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Torremolinos celebrates 30 years as a town

Torremolinos has just inaugurated its San Miguel Fair, with the switching on of the lights and the opening speech.
Torremolinos has just inaugurated its San Miguel Fair, with the switching on of the lights and the opening speech. / SUR
  • The former district of Malaga was recognised as a municipality six decades after being annexed by the city, with which it has had lengthy legal disputes ever since

Thirty years ago a long line of cars brought the centre of Torremolinos to a standstill. Their occupants threw confetti and people in the streets started dancing, shouting "We're a town now!" What had been an outlying district of Malaga city had just been recognised as a municipality in its own right by the Junta de Andalucía, an independence which it achieved by separating from Malaga 64 years after being annexed.

The SUR newspaper featured the story the next day: "After touring the streets, the members of the Pro-Autonomy Committee put signs up by Campamento Benítez, showing where the municipality's boundary was," it said. The keenly-awaited segregation brought an end to years of political convulsion, but it also opened other wounds, some of them which have yet to heal.

For five years the mayor of Malaga at the time, Pedro Aparicio, had refused to talk officially to the Pro-Autonomy Committee, whose president was Pedro Fernández Montes. "The relationship wasn't exactly cordial," they admitted.

The committee was dissolved when the powers were transferred to the new council. It was down to them, though, to celebrate the town's independence and enjoy the San Miguel Fair, which was inaugurated for the last time by the mayor of Malaga, but also to determine the boundaries of Torremolinos, and that process hit its greatest stumbling block at the Cortijo de Mazas.

Article One of the decree approved by the regional government established the segregation from Malaga "for the constitution of a new and independent municipality, which will be called Torremolinos, and whose capital will be the urban nucleus of the same name".

Torremolinos became Malaga province's 100th municipality . As well as the division of territory there had to be a separation of assets, rights and actions, as well as debts and charges among the two municipalities. Malaga city hall continued to provide services until an agreement was reached with the management committee.

The debt which Torremolinos owed to the city at that point was the equivalent of nearly 20 million euros. The High Court of Justice ofAndalucía (TSJA) ratified this amount, which was for cleaning, rubbish collection and use of the rubbish dump until 1990. The initial debt had been 9.8 million euros, but the long litigation instigated by Fernández Montes, who always insisted that the sentence "is not fair" meant that interest doubled the amount. The present mayor, José Ortiz, reached an agreement with his counterpart in Malaga, Francisco de la Torre, in 2015 about restructuring the debt.

Socialist Miguel Escalona was chosen to be president of the management committee of Torremolinos, which governed the municipality from the time of the segregation to 1991, after obtaining the vote of all parties except Alianza Popular.

Ramón del Cid, his main political rival, who is still a PP councillor today, obtained eight votes compared with Escalona's 13, so the latter became the first mayor of Torremolinos. Officials from Malaga city hall declined the invitation to attend the extraordinary council meeting, another sign of the breach which had opened years before.

Torremolinos had been independent until 1924. The segregation process achieved independence again over six decades later, but it was not an easy path. Many local people became so angry about delays that they held a protest in Seville to demand that the bureaucratic process be speeded up.

When the Junta announced its decision, Aparicio was highly critical because he considered independence to be "a serious mistake which the people of Malaga and Torremolinos will only be able to judge sufficiently in the year 2000". Months earlier, residents of the former district supported a general strike to protest about the city having "kidnapped the file" in order to hold the process up.

Fernández Montes, one of the first to promote autonomy and celebrated "Independence Day" during his legislature, became mayor in 1995, after Escalona. His council remained in power with absolute majorities until 13 June 2015, when he lost the post in a controversial council meeting during which there was a great deal of argument and heckling people had to be removed from the room.

Ortiz is the third mayor of the municipality since its segregation in 1988.