Introduction to Iberia: Malaga
Malaga: Capital of the Province of Malaga in the Community of Andalucía. Famous as the birthplace of Picasso, and known in former times, as a somewhat laid-back, neglected- … looking port town known for its sexual possibilities.
I recall my friend Alberto Cardin (anthropologist, journalist, & gay radical) describing the town, as he knew it back in the 1970s and early 1980s. It sounded fascinating … although nothing particularly memorable happened to me when I first visited around 1985. The place seemed very backwater in those days, only the lovely Mercado Central sticks out in my memory. It really wasn’t as yet a major tourist destination.
The airport did not merit international status (The modern Terminal 3 was finally opened only in 2010). Certainly, back then, there was no restored Roman Theater; well tended Alcazaba; no splendid Paseo del Parque; no elegant Marina, and, of course no enormous El Corte Ingles. Thirty years later and what has changed in Malaga? Well, I’d say that it’s had a total facelift. Once the Brits (and others) ‘discovered’ the Spanish coast as a winter resort & expat destination, they changed everything. ‘They’ – meaning their monetary injection – seems to have taken over and redefined the Costa del Sol. Money does such things and now it’s all much richer or so it would seem, given the materialism on display. But I have no sense of history for this coastal area but find myself recoiling at the sight of so many tall condominium towers.
Meanwhile, back in Malaga … the city seems to be firmly under the control of a highly intelligent and sensitive government and general population. Perhaps they see it as a line in the sand: here indeed is Spain! and ‘we call the shots’. There really is something special about how decisions are made in Malaga: this will be felt by visitors whose critical thinking abilities have remained intact. I say this because the stamp of their collective wisdom is apparent, again and again.
For me, it is nowhere more obvious than in the Paseo del Parque … and in the gardens below the remains of the Moorish Fortress, the Alcazaba. The placement of plants in relation to the space and to other plants shows a level of understanding and aesthetics rarely seen in a city center. There are many places along the Parque where you might forget that it’s a promenade between two highways. (There is a dedicated Botanical Garden, though it’s north of the city and could use a few new ideas. It was a privately owned garden until fairly recently.)
My sense of things no doubt has something to do with how I experience and analyze a multitude of visits to other destinationoutside those I claim as home base(s). The Spanish – post Franco- seem to honor the past, respect the present, and offer a vision of the future. Not very many countries give off that vibe in such obvious and thoughtful ways. Not even in non-Andalucian Spain.