The English Library has been granted the prestigious Paco Afonso Award for Multicultural Visibility. The award is one of five presented annually by the Spanish Socialist party, the PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español), in memory of the much-loved Francisco Javier Afonso Carrillo, mayor of Puerto de la Cruz from 1979 until his untimely death in 1984.
Members of the Library committee are pictured above receiving the award from the PSOE representatives (centre).
Paco Afonso, as he was better known locally, tragically lost his life on September 11th, 1984, when he, as civil governor of the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, together with his driver and local volunteer firefighters, became caught up in a fire storm in La Gomera while fighting forest fires ravaging the island.
In all, 20 people died in the tragedy, one of the worst fire-related disasters in Spanish history. The victims became trapped on an exposed ridge near Roque Agando, the landmark rock formation in La Gomera’s mountains above the village of La Laja, when the wind suddenly changed direction and they were surrounded by intense heat and flames.
He became mayor of Puerto at the age of 31 in the first democratic municipal elections in Spain following the death of General Franco, commanding 62 per cent of the votes cast. It was the beginning of a political career that promised so much until it was cut short five years later.
In addition to being mayor of his home town, he served as president of the Commonwealth of the Valley of La Orotava, and was a member of the Provisional Canary Islands Parliament. In July 1983 he was appointed civil governor the province of Tenerife.
He is remembered as a young politician who was honest, hardworking and with a deep respect for and love of the people he represented.
An old school friend who had grown up with Paco told a local newspaper how on the day of the 1981 Spanish coup d’etat attempt he and Paco were having lunch together when his driver came up and said: “Don Francisco, the civil guards have entered the Congress.”
The friend told Paco that if he wanted to, he could take refuge in his parents house, just in case. But Paco politely refused the offer, saying he wanted to be with his people in Puerto.
He added: “Paco had something special in dealing with others. He was affable, intelligent, quick. His socialism was not of this world. He was tolerant, understanding and friendly.”
Two representatives of the POSE, Domingo Perera and Marco Antonio Gonzalez, formally presented the award at a gathering at the LIbrary on November 23rd.
The Muticultural Visibility award is aimed at rewarding those who work for the integration of other cultures, invigorating the social, plural and diverse fabric of the municipality.
Other awards are made by the PSOE in the fields of Equality, Culture. Social Work, and the Promotion of Puerto.