Archeology has demonstrated the presence of stable Phoenician colonies on the coast of Málaga since the 8 th century b.C. But if it is true, as has so often been said, that Cádiz was founded three centuries earlier, towards the eleventh, it does not seem logical that it could cross the Strait defined by the mythical columns of Hercules – a journey that is still complicated and even dangerous by the almost permanent winds and strong currents – without there being any support bases on the Mediterranean coast today known as Costa del Sol – Sun Coast.
And it is evident that the Málaga harbor, due to its configuration and the richness of its hinterland, could be the most important of these bases. If this hypothesis were plausible, the birth of Málaga as a Phoenician settlement would have to be dated even before the birth of Cadiz, even though at present no physical testimonies have been found to prove it.
Thus Malaka was born, although it could be that the first settlement was on the slopes of the small mound of Gibralfaro, on the shores of the sea or the banks of Guadalmedina River (from whose waters they were supplied) and where they lived with a clear commercial and marine vocation maintained for centuries.
At that time, given the characteristics of the ships, any beach was a port area for the loading and unloading of merchandise. The unforgettable and distinguished researcher Rodríguez de Berlanga located some springs in the foothills of the hill on which the Muslim Alcazaba would later settle. But we disagree with this statement, because by geographical logic the primitive city must have been born on the banks of the Guadalmedina River, sheltered from the storms of the east by the small elevation on which the Cathedral now sits.
Málaga owes its name AKLM to the Phoenicians; its graph appears next to these lines. The wide estuary that formed the mouth of the Guadalmedina River witnessed the stays of the Phoenician ships, and later of the Punic and Roman, arrivals from the North African coast and the Mediterranean east, attracted by the riches of this land, the fertility of its agriculture and the hospitality of its people.
Almost coinciding with the fall of Tire, the Greek ships appear on these coasts. Our town should have experienced a new economic, commercial and cultural impulse, although there are hardly any testimonies of it. But it seems beyond doubt that Mainake was one of the most important colonies of the western Mediterranean, and together with the Phoenician settlements it would constitute the bridge head connecting the Guadalquivir valley through the course of the Guadalhorce River.
As a result of what has been exposed, over the years, metallurgical workshops were created to benefit minerals, ceramic factories and salting industries.
The production of the precious purple and the famous garum stand out, as evidenced by the abundant archaeological remains, including the piles to prepare salted fish, melting pots and slag, and even solid funerary monuments, such as those found under the parking lot of the Alcazaba Tunnel or in Jinetes Street; this with the interesting trousseau of a warrior.
After the defeat of Carthage the process of Romanization of the city of Málaga was increasingly intense. Towards the year 200 a. D. we could situate the beginning of the presence of Rome in the Andalusian territories and in Málaga perhaps somewhat later, when it reached the status of “federated city” after the collapse of the Punic empire. The first Málaga coins date from this period, although their iconography reflects the oriental permanence in our population and in the surrounding territory.
At the end of the 1 st century, Málaga was granted the status of a municipality of Latin Law when the Lex flavia malacitana was enacted around 82 a. D., which systematized and collected in detail the legal and administrative order of our population. Its accidental discovery at the end of October 1851, in the area of Ejido, was a great archaeological event, because it was the first bronze containing a municipal law discovered in the world. Málaga owes to the Loring-Heredia couple to have saved such a valuable relic from the destruction, and the famous Romanist Manuel Rodríguez de Berlanga to have made it known in the Europe of that time.
The singular kindnesses of the land led in these centuries to an active trade from the bay of Málaga to the main Mediterranean ports, including the capital of the Empire: Rome. From here, Málaga exported wine, oil, almonds and various fruits, cereals and salted fish and especially the famous garum.
Lex Flavia Malacitana (detail)
The Medieval World
After the fall of the Roman Empire and the invasion of the peoples who lived beyond the limes (borders) of the Roman world, the coast of Málaga experienced, as in many other stages throughout its history, years of uncertainty. The coexistence of the people of Málaga with the Byzantines was a consolidation of commercial activities, from the memory of the Latin civilization still nearby.
