“Buenos días, Don Carlos” is the phrase that greets a neatly-dressed old man in his early 90s as he arrives at the Real Club Náutico in Arrecife to sit with friends, chat and pass the time agreeably. Above the bar is a large mural of a strange, exploded boat created with real timbers, while outside, bizarre fish mosaics surround the outdoor pool. Don Carlos knows them well, for it was his older brother César Manrique who created them. Friendly, polite and modest, he spoke to us as Arrecife prepared for a carnival that celebrate the 100th anniversary of César’s birth.
Don Carlos, when were you born?
In 1925, six years after the twins César and Amparo were born. By then, my family had moved out of the house by the Charco where the twins were born, and we lived at No. 20 C/José Antonio*. As you may know, Amparo died last November. Our younger sister, Juana, is still alive but rather ill these days.
César often spoke of how important Famara was to him. Read more...
What are your memories of this place?
Our house in Famara was built by my father without my mother’s knowledge. She had no idea until we went up there one day. He blindfolded her, led to her the house then took the blindfold off. It was a complete surprise! It was where we spent our summers and was a wonderful place. I remember one day when my father gave César and I a fishing rod each. I ran off to the rocks to fish, but when I looked round César was using his rod to draw in the sand.
Was he always of an artistic temperament?
He was always restless in that respect, yes. He loved carnival and music was always important to him. But he was also a happy person, always sharing and smiling and always calm – a great brother.
Was yours an artistic family?
Our father was a merchant, but I think there a little bit of the artist in him, too. I remember once looking at the papers on his desk and finding some wonderful sketches of boats. He also insisted on putting a huge, three-metre window into the house at Famara – in those days windows were almost always small. That big window is echoed in many of Cesar’s works.
How close were you to César?
He was much older than me, so we both had our own gangs of friends, but we shared a bedroom and always got on well. I don’t remember any quarrels – César was always open, honest and cheerful.
What was your profession, Don Carlos?
I took over my father’s affairs at the age of 22, on his death and became a commercial agent. I travelled everywhere from Norway to Argentina, but always lived in Lanzarote. César also said that the island pulled him back in the 1960s.
Which of your brother’s works is your favourite?
The Mirador Del Río, without a doubt. I’ll never forget when I first visited.
How do you feel about the celebrations of your brother’s anniversary?
I’m very satisfied. It’s an honour to hear that the airport may soon be named after César. I remember him returning from his stays in Madrid and New York to visit our mother in the days when the airport saw just one flight a week. One week, it brought a single passenger! César would have especially loved the fact that this year’s carnival was in his memory. He always loved carnival.
*Now C/Manolo Millares. A newer building stands at this address now.