Rumours and misinformation have persisted about the role of Gustav Winters in the history of Fuerteventura. Franco gifted part of the southern end of the island to Gustav Winters in the 1930s. But, what did he build there, why and what was the impact on Fuerteventura?

Fact and fiction are intertwined and difficult to separate. This is partly because of Gustav Winters own appearance and myth-making as he liked to appear with large dark sunglasses and a little dog in tow. Plenty of people will tell you he was an engineer, an entrepreneur, a German spy or even one of Hitler’s top men and some, or maybe even all, of these are true.

There was an airfield on the southern end of the island built by Gustav Winters. It was used until 1950 when the use of it was prohibited and it was visible from aerial photographs until the 1970s. Sadly, modern aerial photographs can no longer detect it.

Many will tell you that the villa built by Gustav Winters was a secret entrance to a top-secret U-boat station. It is true that the southern end of the island was closed to the public during the Second World War. On balance, it is more likely that this was because of the airfield, but there was a U-boat shot at by the Allies close to Fuerteventura in 1943 which sank off the coast and Gustav Winters was the manager of a repair facility in Bordeaux, so you never know. A team of Austrians and Spanish explorers in the 1970s aimed to search through the lava tunnels under the villa, but their yacht blew up and the search was not completed.

Villa Winter is surrounded by so many theories that it can be difficult to keep up. The large fuse box the top of a tower indicates to many that there must have been a very large amount of electronic equipment in the villa. Another theory is that the villa was where high-flying Germans had plastic surgery and then fled to South America in the aftermath of the Second World War. What definitely happened was that Gustav Winters began planting pine trees and wanted to start a tomato plantation after he returned there in 1947.

The villa has been empty for many years with different people wanting to develop the villa and surrounding area. In the 1990s a Spanish building company took ownership of the villa and for a small tip to the warden, who was based at the villa, tourists were able to look around. A distant relative of Gustav Winters wanted to turn the villa into a wellness centre but was put off by Spanish bureaucracy. What is more likely to happen to Villa Winters is that it will eventually turn into a hotel or restaurant.

Gustav Winters added a mysterious layer to the history of Fuerteventura in the mid 20th Century. His hard work in this isolated part of the island has left little now to show, just Villa Winters remains as a witness to this hidden history.

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