And finally, the Islam. With the invasion of Tarik’s army, the city is occupying its rightful place in the list of Mediterranean ports, becoming a bridge between the Peninsula and Africa. And for that reason, in this traditionally cosmopolitan and seafaring Málaga, towards the beginning of the 13th century, an important colony of Genoese merchants was founded, who controlled this active trade from a solidly fortified building that bore its name.
Shipyards. Drawn by Julius Schöpel (1850). Lithography F. Mitjana.
The bulk of Málaga´s export was then made up of silk fabrics, raisins, figs, almonds and cane sugar, as well as ceramics with beautiful metallic reflections sent mainly to the oriental provinces. Others, such as saffron from Córdoba and Granada, also passed through this dock, as did those coming from the Barbary lands: barley, wool, scarlet, hides and skins of all kinds, wax, dates, citrus, linen and ostrich feathers of that were exported to the ports of Flanders or England.
The spices arrived aboard the Genoese and Venetian ships that intervened in their trade. The cloths of Bruges or London, the Nordic woods or the rich Florentine fabrics that periodically disembarked from Italy also arrived at this bay.
Meanwhile, the city grew and so did its port´s traffic. On the shores of the sea there were shipyards where the construction of ships was increasingly important. Towards east we find the aforementioned castle of the Genoveses, and in the great beach located between them, access to the interior was made through the Puerta del Mar, one of the main entrances of the Muslim city. This area was the great port area of Málaga for almost eight centuries.
For a brief period of time in the eleventh century, at the time of the Taifa Kingdoms, Málaga became independent for a brief period, with King Idris on the throne. A somewhat later Muslim chronicle cites a spring formed by large stones, carefully arranged. But there is no more information about the place he could occupy in the marina of Málaga.
Ataifor (Small Islamic table with the decoration of a ship). Málaga Museum
The Alcazaba was built times of the Islamic Málaga, a fortress palace whose design – built on previous Roman structures – was initiated not long after the conquest; the Alcazaba fortress is linked with the Gibralfaro Castle with a walled corridor and constitutes one of the city´s most visual identities. Clashes between Muslims and Christians were frequent at that time. And the port, and the sea, always present in our history.
However, the relationships between those who profess a different creed were, at times, surprising. In 1404, the squadron of Pero Niño arrived at these wharves in pursuit of some pirate ships, being received by the people of Málaga with all cordiality.
But History advances just like war does. A hot summer of 1487, the Reyes Católicos (the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and Fernando) took Málaga after a hard siege by land and sea. A squad sent by Maximilian of Austria watched the coast to prevent the aid that could reach the besieged from North Africa.
The Arrival of Modernity.
One of the most constant concerns of the Catholic King in the newly conquered city was the strengthening of vigilance in nearby waters and the maintenance of the rudimentary Muslim wharf still in existence. This had a very limited utility to meet the growing military and commercial needs of Málaga and its hinterland, which mainly had as area of operations the great beach that stretched in front of the Puerta del Mar, between the Gorda Tower and the castle of the Genovese.
The City Council was very aware of this situation and in in 1491 requested the Catholic Kings economic support to undertake the task of building a port. However, the war in Granada forced the monarchs to respond at the beginning of the following year that “for the time being, we cannot deal with this request”.
Map of the Bishopric of Málaga. Cristóbal de Medina Conde (1782) BN, Sig. MSS/10451.
Throughout the sixteenth century several reports were written supporting the construction of a shelter for ships arriving at Málaga. In 1526, the Inspector General Ramiro Núñez de Guzmán informed the king that this city “lacks a dock, of which some parts already exist, and which could be completed with little cost”.
In the meantime, the alarms were frequent, due to the permanent harassment of the Berber pirates that crossed the Mediterranean. For this reason King Carlos I ordered to establish in the bay of Málaga a base for the Spanish square of galleys commanded by Álvaro de Bazán. In 1534, in the light of news that the feared Barbarossa was heading to these coasts, the Crown promoted the repair of the walls and the incipient port defenses.
