Foto de la fachada de la Casa en la actualidad

Life in Villa Winter

The documented history of the house has been explained. The family never lived there. So, what did the house end up being for? All that effort, financial investment, what for? Without a doubt, it has mainly been used as a source of countless tales and speculations.

Here are the main landmarks in the history of the house.

Many of the people who worked in the construction between 1948 –once the main foundation of the house had been built- and 1954- when the biggest work was completed- especially those coming from other islands or other areas of Fuerteventura, stayed in the house, principally in the basement, since that was the first part of the house to have a ceiling. At a later stage, they stayed in some parts of the main floor. During the second half of 1952, when GW decided to speed up the work in order to finish the construction, he spent full weeks in Cofete supervising the work, and also staying at the house like the workers did.

Since the end of 1951, Cofete could already be accessed by car, our father would bring anyone visiting Jandía in the Jeep Willis to Cofete, and would show them the house. We can see this portrayed in his personal diary notes from 1952. Besides the already mentioned visit of our grandparents, on our mother’s side, in May, there were also other visits:

  • On 03/02, engine yacht Vagabondia anchored opposite the beach in Morro Jable, with Madanme Osterhaler and Mr. Matthew Taylor Mellon (Pittsburgh, USA) on board. They dined at home that night; the following day, our parents were invited to eat aboard their yacht, and on 05/02 he took them to Cofete.
  • On 18th March, the Civil Governor of the Province of Las Palmas, Mr. Evaristo Martín Freire, visited Jandía, alongside the President of the Cabildo of Gran Canaria Mr. Matías Vega Guerra and the President of the Cabildo of Fuerteventura Mr. Lorenzo Castañeyra. Taking them to Cofete was a must.
  • The following week, Mr. Manuel Girona and his wife, Mrs. Mercedes Villavechia arrived. Some days later, they visited the house.
  • In April, Herr and Frau Bütikofer-von Braun (Basel) showed up, and they also visited Cofete.

The diaries from the following years, mention many other visits.

On 27 June 1953, our mother gave birth to her second son, Gabrielito, who was premature and died just a few minutes after being born. He was buried the following day near the house in Cofete, on the land that is fenced by a stone wall, near the fig tree.

Leasig offer. In the summer of 1958, our parents travelled to Germany (for the first time since 1941 for IA, and since 1944 for GW). Besides the awaited visits to the family –in Berlin, GW met his daughters Isolde and Margarita, his grandchildren Karin and Heinz-Dieter, and his first wife Johanna; in Münster they visited our grandparents, on our mother’s side, who were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, siblings and other relatives on our mother’s side-, that journey had another important purpose: leasing the house in Cofete and starting to promote Jandía as a tourist destination. The previous months, GW had written letters to the main German businessmen and aristocrats and he had organised meetings with them to bring forward the details of “Castillo de Cofete” and a leasing offer. He also advertised on the paper -Die Welt, 12/07/1958-, offering it for sale or a 10-year lease.

There was no luck. In the upcoming months, there were replies turning down the offer. The house continued to be uninhabited.

There are entries in his personal diaries of the following years documenting four stays of friends or visitors who spent 4-5 nights in the house. They would go hunting and hiking around Cofete. Some days prior, GW would go from Morro Jable to the house with several people to clean it and get it ready. The house had no warm water or electricity. They used small gas lamps and a butane stove.

In 1958, our parents got their Spanish nationality, and given the financial difficulties they went through toward the end of the 1950’s, they decided to sell a large part of the property to Dehesa de Jandía. In 1960, the first large investor, Mr. Ronald Myhill arrived. After some complex negotiations, towards the end of 1963, they reached an agreement to divide the property into four parts: one of them would belong to Mr. Myhill (Terrenos Canarios S.A.), another one to “the Countesses”, Mrs. Isabel and Mrs. Mª Eugenia, daughters of Mr. Manuel Girona, and the other two parts to IA and GW. However, before the division, the plot including the house was separated and transferred to IA: on 09/11/1962 Dehesa de Jandía S. A., represented by their administrator Mr. Juan Nogales Hernández, separated the 9-hectare plot surrounding the house and transferred it all to Mrs. Isabel Althaus, her rightful owner from then on, and including “staff of the mine called “Agua Camello”, located outside the divided area, and the passing staff between the current and future paths and roads of Jandía”.

