View of Frigiliana with the land in question in the background / e. cabezas

Junta looking into purchase of 2,500 hectares of private land in the Sierra Almijara natural park

The mayor of Frigiliana is keen for the sale to go ahead and is acting as mediator between the company De la Torre S.L., and the regional administration

Eugenio Cabezas
EUGENIO CABEZAS

The Junta de Andalucía is looking into the possibility of buying an area of private land in and around Frigiliana. The company De la Torre S.L. has owned 2,500 hectares of the Sierra Almijara since 1930, when it acquired the area together with the Palacio de los Condes de Frigiliana; now known as el ingenio de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, the only functioning sugar cane honey factory in southern Europe. Since 1999 this land has been entirely within the boundaries of the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama natural park, meaning the possible uses of the land are very limited.

The owners have long wanted to sell the land, which accounts for around 6.1 per cent of the total protected area; some 40,663 hectares which includes extensive pine forests, scrubland and the mountains surrounding the town centre. For this reason, Frigiliana’s mayor, Alejandro Herrero, has called on the regional government to step forward and take ownership of it.

Herrero explained to SUR that two meetings have already been held between the Junta de Andalucía and representatives of the family. "There is a willingness on both sides to reach an agreement," he said, but added that he did not know the amount of money the owners were asking for. "For Frigiliana it would be very positive, because it would mean that its natural heritage would belong to everyone, with the possibilities for the development of rural and sustainable tourism that this would entail.”

Sources at the Junta de Andalucía have told this newspaper that "there is nothing yet" and that they are “listening to the party and receiving information.” The De la Torre family, made up of more than twenty shareholders, has long wanted to sell the property, whose origins date back to the Count of Frigiliana, a Spanish noble title created by King Philip IV in 1630 in favour of Íñigo Manrique de Lara, son of the fourth lord of Frigiliana, after the Reconquista.

Sold for 130,000 pesetas in 1930

According to local historian Ramón Fernández in his blog 'El cazador del arco iris' (the rainbow hunter), the owner of the land was Don Manuel Falcó y Álvarez de Toledo (1897-1936, murdered in Madrid), ninth Marquis de la Mina, fifth Duke of Fernán Núñez, sixth Duke of Arco and Count of Cervellón, who sold the land on 26 June 1930 to the De la Torre, S.A. company, represented by Manuel de la Torre Herrero Acosta.

"The sale included the palace and the sugar mill and 2,500 hectares of sierra, for the sum of 130,000 pesetas, but the sale didn’t include the noble titles. The negotiations lasted two years. Manuel Falcó was the brother of María Cristina Falcó, the seventh Countess of Frigiliana, on his mother’s side," explained the researcher.

Fernández believes that "this sale possibly came about because Manuel Falcón needed the money in order to marry the Argentinean Miss Mercedes Anchorena y Uriburu in Saint Honoré de Eylau church in Paris in July 1931.” He goes on to say in his blog, "The best man was the Duke of Alba representing King Alfonso XIII. The godmother was the groom's mother, Silvia Álvarez de Toledo y Gutiérrez de la Concha, widow of the fourth Duke of Fernán Núñez, who died in 1927.”

"And that’s how the sale of the palace and the lands of the Sierra de Almijara came about," Fernández explains in his blog. "The aristocracy ended and the local bourgeoisie took over. Although the county of Frigiliana no longer exists, the noble titles continue, as I believe that it is the eleventh Count of Frigiliana, who we believe lives in Bilbao," reveals Fernández in his article.