It may not be common knowledge, but the idea of creating a ninth province in Andalucía has been coming and going from the political and social agenda throughout the past 200 years. Fairly recently, in 1998, the then mayor of Algeciras, Patricio González, planned to hold a public consultation about the idea, although in the end it did not take place.
Before that, there were several other attempts which never went beyond the planning stage. The last was in 1969, when the Franco regime presented a very advanced project to create this new province, which was to be called Gibraltar and would include towns and villages in the Campo de Gibraltar and Serranía de Ronda areas.
If this project had gone ahead it would have meant that Malaga province would have lost Manilva, Casares, Estepona, Benahavís, Gaucín, Cortes de la Frontera, Benarrabá, Algatocín, Benalauría, Benadalid, Atajate, Genalguacil, Júzcar, Jubrique, Pujerra, Faraján, Jimena de Líbar, Benaoján, Montejaque, Alpandeire, Cartajima, Igualeja, Parauta, Ronda, Arriate, Cuevas del Becerro, El Burgo and Yunquera.
They would have been joined by thirteen from Cadiz, including La Línea de la Concepción, Algeciras and Tarifa. The new province, at that time, would have had a population of around 300,000.
How did this idea come about? To find its origin, we need to look back to 1833, when the Secretary of State for Development, Javier de Burgos, began to divide the territory of Spain into regions and provinces. In the case of Andalucia, the four kingdoms that existed at that time (Seville, Cordoba, Jaén and Granada) were divided into eight provinces. Not everyone was happy about this partition and from that moment onwards different movements sprang up to argue for the need to create a ninth province in Ronda, its surrounding area and its areas of influence.
Three projects to create this ninth province from municipalities in Malaga, Cadiz and Seville were drawn up (in 1843, 1854 and 1873). None of them ever came to fruition.
In 1965, the Franco regime approved a Development Plan for the Campo de Gibraltar to alleviate the situation in that area, which was underdeveloped compared with Gibralar itself. It was in that context that the idea of a ninth province was revisited, to include the municipalities in the Campo de Gibraltar, others nearby with which they had close historical links and the Serranía de Ronda (the town of Ronda had a natural exit down towards the coast at Algeciras and roads were being built via the Sierra to improve communications with the inland region. Both of these areas felt forgotten by their provinces, Cadiz and Malaga, says the official chronicler of Ronda, Faustino Peralta.
There was also a historical element to the plan, because in the Campo de Gibraltar and the Serranía de Ronda, the ancient towns of Al-Yazirat al Jadra and Takurunna respectively, together formed the Marinid kingdom of Abomelic.
For and against
In 1969 the political and diplomatic tensions between Spain and the United Kingdom resulted in the Gibraltar border being closed by Franco, and this also reinforced the idea of creating the ninth province of Andalucía.
Peralta says there were two groups in the Franco regime: in favour of the idea were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fernando Castiella, and the Minister of Information and Tourism, Manuel Fraga. The mayors of the towns and villages in both areas also approved, as did the religious brotherhood of Hermandad de Alféreces Provisionales in Ronda, which was very influential.
Against the idea were writer José María Pemán, who carried great weight with the regime, the Malaga and Cadiz provincial governments and the Minister of the Interior, Camilo Alonso Vega.
Under this project, it was decided that the post of civil governor of the new province would be held by Carlos Robles Piquer, but there were arguments over where the provincial capital should be.
Some said it should be Algeciras or a newly created municipality called Gibraltar, which would be formed by the towns of Algeciras, La Línea, San Roque and Los Barrios (the last two of these were founded after the British took over Gibraltar in the 18th century, and were occupied by the Spanish population who left the Rock. La Línea segregated from San Roque in the 19th century). Others thought it should be Ronda.
In the end, nothing ever came of this proposal, even though a special governmental representative was appointed for the Campo de Gibraltar (not the Serranía de Ronda ), who would have the powers of a civil governor. In fact, this position still exists today in a different form, representing the Junta de Andalucía: there is a Government Sub-delegate's office in the Campo de Gibraltar.
After the 1969 attempt failed, the project was shelved. In 1983 Professor Salustiano del Campo, who was from La Línea and Manuel Fraga himself tried to reactivate the idea, but it came to nothing. Nor could it materialise when the autonomous regions and the Andalusian statute came into being in 1982.
Nowadays, the idea of a ninth province in Andalucía is still no more than a dream and a page in Spanish history.