November 28, 2020

The sect that hid in the Canary Islands

Joaquin Phoenix with the Oscar he won this year.

Joaquin Phoenix with the Oscar he won this year.

The family of Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix never came to Tenerife, but the truth is that the leader of the organization to which they belonged for a time was hidden on the island. A series will remember this chapter. It is the adaptation of the memories of a survivor of The Children of God.

It does not have a definitive release date but the filming of Cult Following, a drama in the form of a miniseries about cults and their influence in the United States that will be released in 2021, has again brought to the fore the details of the childhood of Joaquin Phoenix and the history of the children of God (Childrens of God).

Again, the television world will take advantage of a story that could well have been an invention but is based on the memories of one of the survivors of this sect. It is the same organization to which the Oscar-winning actor’s family once belonged. The links of this dark group with the island of Tenerife will make it even more interesting for the spectators of the Archipelago.

For now there are few confirmed details about the production. Different specialized media announced at the end of last month that the adaptation of the memoirs of Bexy Cameron will star the actresses Dakota Johnson and Riley Keough.

Melany Griffith’s daughter will take on the role of the protagonist and the production rights, which have not yet assigned a channel or streaming platform, have been acquired by Producer Platform One Media. The book, and therefore the future miniseries, narrates the life of its protagonist, who was emancipated at age 16 to get away from the cult.

One of the most curious aspects is the connection of the North American sect with Tenerife. It is true that the Phoenix family and his ill-fated brother River never traveled to the Canary Islands. Long before the organization was divided across the planet and chose this small island in the Atlantic to hide and continue its activity, the Phoenix decided to separate from the group. This is reflected in a report published yesterday by the newspaper El País and signed by Eva Güimil. A letter from the leader of the Childrens of God sect asking the women of the community to sleep with as many men as possible to attract them to their way of life convinced the actor’s parents – who at that time kept his original surname, Botton. – that the best thing was to definitely leave the group.

David Berg was the center of that organization that would eventually become the target of Interpol for numerous cases of child abuse and murder. Children of God emerged in the late sixties in California and defended love as a possible tool for salvation. They helped their members detoxify from drugs and soon gained great popularity and a large following. Shortly after they began to reach Spain and other European countries. Increasingly sexualised, the most serious problem arose when the leader began to promote sex between children and adults in the letters that he sent periodically to his followers and communities from all over the world.

The organization thus put itself in the spotlight of the police, the trials against them began in the United States and it was necessary to flee and hide. It is at this time that a small island in the Atlantic, Tenerife, becomes the best refuge for the leader of the community.

According to El País, Berg was hidden in Tenerife for at least three years. Once in the Canary Islands, they did not manage to go unnoticed for too long. Parties and night outings were frequent, and the leader again used his followers to attract new members in exchange for sex.

In fact, the stage that the leader of the sect spent in the Canary Islands was very relevant for the entire community. The one that was then his wife conceived a child that would be considered by Berg and all his acolytes as a kind of messiah. They called him Davidito, although his real name was Ricky Rodríguez. Ironies of fate, Berg had long suffered from impotence due to the constant abuse of alcohol and his wife was part of the group of women who went out to “hunt” new followers. In his letters, he documented that he had relationships with 18 employees of the famous Bel Air hotel in Puerto de la Cruz.

Pursued by the police, the leader and founder of Los Niños de Dios was forced to disguise himself and take refuge in different countries until he died in Portugal in 1994. His life and the history of this sect, which had more than 130 communities all over the world, it will once again be the subject of a new audiovisual production.


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