The first great date in the history of the modern port corresponds to May 8, 1545, in which it was authorized by a real provision to establish a budget of up to 5,000 ducats per year for five years to start the works. These began with the construction of a pier that started from the spur located in front of the castle of the Genovese. The works were directed by a Basque engineer, Juan de Guilisasti, who curiously did not know how to read and write. In the port area of Málaga (in the extensive sand ditch between the mouth of the Guadalmedina River and the Castle of the Genovese), in the year 1500, 8000 men embarked in a fleet of 60 sails under the command of the Grand Captain for the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples.
But soon the works of the mentioned dock were stopped due to the fact that they proved useless: a beach appeared in front of the dock because of the haulage carried along the already frequent floods of the Guadalmedina River, pushed by the West storms.
In the trade, the needs grew, because since the end of the Reconquest, mercantile activities had been promoted thanks to a very favorable land and climate. Intense was the traffic of the “vendeja”, during September and October, when many ships came to this port to load the raisin, wine and other agricultural products of the Málaga hinterland.
This, together with the need to have a safe shelter for the merchant ships and the galleys that defended the south coast of the Peninsula, and with the constant requests of the members of the municipal council, led King Phillip II to authorize in 1587 the beginning of the works of a port called to become one of the most capable of the Mediterranean.
First stone of the Port of Málaga, thrown into the sea on January 3, 1588. AGS, GA, leg. 219-90.
To direct the works, the king appointed engineer Fabio Bursoto, who had recently completed the construction of the port of Palermo. His project consisted of a long pier that started on a rocky ledge located where today is the Noble Hospital, in order to shelter the dock of the eastern storms, the most frequent and dangerous. The shelter was complemented with another jetty that starting from the point in front of the castle of the Genovese – that is to say, the pier started in 1545- would defend the port of the swells of the west and of the sands dragged by the floods of the Guadalmedina River.
Finally, in 1588, after the administrative procedures “the dock was started on January, 3rd, and the first sanctified stone was thrown with the blessing and prayers of the Bishop who was present at this solemnity, with the clergy of his Church and the Justice and Regiment, with great joy and general contentment of all the people”.
The project continued for about fifteen years not without difficulties due to the effects of storms (frequent in these waters in the fall and spring) and always conditioned by the necessary taxes for the works, which were never collected with due diligence.
In 1624 King Philip IV visited Málaga, being interested in the works of the port and settling in the Alcazaba. The young king stayed two days in Málaga, attending as many celebrations were prepared in his honor. As many times, the docks were filled again with the usual activity of this industry: fishermen selling their products, sailors disembarking looking for taverns and houses of more than dubious reputation, palanquins that unload the bales of the boats, beach terns that “watched” their businesses, coopers preparing their barrels, workers who dug the esparto, shoemakers, ship owners, individuals on the move, travelers about to embark…
Commemorative headstone of the visit to Málaga of King Phillip IV in 1624.
Among the latter, one of the most illustrious was Diego Velázquez, the painter, who left the Port of Málaga on his second trip to Italy in 1649. He accompanied the Duke of Maqueda and Nájera, who was going to Trento to pick up the Archduchess Mariana of Austria, fiancée of King Philip IV. The delegation left Madrid in October 1648 and, after passing through Granada, embarked on these docks in January of the following year.
Of course, the movement of passengers and trade with the most important ports in Europe was constant. Also with the North of Africa, the so-called “presidios”, occupied a prominent place in the route of the ships, especially to Ceuta and Melilla. The Port of Málaga supplied the last of those cited by the so-called crusade ship, a kind of ship that crossed the Sea of Alborán, trying to avoid the Berber pirates who were always on the lookout.
