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Marbella (Municipality, Andalusia, Spain)

Last modified: 2017-01-07 by ivan sache
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Presentation of Marbella

The municipality of Marbella (139,537 inhabitants in 2015, therefore the 2nd most populated municipality in the province and the 8th in Andalusia; 11,682 ha; municipal website) is located on the Costa del Sol, 60 km south-west of Málaga. The municipality is made of the districts of Marbella Centro (74,554 inh.), San Pedro Alcántara (33,673 inh.), Nueva Andalucía (13,679inh.), and Las Chapas (12,517 inh.). The municipality experienced a demographic boom in the second half of the 20th century, its population increasing from 10,027 in 1950 to 60,172 in 1981 and 100,036 in 2001.

Marbella was already settled the Lower Paleolithic, as evidenced by stone tools found in Coto Correa (Las Chapas). The cave of Pecho Redondo, which yielded rock paintings, was continuously inhabited from the Middle Paleolithic to the Neolithic. The Phoenicians settled on the coast in Río Real and Las Chapas, 2,700 years ago; they initiated trade with the active people form the hinterland and developed fish salting. The Romans increased this industry, producing garum exported all over the empire. Remains of thermae, of a paleochristian basilica and mosaics were found, probably belonging to a town known as Salduba. The foundations of another Roman town, probably named Cilniana, were reused by the Muslims to build a fortress, which is the origin of the old town of Marbella.

The Muslim colonization of Marbella is poorly documented. The newcomers abandoned the coastal settlements and built fortifications (husun) on heights, such as Cerro Torrón, Alicates and Nagüeles. Villages emerged under the protection of these defensive structures, as a prelude to the establishment of a feudal system. The area known in the Middle Ages as the Land of Marbella was, therefore, a dense network of fortified estates (alquerías), such as Tramores and Daídin. The citadel of Marbella, built at the end of the 9th century, was the seat of the administrative and economical power controlling the whole territory. The adjacent town surrounded by walls (medina) made of Marbella one of the most important towns in the province (cora) of Raya; its territory more or less matched the present day's municipal territory of Marbella.
The citadel of Marbella played a key role in the control of the Strait of Gibraltar, first as an outpost of the Merinid Sultanate, and, then, as the westernmost stronghold of the Kingdom of Granada.

Reconquerred in 1485 by the Christians, Marbella lost most of its Muslim population. The town was completely redesigned all along the 16th century, with the building of several new civil and religious buildings. The threat of Turkish and Moorish raids slowed down the development of the new town, while coastal watch towers were erected. The protection of the town was increased in the 18th century with the Fort St. Louis and the Battery of Lance de las Cañas.
In the 17th century, exports of wine and raisins, as well as the emerging sugar industry, were the main sources of income of the town. The demographic boom required the suppression of the walls in the 18th century. Marbella morphed in the 1950s into a sea resort, under the guidance of pioneers such as Ricardo Soriano and Alfonso de Hohenlohe. Now a hotspot of international tourism, Marbella is twinned with other famous sea resorts worldwide, such as Playa del Carmen (Mexico), Punta del Este (Uruguay), Miami Beach (USA), and Cabourg (France). Marbella has 24 beaches stretching over 27 km.

San Pedro Alcántara, located in the westernmost part of the municipal territory, was established in 1860 as an agricultural colony by Manuel Gutiérrez de la Concha e Irigoyen, 1st Marquis of El Duero. The marquis drained the area, set up irrigation systems and erected a sugar mill (1871); the new colony attracted competent farm workers. The marquis named the colony for his mother, Petra de Alcántara, and for the patron saint of his lineage, St. Peter (Pedro) of Alcántara.

The nefarious businessman Jesús Gil (1933-2004), then President of the Atlético de Madrid football club, was elected Mayor of Marbella in 1991 and re-elected in 1995 and 1999. His political vehicle, a political party called GIL (Grupo Independiente Liberal), contested 12 other municipalities along the Costa del Sol in 1999. Accused that year of corruption, Gil had to resign in 2002, being succeeded by two of his proxies, Julián Muñoz (2002-2003) and Marisol Yagüe (2003-2006). Following the arrest of Yagüe, the Municipal Council of Marbella was dissolved by Royal Decree No. 421, signed on 7 April 2006 and published on 8 April 2006 in the Spanish official gazette, No. 84, pp. 13,820-13,821 (text). A Management Committee appointed by the Provincial Council ran the town until the appointment of a new elected Council, in May 2007. Such a dissolution was unprecedented since the return of Spain to democracy.
[The Telegraph, 17 May 2004; The Economist, 21 August 2003]

Ivan Sache, 19 September 2016

Symbols of Marbella

The flag of Marbella (photo, photo, photo) is horizontally divided dark blue-celestial blue-dark blue, the central stripe being wider and bordered by two thin white stripes. In the middle of the central stripe is placed the municipal coat of arms, on a green disk bordered in white, beneath the shield a red scroll with the name of the town in white/ yellow letters.

The coat of arms of Marbella shows on a light blue background a ruined tower standing on a dark blue sea, surrounded dexter by a yoke or and sinister by a bundle of five arrows of the same. The shield surmounted by a Ducal coronet.

The symbols of Marbella are a matter of local controversy. Francisco Moreno, member of Cliniana, an association campaigning for the preservation of the heritage of the Costa del Sol, and spokesman for Culture and Education of the Management Committee that ran Marbella in 2006-2007, claimed that the modified coat of arms and the flag were adopted in 1994, without unanimity, by the Municipal Council presided by Jesús Gil. The symbols were never approved by the Government of Andalusia. The Committee planned to change the symbols and to restore the arms granted in 1494 by the Catholic Monarchs but failed to to achieve this goal since no consensus was obtained. In 2010, the Municipal Council stated that there was no plan of modification of the symbols.
The proposed "rehabilitation" of the arms included the substitution of a Royal crown to the Ducal coronet, of a towered castle to the ruined tower, and the suppression of the emblem (?). The flag should have been made monochromous, in which the sea waves would reflect.
[Sur Digital, 18 January 2007; Málaga Hoy, 2 May 2010]

Ivan Sache, 19 September 2016

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