Wednesday, January 01, 2014

 

Jacinto Alarcón: El Alcalde de Mojácar

This is Jacinto Alarcón. He was the famous old mayor of Mojácar who got the village 'going' in the sixties. Following the Civil War in Spain, plus a drop in the local water table, there was no future for a forgotten town like Mojácar, which by the end of the fifties was down from a population of 6000 (recorded in 1920) to a miserable 600 souls.
Many mojaqueros had left for work (or political considerations) to Catalonia, France, Germany and even Argentina. The town was so miserable that there was talk of Mojácar becoming part of the municipality of Carboneras.
The representative of the national government was the Gobernador Civíl, who lived in Almería. His office chose the mayor in those days, and Jacinto was given the job in June 1960.
Jacinto was a rarity in Spanish politics, he followed his own version of the Kennedy doctrine ('Don't ask what your pueblo can do for you; ask what you can do for your pueblo'). He more or less, pace a proper article later, introduced the Indalo; encouraged culture and art; painted the town white (it was brown yeso coloured before); gave away old houses or land to those who would bring in money and fix them up; arranged with an architect (Roberto Puig from Valencia) to keep strict rules on the appearance of the town; got the town a Parador Hotel; made friends with several internationally known people, including Fraga Irribarne (at the time, the Tourist Minister for Spain); won the town an award from Madrid as the Pueblo Blanco 1964; and found new residents that would make Mojácar more famous internationally than the province of Almería itself.
Jacinto retired in 1976, a poor but satisfied local hero. We would never see his calibre of politics again. Following his departure from the town hall, the opportunities of ready money proved irresistible to many local would-be politicians and entrepreneurs, particularly builders, none of whom appeared to harbour any respect whatsoever for their town.
Many emblematic buildings have been demolished - the village theatre, the fountain, a famous arch called 'El Arco de Luciana', an entire city block last year to make way for an underground parking... and architectural rules have been relaxed or even, on occasion, abandoned completely (the Centro de Artesanía for example).
Incidently, the iconic Indalo, the upright metal man that was known in Madrid and Valencia, and from Belgravia to Greenwich Village, was later sold to the provincial authorities by another mayor, which is why we have a 'drunken Indalo' substitute these days. Cheap hotels and the accent on second-rate tourism (plus the chance to build and sell small and tasteless apartments) rather did for the town by the mid eighties. Jacinto died in around 2001 and the mayor of the time, Salvador, did him the ultimate honour... of knocking his house down.

Comments:
I know several excellent 1960s village mayors and no bad ones. Were mayors better then, and if so why? Were JCBs simply too expensive to be able to do awful things, or was it the spirit of the times?
 
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