The History of the estate “Durazno” and the Mansion “Abaco”
The history of the Durazno estate has always been associated with the family lineage Benitez de Lugo. After the Spanish conquest of the islands ended in 1496, colonizacion began and the lands were divided between the conquerors and the original inhabitants the GUANCHES. As a result , in June 1502, DON BARTOLOMÉ BENITEZ DE LUGO, was given approximately 100 acres of cultivatable land as well as 300 acres of drier land in the valley of La Orotava. These lands had formed part of the ancient kingdom of TAORO. The Durazno estate lay in the more fertile area. These lands were turned and sugarcane was planted thus complying with the conditions imposed at the time of the grant.
Bartolome Benitez de Lugo was the nephew of the conqueror DON ALONSO FERNANDEZ DE LUGO, his mothers´ brother. He as well had taken part in the famous Battle of Acentejo. Resident and one of the founder's of La Orotava, he became the largest landowner in the valley . He had also been the Lieutenant Governor of Tenerife from 1505 til'1507, and a Councillor in 1507. Amongst other things, he built a sugarcane factory, a flour mill, and a Franciscan convent in the village.
His son, FRANCISCO BENITEZ DE LUGO was the firstborn and so the main heir, and inherited the Durazno estate. In those days they did not take on both the father's and mother's last name as is the custom nowadays. He had been a Councillor of Tenerife as well. In 1559 he established a will proclaiming the Primogeniture of the house. “PROCLAMATION OF A VIGOROUS MALE, IMPOSING THE SURNAME LUGO AND HIS HERALDY, THAT THE OWNER BE A ROMAN APOSTOLIC CATHOLIC, TRUE TO THE ROYAL CROWN, WHO HAS NOT AND WILL NOT COMMIT TREASON NOR CRIME HERESAY."
The third heir to the estate and primogeniture, ANDRÉS XUAREZ DE BENITEZ DE LUGO, lived from 1540 to 1575. As the sugarcane crop failed, he planted grapevines instead.
The fourth heir to the estate and primogeniture, FRANCISCO XUAREZ DE LUGO Y PONTE built on the property wine presses, wine cellars, and a few rooms that he would use when it was necessary for him to remain in Puerto, or whenever he needed to oversee agricultural tasks. A group of English came to Tenerife, and after having tasted the Durazno estate wine, decided to take some back to England where it was served on the tables of King James the First, Charles the First, Charles the Second, and James the Second during their reigns from 1603 until 1689.
Not much of great importance can be said about the fifth, sixth, and seventh owners except that through their various marriages they managed to acquire more titles such as, Lord of Fuerteventura, Lord (in part) of La Gomera and Hierro, added to their surname DE LUGO, therefore becoming more and more distinguished.
The eighth owner and primogeniture of the Durazno estate, FRANCISCO BAUTISTA BENITEZ DE LUGO Y ARIAS DE SAAVEDRA (1697 - 1771) tenth Lord of the island of Fuerteventura, had successfully defended the island from the English in the battle of Tamasite,near the bay of Gran Tarajal in 1740. What is more important perhaps is that he was the father of DOÑA MARINA LEONOR BENITEZ DE LUGO Y PONTE, whose husband built "La Casona"- the "Big House" known today as the ABACO.
The Mansion and it's constructor's
DON DOMINGO JOSÉ HERRERA AYALA Y ROXAS PONTE Y LLARENA XUAREZ DEL CASTILLO (1714-1766) was the XI Count of La Gomera,VI Marquis of Adeje, Lord of this town and had even more titles to his name.
The title of the Count of La Gomera, was the oldest title in the Canary Islands, and one of the oldest in Spain itself, originally given by the Royal Crown ( the Catholic Monarchs ) to Diego Herrera y Doña Inés Peraza. She had inherited the islands from her father, but since the Catholic Monarchs had wanted the islands to pass on to the Royal Crown, the title was awarded in compensation. Since the XI Count of La Gomera had had no descendants, the masculine lineage of Don Diego Herrera y Doña Inés Peraza, died with him after three centuries.(Viera y Clavijo).
The XI Count of La Gomera had been in the navy, -a Captain in the Spanish Armada- but on inheriting the titles and wealth of his family, he left active service and dedicated himself to the administration of properties, that together with the fortune that he had accumulated when he had been in the navy, made him a very rich man and the richest Count of La Gomera in history.
In 1754 the Count married the previously mentioned DOÑA MARINA LEONOR BENITES DE LUGO Y PONTE, and they initially lived in La Orotava. The Count , however, felt that the local inhabitants did not treat him with respect ( he wanted to be treated as royalty ) he decided to move so as not to have to mix with the locals. His father-in-law gave him this land in the Durazno estate, and the Count built this mansion " La Casona" or the " Big House". On the ground floor he had had the stables built and also an oratory where he placed a beautiful image of Saint Anthony.
