Prime minister Pedro Sánchez and Barack Obama in Malaga last week. / AFP

Obama and the new Malaga

Th city has gone from being a diamond in the rough to being the Costa del Sol's crown jewel in just over 20 years

IGNACIO LILLO

At the risk of sounding like an old codger, which I'm not yet, I'm going to tell you about how things used to be.

When I was a teenager, my weekend plans - not always, as I hardly had any money - was to go to the cinema. To the old ones in the city centre, the Astoria, Victoria, Andalucía or América, although the latter was further out and we had to walk more. If you were lucky, you could afford a 'campero' sandwich. With 500 pesetas, which is three euros today, you were laughing. Part of those innocent outings was often having to pay the revolutionary tax: once, twice or even more often, addicts would steal the 100-peseta coin you had in your pocket. Back then Malaga city was a decrepit place that tourists steered well clear of, apart from the occasional visitor who went the wrong way (and was also conveniently robbed by the local junkies). The tourists raced from the airport to the Costa, which was much more fun and civilised.

Things started to change at the end of the last century, with a mixture of municipal, national and regional initiatives, milestones being the remodelling of the city centre, its pedestrianisation, the arrival of the AVE, road improvements and the integration of the port's old quays, among too many other projects to list here.

At the same time as outsiders discovered a diamond in the rough that was starting to shine, we locals also started to feel proud of where we came from; we started to shake off prejudices and grievances and we invested, each one what we could, to keep hold of our place in the new Malaga that was blooming.

And now we've reached year 22, the first free of the burden of the pandemic, and the city has become one of those places in the world where things happen.

It seems incredible, coming from so low down, that Malaga is being talked about as it is the venue for an event with the former US president Barack Obama... Not because of his talk in itself - he said very little - but because of the calibre of the speaker.

The city is also making noises with its bid to host an international exhibition; for being a benchmark in cybersecurity; and for having one of Europe's top technological innovation hubs.

The problem, a welcome one but still a problem, lies in how to bring some sort of order to the thousands of people who now want to come to Malaga. Sometimes, it's just for a weekend of partying, but many others come to live and invest here. All this leads to the need to build more houses and offices, and to reserve part of them so as not to leave out the local people.

Being so fashionable comes with some undesired consequences, that's true, but we must never lose sight of what we were and what we have become...