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Linking Memories: Celebration of Agustin Betancourt’s 260th Anniversary in Saint Petersburg and Tenerife

On February 1st, 2018, on the birthday of an outstanding engineer, scientist, constructor, teacher and statesman, the nature did not bring any surprises either in the city of Puerto de la Cruz, the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands, or in the city on the Neva, where Betancourt spent 16 years of his life in tireless labour for the benefit of Russia. In the land of eternal spring in Tenerife Island, there was sunshine with 21 degrees Celsius, whereas Saint Petersburg, where sometimes one could discern the sun, saw a wonderful winter day, quite windy and with 12 degrees below zero Celsius.

The common thing for these remote and so different in their natures places were the words of commemoration and memory, pronounced in the ceremonial meetings dedicated to Agustin Jose Pedro del Carmen Domingo de Candelaria de Betancourt y Molina.

Due to the time difference, the ceremonies first took place on the banks of the Neva. Here in early morning, the ceremony of laying wreaths at A. Betancourt’s memorial in front of the main building of Emperor Alexander I St. Petersburg State Transport University in Obukhovskaya Square took place. Then, a large delegation, comprising representatives of Spain and France, travelled to Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra’s Necropolis, where a wreath of white roses was laid at Betancourt’s grave.

Later on that day, in Peter and Paul’s Fortress’s Naryshkin Bastion, a midday shot from a cannon in honour of Betancourt was made by Rector of PGUPS Alexander Panychev.

On the same day, at 2 p.m. in the Hall of Assembly of PGUPS, the two days International Scientific and Practical Conference «Agustin Betancourt: from Traditions to Future of Engineering Education» was opened, which gathered up transport branch leaders, specialists and scientists.

The conference and ceremonial meetings on that day were attended by State Secretary, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation Sergey Aristov, who read out a welcome speech by Minister of Transport Maksim Sokolov; the Head of Federal Agency for Railway Transport Vladimir Chepets; Chief Federal Inspector in Saint Petersburg Vladimir Minenko; Deputy Chief Executive Officer of JSC «RZD» Dmitriy Shahanov; Consul General of the Kingdom of Spain in Saint Petersburg Juan Antonio Martínez-Cattáneo y Hingston and Consul General of the French Republic in Saint Petersburg Hughes de Chavagnac; Rector of the Technical University of Madrid Guillermo Cisneros Perez; Professor of le CNAM, Paris, Michel Bera; Professor of Russian University of Transport (MIIT) Vadim Morozov; Director of State Memorial Museum «St. Isaac’s Cathedral» Yuri Mudrov; Professor of Peter the Great Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University Dmitry Kuznetsov; the Head of the Department of History, Philosophy, Political Studies and Sociology Vladimir Fortunatov, etc.

On the same day, the 260th anniversary of Agustin de Betancourt was celebrated in hometown of the great Russian-Spanish engineer — Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife. Wreath of flowers was laid at Betancourt’s bust in the very city centre, in front of the place where used to be the house, he was born and brought up in.

Then, the ceremonial plenary meeting of Puerto de la Cruz City Hall was held, during which a well-know Canarian statesman and public activist Isidro Sanchez suggested on bestowing the title «Honoured Son of the City» upon Betancourt. The suggestion was supported by President of «Fundación Betancourt y Molina» Francisco José Santos Miñón and the Betancourt family archivist Juan Cullen Salazar. The members of the City Hall unanimously supported bestowing the title upon Betancourt, and Mayor of the city Lope Domingo Afonso Hernández signed the decree.

In his speech, Mayor pointed out that on the day of Betancourt’s birthday, in Saint Petersburg, where the famous Canarian engineer had spent over 16 years of his life, the commemoration events were also being held. «Thus, our outstanding compatriot is still serving the cooperation link between Puerto de la Cruz and Saint Petersburg, Spain and Russia».