In spite of his wealth and titles, the Count died in "La Casona" on December 24,1766 as the result of chronic illness. The Count and his wife had no descendents so upon his death his titles and properties were passed on to a niece. The Countess survived him by 42 years, never remarried, and upon her death in 1808, the house and it´s contents were inherited by her nephews, sons of her eldest brother.
The eldest brother of the Countess, FRANCISCO BAUTISTA BENITEZ DE LUGO ARIAS DE SAAVEDRA Y PONTE, became the ninth owner of the primogeniture of the Durazno estate. He had had problems with the wine on the estate, which unfortunately contributed to the financial downfall of the family. He nevertheless had been responsible for having donated land to the King in 1791 which was used in the foundation of the Botanical Garden.
Francisco Bautista Benitez de Lugo had had six children, his eldest son FRANCISCO BAUTISTA BENITEZ DE LUGO ARIAS DE SAAVEDRA Y LUGO, inherited the estate and primogeniture becoming it´s tenth owner. He died at an early age of 33 only a few days after the birth of his only child ELENA SEBASTIANA.
Francisco´s younger sister, ANTONIA BENITEZ DE LUGO, had made what her family considered an unsuitable marriage to a man from the village, Jose Domingo Gonzalez Nuñez. They had had a son JUAN DOMINGO GONZÁLEZ Y BENITEZ DE LUGO.On the death of her eldest brother, Antonia challenged the right of succession of little Elena Sebastiana quoting the will established in 1559 which gave rights to the "firstborn vigorous male". She won her case , and in 1817 the Durazno estate along with "La Casona" was passed on to her son. He then became the eleventh owner and in time married Carmen Hernandez and had three children, Juan,Jose, and ANTONIA GONZALEZ HERNANDEZ. Here is an excerpt written by her grandson:
"The statue of Saint Anthony belonged to the Oratory of this house which was inherited by my grandmother Doña Antonia Gonzalez Hernandez. She was born approximately in 1856, and died in 1952 at the age of 96. The Saint Anthony of the Durazno has been inherited by those of us who carry the name of Anthony.
On the death of my grandmother Antonia González Hernandez, my mother Doña Maria Antonia Pérez González inherited it. On her death in 1982, it was passed on to me, and still remains in my possession. Eventually it will be passed on to my daughter etc,..."
The Saint Anthony of Durazno was brought to Venezuela in 1987 when the first altar under his advocation was made on American soil. The image of the Saint Anthony of Durazno is said to be about 400 years old dating back to approximately 1537. It´s origin is unknown.
The Big House also had a ROYAL PRIVILEDGE ,that, any prisoner condemned to death that enters the enclosure, cannot be taken out and least of all executed, while he remains within its domain, which means he is given a pardon. The last condemned prisoner which was given this priviledge was a cow on it´s way to the abattoir. On beating it so that it would run, it entered the enclosure of the house, the royal priviledge was carried out, and the cow died of old age within the grounds of the house. " ( Letter from Antonio Reverón Pérez, Venezuela, 31 June 1987 ).
When the eleventh owner Don Juan Gonzalez y Benitez de Lugo died , the estate along with the Big House was bought by DON FELIPE MACHADO Y BENITEZ DE LUGO ( 1836-1930 ). He was married to DOÑA ELENA BENITEZ DE LUGO Y BENITEZ DE LUGO, daughter of ELENA SEBASTIANA, the same one who had lost the estate in 1817. Don Felipe Machado spent a lot of time in the house, that was partly furnished.
During a period of time he rented the house to an english family who had brought with them a Scottish Nanny. She lived in what had been the old dining room and during her stay there she had painted on the corner beams these scottish phrases that can still be seen;
Some hae meat and canna eat (Some have meat and cannot eat)
And some wad eat that want it; (And some would eat that want it)
But we hae meat and we can eat, (But we have meat and we can eat)
And sae the Lord be thankit. (And so the Lord be thanked.)
From the poem " Selkirk Grace " attributed to the Scottish poet Robert Burns.
(A version of the stanza was known in the 17th century as the Galloway Grace, or the Covenanter´s Grace.
It is said in Lallans, the Lowland Scots dialect, and is still said at traditional Burns night suppers.)
When Don Felipe Machado died, the house was left to his daughter DOÑA MARGARITA MACHADO Y BENITEZ DE LUGO ( 1873-1931 ), who in turn left it to her son DON FERNANDO DEL HOYO Y MACHADO ( 1890-1978 ), VII Marquis of San Andrés and mayor of La Orotava.
In 1970 the Big House was bought by PAUL DENHAM, of Czechoslovakian origin, He had served with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War subsequently taking British nationality and a British surname.
After spending two decades in Italy with successful business negotiations, he decided to look for somewhere to retire.
He saw the Big House of Durazno, fell in love with it, and bought it. He spent the next 14 years doing very costly and extensive restorations.
Paul Denham died in 1993, his heirs, a son and two daughters all of whom were living in England, decided to sell the house, which was bought by RAUL HERNANDEZ ALONSO in 1995.