The Monument to the Tourist in Torremolinos , unveiled in 2002, is a twenty-metre-high stone column, supported by a base with four sphinxes and crowned by a half-naked female figure.
There are several different versions about who the woman, coming out of the sea, actually is.
Many sources state that the statue represents a Nordic woman and there is some logic behind this theory. Tourists from Scandinavia were some of the first to fall in love with the Costa del Sol in the 60s. It is also believed that the sculptor created the female figure as an ode to the tourist and depicted neither Danish nor Norwegian, but specifically a Swedish woman.
However, there is another quite well-circulated theory that the half-naked female sculpture on the top of the column represents the wife of an Andalusian businessman. There are even names and surnames offered in this case. The businessman, originally from Cordoba, is Rafael Gómez Sánchez, known as 'Sandokán'. The ties between the Cordovan businessman and the Torremolinos local government team, presided over by Pedro Fernández Montes (then mayor), was so great that the council gave his name to the central avenue. It was Sandokán who donated the Monumento al Turista to the Town Hall of Torremolinos, and it was his wife who apparently posed as the female figure representing a Costa del Sol 'turista'.
Incidentally, on 22 December 2015, the avenue was renamed Avenida de la Libertad (Freedom avenue).
The Monument to the Tourist was inaugurated in August 2002 and situated on the roundabout, just a stone's throw from the Palacio de Congresos. On the day of the unveiling the town council even closed the road to traffic for the event. The monument immediately made many people gasp, but not because of admiration.
Professionals from the field of art criticised the work from the very beginning. For example, the professor and SUR columnist Teodoro León Gross wrote that it was "a monument with a veneer of dandruff", referring to the white specks on it, denoting "an absolute absence of a sense of the ridiculous" (una ausencia absoluta de sentido del ridículo). In another article, the poet Aurora Luque explained that, after seeing it for the first time, "I filed the impression it left in the place where nightmares are kept".
The Monument to the Tourist is considered one of the main emblems of the government headed by Fernández Montes. It was the period of Montes' leadership that was marked with the appearance of controversial monuments and disputable fountains that were pilloried by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Telmo, among others. The institution, created in 1849 with the aim of promoting artistic creativity considered the Monument to the Tourist "unfortunate and lacking in the slightest artistic value", and defined as "a terrible and ridiculous parody of baroque commemorative columns."
It must be mentioned that the name of the sculptor is not easy to discover. However, it is known that the artist explained that what he intended to do has little likeness to the final result. It means that everything that was added later to the column with the woman on the top, breaks the artist's vision.
Nevertheless, it is thought that the former mayor Fernández Montes, once dared to compare the Torremolinos column to Nelson's Column in London's Trafalgar Square. When the PSOE party came to power after the decades of PP rule (since Torremolinos gained its independence from Malaga in the very beginning of the 90s), the regeneration of urban space, and a new town model was immediately proposed. The new mayor José Ortiz commented in one of the interviews that he found the monument horrendous, with the exception of the sculpture of the Nordic woman by stressing that “the rest is superfluous and aesthetically questionable.”
Unsurprisingly, that one of his first commitments as mayor was to demolish the Monument to the Tourist. Removing the column from the roundabout would be symbolic of the change of governments and the parties. However, the PP members of the town hall accused the rival party and its mayor in “wanting to do away with everything that had been done by the previous government team.” In that battle, the third biggest party, the Ciudadanos, proposed a consensus solution - changing the name of the monument to Triumph of Freedom.
Eventually, the Monumento al Turista withstood all political confrontations. The clash between the parties let the monument continue to stand in Torremolinos without any changes, not even to its title. It still collects more nick-names and slights as a well-known 'terrible and ridiculous parody,' 'a questionable tribute to the tourist,' and even 'a twin to Nelson's column.'