1813 naval map of Fuengirola.
A tale of two ciudades

A tale of two ciudades


In the last of this series, Patrick H. Meehan concludes with how the history of Syalis, Suel and Suhayl is shared between Fuengirola and Mijas


Friday, 27 January 2023, 12:39


This area between Cabopino and Benalmádena was ruled from the location of Fuengirola Castle as Phoenician Syalis, Roman Suel and Moorish Suhayl. The area became Fuengirola in 1485 when the King appointed the first Castilian Alcalde, Álvaro de Mesa, who would pass the title within his family. However, their corrupt actions would incur the wrath of Church and State.

Within 30 years, control of the area was gifted to the council of Mijas. Fuengirola still proved irresistible; where five rivers met the sea and road on a rich plane facing the sun, protected by mountains in front of a fish-breeding shelf.

  • Patrick H. Meehan is a 22-year resident of Fuengirola and author of Fuengirola Revisited, a unique book that tells the story of the location through the ages. For more information visit or follow @fuengirolarevisited on Facebook.

By 1800, the area around the modern Plaza de la Constitución developed a thriving economy based on fishing, agriculture, travellers, markets and defence. As the population grew to 1,000, residents built cottages and registered property deeds. The money was being made and the population was growing with new commercial and social interests far from the ruling power in Mijas. This would cause an imbalance leading to a desire for Fuengirola residents to seek to control over their own affairs.

By 1822 a petition was made to the Provincial Delegation of Malaga to grant independence from Mijas; it was contested by Mijas and the application was dismissed. The matter would simmer for 20 years until a further petition succeeded with an essential caveat that limits the size of Fuengirola to this day. Malaga could only grant municipal status for an area of 10.2 square kilometres; a bigger request would have taken years to be granted by Madrid.

And so on 30 May, 1841, the act was signed authorising the independence of Fuengirola. During the following months, the stakeholders carved a meandering border that remains to this day.

History would paint its own map on that border from south of the current IPV Hotel, up to Restaurante El Higuerón and back down to the end of the Paseo Marítimo. The following February, when the preparations were completed, after 327 years Fuengirola's power was restored to just 10 per cent of its historical area.

It may have been the best 10 per cent as two separate authorities have co-existed as equals. Despite Mijas being 17 times larger, the two towns maintain roughly the same population, one mostly rural and the other mostly urban.

In conclusion of this series, the story of Phoenician Syalis, Roman Suel and Moorish Suhayl is the story of both Fuengirola and Mijas.

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