The ceremony began with "British" punctuality, as the Spanish would say. Malaga city hall's Salón de los Espejos was the chosen stage for the presentation of an honorary OBE to the mayor, Francisco de la Torre, in a private ceremony on Monday evening.
The British Ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott, who had already included a visit to the Cudeca hospice in Benalmádena and the English cemetery on his day's agenda, presented De la Torre with his medal, awarded in recognition of his support for the local British community and the city's relations with the UK.
In his speech Elliott spoke of the importance of Malaga as an open and welcoming city. He said the important thing about the mayor was "not what, but how" he does things, his proximity, humanity and dedication, his "respect for everyone", doing the best for his city, and now for relations between the UK and Malaga.
The British ambassador stressed that relations between Malaga and the UK are stronger than ever before. In recognition of such valuable services, "the Queen has named [the mayor] Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire", he said just before pinning the medal to his lapel.
De la Torre thanked the ambassador for the "immense honour" the British government had bestowed on him. In his speech he gave a detailed review of the relationship between the British and the city of Malaga, since the end of the 18th century, listing some of the names that have gone down in the city's history for their pioneering work in industrial and commercial fields: Crooke, Bryan, Galwey, Livermore, Power, Mandly, Strachan and Huelin.
He then mentioned travellers such as Francis Carter and Robert Cook bfore focusing on Gerald Brenan and his wife Gamel Woolsey and the mark they left on the city.
British travellers' interest began in Torremolinos, he said, and later spread to the rest of the Costa del Sol and Malaga and is today "the most important tourist market for our city".
The mayor also spoke of the former consul William Mark, who instigated the creation of the English cemetery in Malaga, for the burial of non-Catholics, which Elliott had visited earlier that day.
The mayor ended by stating that he had not received the distinction of his own merits, but those of the very hospitable city of Malaga, "and its very hospitable citizens who, over the centuries, have established deep and fruitful links with the United Kingdom". He also mentioned British firms that had chosen to set up offices in Malaga, such as Vodafone, IRTS, Grant Thornton and Ebury, among others.
The private ceremony was attended by the mayor's four children, Francisco, Manolo, Santiago and Lucía, three of his grandchildren, his brother and sister and his wife, Rosa Francia. Other guests included the rector of Malaga University, José Ángel Narváez; the CEO of Vodafone España, Colman Deegan; the vice-president of the provincial Diputación, Manuel Marmolejo; and members and friends from the British Consulate.