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Leandro (left) talks to Cristian González on the roof of the beachside watchtower in La Cala. L. Cádiz
La Cala de Mijas watchtower provides work for young people with mental health issues
Employment

La Cala de Mijas watchtower provides work for young people with mental health issues

The 'Torreón' is the only one on the Costa to house a museum and employs members of the Afesol charity's special employment centre

Lorena Cádiz

Mijas

Friday, 8 December 2023, 16:56

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On 2 December 1831 General Torrijos and his men disembarked on El Charcón beach in Mijas after sailing from Gibraltar. What they did not realise was that their arrival was being watched from above. The soldier on duty at the nearest watchtower did not hesitate to start communication with the next tower along the coast to report the threat and call for reinforcements. That decision signed the death sentence of Torrijos and his men, putting an end to their plans for a liberal uprising.

Today that same watchtower, known as Torre de la Batería or Torreón de La Cala de Mijas, is a museum. It is the only watchtower on the Costa del Sol that has been converted into a visitor centre; inside it tells the story of Torrijos as well as the history of these coastal defence structures. Mijas has four watchtowers and the one in La Cala is the most modern of them all, as it dates back to around 1760. As with the others, five or six soldiers would have lived permanently inside, along with two people responsible for its maintenance.

If the soldiers spotted pirates or any other threatening presence on the coast, they would light a fire at the top of the tower or begin a game of mirrors, which involved communication with the next tower along the coast through reflections. That in turn would communicate with the next tower along, and so on.

That was how that soldier informed on the arrival of Torrijos, who was later executed by firing squad with his men on a Malaga beach.

The tower in La Cala is also unusual in that it is flat at the back and cylindrical at the front. It was designed like that as it was understood that a threat would never approach from the land, always from the sea, and that shape made it easier for them to ward off missiles.

Nine years at work

Leandro is in charge of explaining all of this to the tourists and visitors who go to the tower. He speaks different languages, is doing his second degree and has been working there since he was 17. Now he is 26. At the time his parents had to sign an authorisation for his contract as he was under 18. He had just come out of hospital and Afesol, the association for relatives and people with mental illness on the Costa del Sol, gave him a job opportunity that has shaped his life so far.

"It was 24 years ago that parents got together to create Afesol and raise awareness of the needs in the area of mental health, as back then there was nothing. We started offering services, creating the first day centre for people with mental health problems in Benalmádena, opening another in Mijas, in San Pedro and the one we have just opened in Estepona," explained the vice-president of Afesol, Cristian González Cuevas.

Someone with mental health problems can fully recover their life when they get the social support and healthcare they need; that's why it was very important to progress towards employment, as that is what gives them dignity," said the vice-president, adding that the Centro Especial de Empleo de Mijas (Mijas special employment centre) was set up to that end.

Through an agreement with Mijas town hall, the special employment centre runs the visitor attention service in the Miniatures Museum in Mijas Pueblo and in the Torreón de La Cala.

Afesol also provides attendants for several car parks through an agreement with Benalmádena town hall. They currently provide work for 13 people and hope that further agreements will help them grow this figure.

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