In 1965, the third lot of the property was sold to the company Punta del Sol. Doing so, helped our parents be able to purchase a house in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which ever since then became our family home. GW was back then 72 years old. We used to go on holiday to Jandía, and visiting Cofete was a must. The children spent the day playing at the house and its surroundings with some of our friends. GW would go around with some people close he trusted, revising the parts of the house that needed to be done up, in order to get the work underway in the following days. The house was rundown and abandoned, hence his desire for it to be lived in, which would facilitate its upkeep. That year, 1965, the first people went to live there: family Pérez Acosta, with their young children. They were paid every month to run the upkeep of the house. They used to stay in the rooms located in the west wing, whose windows face the town of Cofete. Mr. Juan Pérez (1934 – 2008) would grow vegetables and fruit on the outside plot and he had a beautiful garden with plenty of flowers and hibiscus in the patio placed at the entrance of the house. During a recent interview with Mrs. Faustina Acosta (30/10/2021), she told me that they had the keys to all the rooms of the house. In the basement “there was nothing, not even a single box.” There was no electricity: they used gas for their lamps, fridge and for cooking.

In 1968, around two and a half years after moving to the house, they moved to Morro: just like the other people in the town, they had been given a plot of land and they built their own house. Their children went to school and Mr. Juan started to work at the newly-built Hotel Jandía Playa.

Yet again, the house was left empty and deserted. Sometimes, hikers would force the doors or windows open and they would spend the night there. Especially the basement, was used as a toilet and little unwanted “gifts” were left around. In 1970, GW hired two employees to mortar some of the windows and the access to the basement. GW complained to the directors of the two hotels of the area back then, where those offenders were likely to be staying.

The house was left deserted until in October 1976, when several members of the family Matos Viera went to live there. It was a family who had always lived isolated, in a valley located at the beginning of the peninsula of Jandía (Pecenescal), an area that went on to become property of the company Terrenos Canarios S.A. (TECASA) since the year 1964. It was around 1974, when the owners left and moved to Morro Jable, in a house given to them by our mother, in “Las Fileras”. Due to their difficulties when it came to living in the town, Mr. Rafael addressed IA and asked her to allow them to live in the house in Cofete and they would in turn look after it. On 01/10/1976, they signed the agreement attached. Mr. Rafael Matos, a widower, and his four children, Rafael (“Lillo”), who signed the agreement, Pepe, Rosa and Agustín Matos Viera, moved to the house from then on, using the rooms in the west wing. IA purchased an electric generator to provide them with electricity, as well as a fridge and a television.

Although in 1985 the family transferred the shares from DJSA to the Lopesan group, IA kept on being the owner of the house of Cofete.

In 1988, our brother Juan Miguel took it upon himself to condition the rooms and a bathroom placed in the basement -the family Matos was living on the main floor back then-, aiming to spend some days in Cofete when hunting. He ended up barely ever spending a night there.

In 1990, the company “Estación de Servicio Morro Jable S.L.” purchased the property including the house and its surroundings. Finally, in April 1996, it was transferred to Dehesa de Jandía S.A., which belongs to the Lopesan group, who were ever since the owners of the house, although respecting the 1976 agreement between IA and the family Matos.

Once the grandfather had died, Mr. Rafael Matos Viera, and at a later stage his son Lillo, Pepe stayed in the house with his siblings Agustín and Rosa, who were disabled. Pepe got seriously ill, so, his sister, María, who ever since the 1960’s had lived in Tenerife, went over with her son Pedro Fumero to look after her siblings, and moved in the house. Some months after Pepe’s death (2012), Mrs. María Matos Viera returned to Tenerife, and her son Pedro stayed in the house with his aunt and uncle Agustín and Rosa, probably drawn by the financial possibilities the numerous visits to the house would bring along.

Foto actual de la Casa
La Casa en la actualidad

As current inhabitant of the house, he passionately spreads the word saying that there are submarines under the house. And that’s not all, he goes on to say that those are “nuclear submarines.” Is that really what he believes? There’s a chance he might actually believe what he’s saying, due to his ignorance on the subject combined with fantasies which result in made-up stories that couldn’t be further from the documented truth. However, there is clear and premeditated purpose in how he has put together some sort of “museum”: gathering different objects that he says date back to the nazis in the house, and he also contacted a radio connoisseur to get an old radio and exhibit it as if it were proof of the fact that there was communication between the house and submarines in the area. The owner of a beach snack bar, once his agreement with the City Hall was up, gave uncle Pepe some photovoltaic plaques that he no longer needed, along with some batteries that turned out to be German, which immediately turns them into batteries that came from the submarines hidden in the house. Every once in a while he publishes some “new discovery”, some new lie. It makes no sense trying to refute such absurd and fake statements.

This is the history of the house of Cofete.