1842: the division of Fuengirola and Mijas

Today Fuengirola sits compactly on 7% of the land of Mijas while each boasts a similar population of around 80,000

PATRICK H. MEEHAN

This February, 180 years will have passed since a historical separation gave Mijas 148 square kilometres of land and left Fuengirola with just 10. This article will explain how and why that happened.

Under the Romans and the Moors, Fuengirola Castle was the centre of an authority stretching from Cabopino to Benalmádena. When the 'Reconquista' took Fuengirola Castle in 1485, the first royal act was the appointment of Álvaro de Mesa as Warden of the Castle and administrator of its lands. He was followed in 1489 by Alonso de Mesa who would rule for almost two decades.

Alonso was a controversial character, frequently denounced to the Council of Malaga for not supporting repopulation, unfair land distribution and harsh treatment of Moorish refugees. He was even convicted of smuggling a shipment of barley bound for Barcelona. While tolerated in the chaos of building a new state, eventually the opprobrium of church and state leaders from Mijas to Malaga would subtly end his reign.

By 1510 the authority of Fuengirola Castle was reduced to its own walls, while its vast lands were placed under the administration of Mijas.

For three centuries Fuengirola was taxed and administered by authorities high in Mijas Pueblo. In 1822 Fuengirola residents petitioned the Provincial Delegation of Malaga for independence; it was contested by Mijas and dismissed. The matter simmered for 20 years until municipality status was finally offered, with a proviso that would shape the town to this day. The Spanish constitution limited the Council of Malaga to granting an area of "four leagues in square" or 10.2 square kilometres.

If they refused and appealed to Madrid for a larger settlement, it would have been vigorously contested by Mijas and may have taken decades. Instead they accepted what was on offer and on 2 February, 1842, Fuengirola became a municipality of Malaga province. Further petitions requesting more land were made in 1866, 1873 and 1875; all were contested by Mijas and rejected.

Today Fuengirola sits compactly on 7% of the land of Mijas while each boasts a similar population of around 80,000. They are unlikely to merge voluntarily: Mijas refused an offer 25 years ago; they have too much to lose to a more obvious administrative centre.

This leaves Fuengirola today a prisoner of its history, like Monaco, Gibraltar or the Vatican, confined within borders forged in the heat of powerful moments by actors long forgotten.

  • Patrick H. Meehan is a 20-year resident of Fuengirola and author of Fuengirola Revisited, a unique book that tells the story of the location through the ages. Feedback can be sent to info@fuengirolarevisited.com For more information visit www.fuengirolarevisited.com or follow @fuengirolarevisited on Facebook.