Throughout the 17th century, the port works remained practically paralyzed. Of this time an image of the maritime front of the city and its pier is preserved: the one published by the poet Juan de Ovando in his work “Ocios de Castalia”. And we cannot forget the great work done by the Chief Magistrate, the Marquis de Villafiel, glossed in an extraordinary story written by Cristóbal Amate de la Borda, to whom we owe the tombstones that today welcome those who enter the Port through the Plaza de la Marina.
The waters of the Málaga coast were very dangerous at that time. Not only for the pirates who disembarked on the beaches, taking as slaves those they encountered on their way. Also by the threats of French or English fleets, that in some occasion shelled the city. On August 4, 1704 an Anglo-Dutch squadron of more than fifty ships, led by Admiral Rooke seized Gibraltar. Shortly after, they sailed to these waters, arriving at the dawn of the 24th to our coasts and the fight began: it was the famous naval battle of the Bay of Málaga.
At the end of this long conflict King Phillip V ordered in 1717 to continue with the works of the port, long paralyzed, and put them under the direction of the engineer Bartolomé Thurus. The corresponding taxes were established to cover the works, the appropriate project was drafted and on April 26, 1718 the governor of the city informed the king that “the first stone was laid on the appointed dock of San Felipe” in which all the nobility gathered. Thurus designed a closed port, whose mouth wasd protected with a strong chain, to avoid the already chronic problem of the loss of bottom in the dock by the sands coming from the Guadalmedina River.
The works continued under the direction of other engineers, among them Jorge Próspero de Verboom, who, in the aforementioned grounding problem, modified the previous design with an “open” port, in which the upwelling currents – with an almost permanent flow – would be in charge of “extracting” the cited SAND shipments, the traditional enemy of these docks and their port traffic.
Self-portrait of Diego Velázquez in “Las Meninas”
In any case, all the engineers proposed to build several forts to protect the port facilities and also a lighthouse, because the existing one, a wooden lighthouse supported by a small crane, gave so little light that the ships crashed into the jetty when trying docking at night.
During the reign of King Charles III, port projects followed one another. Several engineers from the Army and the Navy intervened in the works that were carried out at that time looking for ways to increase the capacity of ITS facilities and the urbanization of the southern facade of Málaga.
In 1783, at the proposal of Miguel de Gálvez, there was an extraordinary urban initiative: the king approved the creation of a wide walk on the port grounds located in front of the Puerta del Mar. From that same year are the two very similar maps raised by the military engineer Joaquin de Villanova, one of them preserved at Yale University and the other in the Naval Museum of Madrid.
Map of the Port of Málaga and south facade of the city. Francisco de la Torre (?) Around 1787. AGM, Sig. P.9-11.
The Contemporary World
The nineteenth century began with events that led to serious economic recessions: the clashes with the United Kingdom, two epidemics of yellow fever and the deep and negative impact of the War of Independence.
At the end one of the greatest engineers of these docks, Joaquín María Pery y Guzmán, completed the construction of the streetlamp (La Farola) in 1817. It was more than a lighthouse and would become a symbol of the commercial and marine activity of our city and even from Málaga itself.
After the war began a progressive economic boom led by a large group of business entrepreneurs, many of them migrated to Málaga, including Manuel Agustín Heredia, Martín Larios and Jorge Loring. It was the beginning of industrialization in Málaga, which had its most important symbol in the blast furnaces of Marbella and Málaga, the first built in Spain.
Map of the head of the eastern dock with the battery and the projected lighthouse. Alfonso Jiménez (1786). AGM, Sig. P.9-9.
In the first half of the 19th century hundreds of ships arrived each year to our port to take in their cellars multiple products of the land, of the workshops and factories. In their returns from the different ports of America and Europe they brought merchandise of all kinds and exotic plants, nowadays in La Concepción, San José, La Cónsula or in the >Parque de Málaga itself.
From the strategic point of view, the docks continued fulfilling an important mission in the military and naval strategy of the south of the Peninsula. Between 1859 and 1860 an army corps commanded by General Ros de Olano was sent to intervene in the so-called war in Africa. The fire of the Génova steamboat, loaded with gunpowder and ammunition destined to the conflict with Morocco, made Málaga live hours of anguish. The ship had to be towed out of the harbor to be sunk by cannon fire.
