part of the works that mark the main arteries of La Palma. Among them, the Monument to the Mother, made with bronze, located in the center of Los Llanos de Aridane, which was the first urban sculpture on the island. He was appointed posthumously as the island’s adoptive son by the Cabildo in November 2018. He could not imagine that it would be materials at more than 1,000 degrees from the La Palma volcano that would bury the 340-meter house-study on October 11 that he designed and built together with his wife, the painter Gloria Viña (Los Llanos de Aridane, 1953). A few days before, the family, helped by the island council, the town council and two friends, managed to evacuate the art collections and the heavy metal sculptures that adorned the corridors and the garden. It’s time to get back on your feet, but Viña he complains with a bitterness barely camouflaged by his palm tree resignation. “On the outside I seem calm, but on the inside things are different …”.
“The last day I was there I didn’t take anything with me. I picked up the mobile and took photos. Many photos ”, recalls Gloria Viña in a cafeteria in Los Llanos. Today, she lives in the foster care of her sister, and what was her home-studio is one of the 2,185 buildings and 963 homes that, according to the cadastre, they have swallowed the laundry. Each one of them supposes a little drama that the statistics do not reach to count. Like this marriage of artists.
Viña is a surrealist painter with more than 40 years career. He met Manuel Pereda de Castro at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the late sixties. “His father, owner of a foundry, sent him there so that he would not study in Bilbao, to get him away from the conflicts in the Basque Country, the first ETA attacks, the last years of Franco …”. They married and moved to live in the Peninsula. First to Colmenar Viejo (Madrid), then to Santander. “I didn’t like living there, with so much rain and gray skies.” They returned to La Palma in 1986. And there Pereda de Castro’s career began to flourish.
They chose the Camino del Pedregal (between La Laguna and Todoque) to build what would be their home and workplace. “My husband studied Quantity Surveyors, although he did not finish his degree. He designed the house and then I went over everything so that it was habitable and that the doors could be opened, ”he laughs. The first thing they built was the study, thanks to the money they received from the Monument to the Mother. Later, the Cabildo commissioned him to create a mural that can still be seen at the headquarters of the Insular Corporation. With this money they were able to continue the works. “He gave us to lift the house and cover it,” recalls Viña.
They lived there for 28 years with their children, Amaya, the artist Eva Lilith Pereda, Manuel Ángel and María. And there Pereda de Castro created the works he planted on La Palma, such as the Salto del Pastor, in Tijarafe, or the Monument to Nature, in El Paso, in addition to drawings, architectural projects, jewelry or blacksmith work. And always in his shadow, Gloria Viña, who ensured the money for the purchase of materials and family support thanks to her parallel work as a speech therapist at the Taburiente occupational center. “At the beginning they had decided that it was Mom who would sell paintings,” explains Eva Lilith Pereda. “But she didn’t like to sell herself.” “My husband had a special gift for people to relate to,” confirms Viña. “Not me, I’m more subdued.”
Pereda de Castro passed away in 2018. Three years later, the house in which he and Viña lived and worked has disappeared. “Who expected everything to happen this way,” laments Viña. “When we built there was no lava, only earth.” Viña and Eva Lilith Pereda remember the anguish of the last hours. “On October 5, already evacuated, we were able to remove many things.” Among them, the art collection, which includes works by Agustín Ibarrola, Indalecio Sobrino, Julio de Pablo, Isabel Villar and Gloria Torner; plus antiques and various mahogany furniture. To remove the sculptures a crane was required. “Everything is distributed,” explains Eva Lilith. “Pictures and sculptures at my sister’s house, in the old El Paso movie theater …”.
This is what they were able to rescue. Gone are drawings, sketches, documentation and the craftsmanship of many years of dedication to create a home to your liking. “The doors were designer, the floor was granite,” explains Pereda. “When we were little, the brothers were brought chunks and we had to select them and assemble them like a puzzle.” The kitchen hood was forged by Pereda de Castro with corten steel. Both designed and erected the iron and glass staircase … And the evenings at the barbecue with artists such as the mime Marcel Marceau, the sculptor Martín Chirino or the conductor Tomás Cabrera remain in the memory.
After the lava tsunami, only the anguish remains. “I have taken the house papers to the administrations and they have told me that they give me 30,000 euros in compensation. With that, where are we going? ”Exclaims Viña. “I do not understand anything, all the aid that they have promised, everything that the Cabildo says it will do …”. And like her, many around her. “Most of the people here do not have insurance. You do it when you get the mortgage. We did’nt have. Manuel always said that if there is a breakdown, the insurers just mess around ”.
Memories remain with the family. And the art. “At least I’m glad that Manuel’s work has been saved. He can no longer do more ”, the artist ditches.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.