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"Even opposition parties can't deny the value of the Calle Larios Christmas lights"

Teresa Porras, under the arch of lights in Calle Larios which resembles the cathedral.
Teresa Porras, under the arch of lights in Calle Larios which resembles the cathedral. / Ñito Salas
  • Malaga's city councillor for Festivals and Operative Services is convinced that she will still be in her post next year because Francisco de la Torre will win again in May's council elections

Once again, the lights in Calle Larios are a major attraction of Christmas in Malaga city. The city councillor for Festivals, Teresa Porras, says they are so successful that, for the first time in 15 years, opposition councillors haven't complained about them. She is proud that Malaga is a highly-recommended winter destination and is already making plans for Christmas next year, predicting that she will still be in her post because "Paco de la Torre will win the election and be the mayor again".

It is undeniable that you have been one of the pioneers in Spain in terms of Christmas lights being a type of show in cities.

In Europe, not Spain.

Don't you think that on this occasion the mayor of the Galician city of Vigo, Abel Caballero, could claim that?

Absolutely not. The mayor of Vigo, what has he got? A Christmas tree and decorations? Calle Larios is unique, look at the arch above us now. We have spent years making different arches, this is unique in the whole of Europe. That's why we have just been designated the best city in which to spend a sunny Christmas. Vigo doesn't have that; it has the same as all the other cities, a Christmas tree and some movable balls, some pretty, some ugly... the streets of Vigo have decorations which we in Malaga had six or eight years ago. We don't have anything of Vigo's. Vigo, on the other hand, does have things from Malaga.

Well, the mayor of Vigo has challenged the mayor of New York, saying that his lights will be seen over there. Posturing, or augmented reality?

Posturing.

You can't please everybody all the time. Why has Calle Larios had the same lights for the past few years?

Only two years, last year and this one. Two years ago we did the starry sky; that was sold on outside Spain afterwards. And last year we introduced the dome of Malaga cathedral, which is here again this year. Bear in mind that a dome like this doesn't cost 60,000 euros like a Christmas tree does; that can be paid off in two years. We paid 300,000 euros for Calle Larios, within our overall budget.

How much is the overall budget?

733,000 euros.

Would you like to increase the budget so you could expand the lights to other parts of the city?

All the city's districts have their Christmas lights, and a budget for them. Where I live for example, Cruz de Humilladero, there is a Christmas feature in every area.

But that's just one place, not in general.

Well, in the Bailén district there are Christmas lights, in Carretera de Cadiz, in the Eastern district...

But not like Cruz de Humilladero, Mrs Porras.

That depends on how much each district wants to allocate to it. I'm only responsible for the entrances to the city, through Ciudad Jardín, Barriguilla, Carretera de Cadiz and the centre.

Do the Christmas lights attract business? What do shop and restaurant owners say?

You only have to go to Calle Larios to see that. If we are capable of putting more than 30,000 people in the street every day, there is bound to be more business, in shops, bars and restaurants.

Did you count the number of visitors last year?

Last year, for the early-December holiday weekend, I have the figure of more than 250,000 people staying in Malaga city.

So this is definitely a success?

Remember. This is the first time in 15 years that the opposition has not made a single complaint about the lights. I believe that is a success. I believe the opposition is now aware that the Christmas lights are an investment, not just a way of spending money.

You don't think they'll bring it up at the next council meeting?

I understand that they won't, because the members of the opposition, both PSOE and Malaga Ahora, have congratulated me. That's the truth. In fact Oviedo has copied us, Seville, which didn't used to have Christmas lights, has copied us; every city in Spain has copied Malaga's Christmas lights. Seeing how successful our 45 days of lights are, Madrid has invested 500,000 euros more this year. All the Spanish cities are increasing their budgets and imitating Malaga. And next year we will have to increase ours as well because we will have to change the dome, and we have to make an important innovation in Calle Larios.

In view of the recent regional electoral results, don't you think this could be the last year of you putting up Christmas lights?

I think that's a bit of a mischievous question! Regional elections cannot be extrapolated to council ones because when we talk about local elections we are talking about very personal ones; so far the mayor of Malaga has had nobody to overshadow him, and people value what he is doing and the way he has been transforming the city.

So, presuming you will still be Councillor for Festivals, what innovations would you like to see next year?

We're working on that. We plan to put LED screens along the whole of Calle Larios, and we want to do something important and spectacular in the city of Malaga, maybe the full Christmas story, for instance.