History of Fuengirola

The History of Fuengirola

Fuengirola is a first-rate tourist enclave on the Costa del Sol. The history of Fuengirola dates back thousands of years, and it has been the site of different civilizations since the 8th century BC. C., as Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Visigoths and Arabs, of which we find numerous vestiges, such as the Arab castle, the salting factories or the Roman Finca del Secretario. However, it will not be until the nineteenth century when Fuengirola appears as an independent municipality, with an agricultural and fishing economy, which will grow and change until it becomes a tourist city of 80,000 inhabitants.

Old age

The Phoenicians reached the southern peninsula coasts in the 8th century BC. C. and established various settlements, one of them in current Fuengirola. At that time, the mouth of the river formed a bay that penetrated inland, and highlighted an elevation on which the town was installed. The oldest remains of this town date, however, from the 6th century BC. C, in which Phoenician, Greek and indigenous ceramics were found.

From Roman times there is more information. The main settlement nucleus continued to be the area of ​​the castle hill, but they appear in other parts of the municipality, such as in the river valley and in the Pajares and Las Presas streams. The settlement, then known as Suel, reached the category of Flavian municipality in the 1st century AD. C., which allowed him to acquire an important political structure. Economically, the fertile valley of the river was an important source of internal supply and commerce, however, one of the most important elements of the municipality’s economy was related to fishing, as we can see in the surroundings of Cerro del Castle. These are the salting factories for the production of the famous garum that was a Roman sauce, very popular at that time, made with fermented fish viscera, which were stored in amphorae for sale and distribution throughout the Roman area.

From the fourth century on, a progressive decrease in economic activities was observed along the entire coast, as was the case throughout the empire. The arrival of different barbarian peoples (Visigoths, Vandals, Alans) and numerous internal problems put an end to the Roman Empire.

Middle Ages

The arrival of the Arabs in 711 meant the defeat of the Visigoths and the beginning of a new historical stage. Suel begins to be called with the Arabic term Suhayl. During the first centuries of Al Ándalus, both in the emirate and in the caliphate, the existence of a population in the same place where the Roman settlement was located and of a defensive tower or small fortress in the same place where the castle.

In 1031 the caliphate came to an end and Al Ándalus was divided into numerous kingdoms or Taifas, which, feeling threatened by the Christian kingdoms of the north, asking the Almoravids or Almohads for help, and it will be at that time when a fortress is built. in the manner of a Ribat with eight towers, which will serve as control and defense of the coast between Malaga and Marbella.

In the last stage of Al Ándalus, that of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada, there are some confrontations between Nasrid and Benimerines from North Africa, as well as Castilians and Grenadians, also numerous coastal incursions, for this reason, the Nasrid people make improvements in the system defensive of the coast, to the existing fortresses, like the castle, a system of watchtowers is added.

In the 14th century, the Genoese settled in what is now the Los Boliches neighborhood, dedicated to commerce. It is also at this time that the current name of the town appears (Fonyarola, Fonjirola, Fongerola or Fuentegirola).

Throughout the 15th century, the Castilian incursions and the wars between Granada factions, complicated the situation in the area. On August 7, 1485 (Saint Cayetano’s day), the castle is taken by Christian troops led by King Ferdinand the Catholic. After the conquest, a warden is appointed and a garrison is established in the castle, even so, the entire area will remain unsafe due to North African pirate attacks and some natural catastrophes, such as epidemics or earthquakes, so the population is very reduced to late 15th century in the area.

Modern age

After the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, the house of Austria was established in Spain, by the hand of Carlos I at the beginning of the 16th century. During this century it is necessary to highlight in Fuengirola, its attempt to repopulate, as well as the defense of the territory against the Berber and Turkish pirates, who organized numerous raids with which they captured people to sell them as slaves. For what the authorities improved the previously existing defensive system, such as the castle, adding other defensive towers such as the one in Calaburras and Torreblanca. However, the repopulation attempts failed, so it was decided to keep the military garrison in the castle, made up of several horsemen. The small population continues to be concentrated around the castle and in some houses close to the river valley, with a self-sufficient economy.

The population level of Fuengirola continued practically the same throughout the seventeenth century, although the attacks by Berber and Turkish pirates decreased. Important events of this century were the reconstruction of the castle after a fire and the visit of King Felipe IV to the fortress in the year 1624.

The 18th century brought the establishment in Spain of the Bourbon dynasty after the war of succession, which brought many changes to the entire country. The population of the territory continues in the same way as in previous centuries, and the castle is renovated several times. A novelty at the end of this century will be the construction of a shop in what is now the central square of the Constitution, in whose area some houses start to appear.

Contemporary age

The 19th century brings the Napoleonic invasion and the war of independence. The French arrived in Fuengirola in 1810 together with a Polish garrison. That same year the battle of Fuengirola took place, in which the occupiers defeated the Anglo-Spanish forces who were trying to recover the castle. We will have to wait until the spring of 1812 to see the withdrawal of the French, which caused extensive damage to the castle.

During this century, the defense and surveillance system of the coast fell into disuse, with its abandonment and loss of importance of the river area. In the mid-1930s, the site passed into private hands after an auction, but it remains in ruins and abandoned, so its inhabitants use the materials for the different buildings that arise. During these years the population of Fuengirola was scattered, with a main nucleus around the main square, the current Plaza de la Constitución and another group of houses in the Los Boliches area.

In 1841 Fuengirola was established as an independent municipality of Mijas. At this time the economy was still linked to agriculture, livestock and fishing. In 1873 Fuengirola reached a thousand inhabitants and an improvement in its urban planning was appreciated. The streets are drawn in a reticular manner and most of them already appear paved. In 1882 a church of greater dimensions than the previous one was built and names began to be given to the streets.

The beginning of the 20th century hardly brought any changes to the municipality, only an increase in population, which reached 6000 inhabitants around 1910 and an increase in houses. In that same year, electric power lighting appeared and the first railway connecting with the city of Malaga was inaugurated in 1916. At the beginning of the civil war in 1936, the central church was destroyed by a fire, as well as other destruction by the contest.

The end of the war brings the Franco dictatorship and it will be from now on when Fuengirola experiences one of the greatest transformations in its history, due to urban planning plans in the mid-fifties and the explosion of tourism in the decade of the sixty. Schools and hospitals were opened, a building for the city council was built in accordance with the size of the municipality, the first hotels appeared and tourist developments were built. A promenade was created in the early seventies and hotels were built on the coastline, with the consequent damage to the natural environment, and a marina was built. Likewise, during these years a large population arrives from the rest of Spain attracted by the economic boom. Fishing and agriculture lose their prominence in the economic field to give all the prominence to the tertiary sector, especially tourism.

In 1978, the new Constitution inaugurated a new democratic period in Spain. Since then, the population of Fuengirola has continued to increase, reaching 80,000 inhabitants in 2020. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Fuengirola has improved its infrastructures, as well as its sun and beach tourist offer, attracting people from all over the globe. Its historical and cultural heritage has also been valued with the reconstruction of the castle, the secretary’s estate and various archaeological excavations in its surroundings.

For more information about Fuengirola city: visit the City Council page