The urgent need to have some docks that would allow the traffic of the ships did not become a reality until on August 2, 1897, the works that had been projected by the engineer Rafael Yagüe in 1876 were considered completed. The Málaga-born Cánovas del Castillo was instrumental both in promoting its execution and in the creation of the Parque de Málaga on the land that had been gained to the sea, thus preventing it from being urbanized and sold as building land.
Map of the south facade of Málaga with the Alameda, M. del Castillo (1797). AGMS, Sig. 3, 3ª, Pl 399.
At the end of the 19th century, our city was in a deep economic crisis, which began with the bankruptcy of the Banco de Málaga, the decapitalisationof the industry and the closure of the Heredia ironworks. This was joined by the European economic crisis, the revolution of ’68, the progressive loss of American markets by the growing hegemony of the United States in the former colonies and the ruin of wine production and the phylloxera plague. Málaga’s port history also has tragic pages. On December 16, 1900 the German frigate Gneisenau was in this port waiting to pick up German passengers in Morocco. It dropped anchor on the outer breakwater of the eastern dyke. After a few hours, the Navy Command suggested the commander of the ship to take refuge inside the port because the storm was approaching. The recommendations were ignored, and the tragedy occurred.
A heavy storm raised; it broke the moorings of the German ship and threw it against the rocks of the east pier. 41 German sailors died and 12 from Málaga perished trying to save the shipwrecked. The Queen Regent granted the city the title of “Very Hospitable”. Years later, Germany rewarded Málaga with the construction of the “bridge of the Germans”, which replaced that of Santo Domingo, dragged by the great flood of September 1907.
World War I helped to reactivate industrial production and to increase the export of products demanded by the belligerent powers. This provoked a new economic impulse in which the port traffic was decisive. The logistic movement generated by the military conflict in the Moroccan Protectorate was later added to the commercial activity.
Many wounded soldiers arrived at the Málaga docks. In our city a blood hospital was set up, partly paid by popular subscription and for this reason Málaga received from King Alfonso XIII in 1922 the title “Muy Benéfica” (Very Beneficial).
View of the Cathedral and the Port at the end of the 19th century. AMM, Photography Section.
The Spanish Civil War and the autarkic period that followed meant for the port lethargy and stagnation, which began to go back in the 60s with the boom in tourism and the construction of the Málaga-Puertollano pipeline terminal, thus originating an important economic benefit. During the 70s and 80s there was a slight increase in general merchandise traffic, although unfortunate technical decisions prevented the Málaga port from opening to container traffic.
The need to increase the length and breadth of the docks to increase the dock probe and enable the berthing of larger vessels was evident from the early 1970s. In the end, in 1997, the Special Plan was concluded for its development and expansion, which also attended to an old and logical aspiration of citizens: that part of the port area be dedicated to cultural, sports, recreational and recreational uses. As the headstone we reproduce at the end of this book recalls, the first stone was thrown into the sea on Friday, January 16, 1998 in a solemn act.
Málaga. The pier and the Cathedral. Charles Clifford (1862). BN, Sig. 17/LF/118(81).
The expansion of the docks with the extension of the dykes or “morros” of the east and west, the specialization in cruises, the incorporation of container traffic, the creation of areas for citizen activities and the provision of singular equipment is now a reality. At the end of these brief lines we want to remember with affection and emotion two people who are no longer with us, but with whom we joined the port worries: Francisco Merino Ruiz de Gordejuela and Ricardo Rodríguez Baró.
In this new millennium, with the Port and the City together in an exciting and desired project, Málaga is fully open to the sea by which, with the agile ships that had departed from the distant shores of Phoenicia, Tire and Sidon, more than three thousand years ago, the first germs of culture and civilization began to arrive in a City that owes the Port its cosmopolitan and its universal character.
Tinglado de poniente (1880). AAP., Fondo gráfico.