View of the Puebla Blanca development shortly after it was completed in 1973. SUR
Puebla Blanca: Five decades of community spirit

Puebla Blanca: Five decades of community spirit

The multinational residents say the typical Andalusian-style development in Fuengirola, constructed in 1973, is "a charming place to live"

Tony Bryant


Friday, 27 October 2023, 09:37


The multinational community of Puebla Blanca in Torreblanca, Fuengirola, are coming together this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the construction of their residential estate. The residents, who today consist of Spanish, British, Scandinavian and Estonian, among other nationalities, will hold a special party to mark the occasion, during which a special 50th anniversary plaque will be presented to the son of the original president of the community, who died several years ago. The community will cook traditional dishes from their country of origin, while previous presidents will offer talks about the development's long and interesting history.

  • 1973 More than 100 families of 23 nationalities moved into the 84 homes constructed on an elevated plot of land that was considered a "bad purchase" as it was covered with fig trees

The typical Andalusian-style complex was built in 1973 by local developer Vicente Pitarch Ortiz, and it was one of the most adventurous real estate projects of its kind at that time.

Puebla Blanca, as it is today.
Puebla Blanca, as it is today. SUR

Pitarch purchased the plot in 1969. The elevated land was covered with fig trees, and the locals believed he had "made a bad purchase", as figs had little value. However, Pitarch had other plans: the creation of a quaint village-type development constructed with antique doors, rejas and roof tiles that he had purchased in different villages in the province, as well as a glorious clocktower, which contained an 18th-century original mechanism Belfry clock, purchased in the rural village of Peñarrubia.

Although a new clock was installed in 2006, the original has been preserved in a glass cabinet in the grounds of the complex.

The early history of Puebla Blanca was preserved in a handwritten booklet produced by Anne Pullen - one of the original residents - to mark its 20th anniversary, and this includes information about who the first residents were, and also some interesting anecdotes about them.

Infamous owner

The first person to purchase a property in the complex was French writer Henri Charrière, author of Papillon, a book he wrote while serving a prison sentence for murder. Anne Pullen notes that Charrière insisted that one room in his house had to be "like a small prison cell", which is where he intended to write his second novel, although the writer never actually took up residence in the house.

She also points out that "our Puebla was very nearly stillborn", as Renfe had other plans for the land. The Malaga to Fuengirola Cercanías local train line was planned to run through the middle of the estate, even though the project had been approved and work had already begun. After several meetings with the authorities in Madrid, the route was changed and the line on this section of the route was put underground.

More than 100 families of 23 nationalities moved into the 84 homes when the project was finished. While today none of the original owners still reside there, some of their children now own and live in their parents' properties.

One of the longest-standing residents, Gitta Falck-Muus, purchased her house in 1977, and she was the first person to have a telephone installed.

"I was the first resident to have a landline and all the other residents gave my number to their family and friends. My telephone was always ringing," Gitta told SUR in English.

"I remember when there were no other housing developments in this area, and the goat herders used to bring their animals to the natural water spring, which was just outside our urbanisation. Everybody, even people from Fuengirola, came to fill up containers to get fresh drinking water, especially during the frequent water cuts," she added.

A little white village

Current vice-president Karen Skirrow moved from the UK into Puebla Blanca in 1983, and she remembers it as "a beautiful little white village with winding streets and squares with an array of colourful flowers".

"Today, nothing much has changed in our little oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the Costa del Sol," she said. This is reiterated by another of the latest residents, current president Bjørn Bang, who purchased his house in 2019.

"We looked at many houses before discovering Puebla Blanca. Walking through the streets with original Spanish style white houses was like stepping back in time. We felt in our hearts that this was the place we wanted to be. Peaceful and tranquil," he said.

The community's social secretary Shelly Pickard, who purchased her home in 2010, explained that the anniversary party, which will take place tomorrow (Saturday 28 October), has been organised to bring everyone together to mark "such a special occasion".

She is also hoping that Vicente Pitarch Ortiz will make an appearance, seeing as it was his foresight that turned an old fig orchard into what she describes as "a charming place to live".

"We are hoping the anniversary party will help rekindle our community spirit, because we used to have regular day trips, barbecues and social events, but these have all been on hold for a while because of different things that have happened along the way, especially the pandemic," she said.

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