Foreign Shores, Hospitals & Asylums

The Leper Colony That Never Was – Abades, Tenerife

On the south east Arico coast of Tenerife, nestled above the newly developed town of Abades, lies the Sanatorio de Abona, a purpose built leper colony that never housed a single patient. This was because of new strides in medicine leading to the antibiotic Dapsone being far more effective in the treatment of leprosy.


During the Spanish Civil War of 1936 Р1939, leprosy was spreading and starting to cause alarm. By 1940 there were nearly 200 cases on Tenerife alone. So by 1942, the Spanish ruler Francisco Franco Falange gave the order for two leper colonies to be built, the first in the north and the second in the south near Los Abriguitos (modern day Abades). The idea was that quarantined isolation away from public eye was the best way to deal with the outbreak.

The Colony

The job was given to Spanish Architect Jose Enrique Marrero Regaldo to design the sanatorium structures. The colony consisted of 40 buildings that includes a church, hospital, dining hall, exam rooms, dormitories and a crematorium, to name a few. Patients were to be separated by gender and by degrees of sickness.

Three years into its build, the colony was obsolete because of advancements in the treatment of Leprosy. This left the buildings in various stages of development. Almost 11,000,000 pesetas were wasted in its creation. For the next couple of decades the sanatorium remained dormant.

Later Years

In the 1960s, found use in the colony as a training facility. The Escuela de Magisterio as it was known, was in service until 2002. It was mostly used for urban warfare training and target practice. The last division positioned there were the 49th Infantry Regiment.

In 1986 Los Abriguitos was replaced by authorities with the village of Abades. This was to prevent wooden shacks popping up along the beach and the creation of so called shanty towns.

After the military moved out, the former leper colony was sold to an Italian investment group for 17m Euros. The new owners had grand plans for the site. They proposed a 3000-bed hotel resort with two golf courses. However changes in tourism laws ended up curbing development once again.

The TV Series Plan America used the site in 2008. It has also been used for other things such as illegal raves, festivals and paintballing.

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