Friday, February 03, 2017


The Palace of Chávarri, Mojácar Playa

The Palace of Cháverri, as it was grandly known, is now the front bit of a huge box-like hotel in Marina de la Torre, run by the Fergus Hotel group and called the Hotel Alegría Palacio. Mojácar has succumbed to cheap all-inclusive tourism.
In another time, the palace was a summer-home owned by a wealthy Madrid family called Garrigues-Walker. Old Dad - Antonio - was the Spanish ambassador to the United States in the early sixties, later moving to a fresh posting at the ambassador's residence at the Vatican. His wife Helen was from Des Moines in Iowa and at least one of their nine children, Joaquín, was a regular visitor to Mojácar who, as a story in the Voz de Almería notes, spent his honeymoon with his wife Mercedes there (pictured here with the staff in attendance).
An American friend called Zach Allen stayed with Joaquín in 1956 and sent me the picture below. He writes: '...Recently, I turned to Google Earth and see some of the changes.  The "Palacio" itself was very rudimentary when I was there.  But, beautiful.  At that time, it was a tomato farm.  I have a number of photos showing the house, the fields and the (women mainly) workers who were planting the tomatoes then.  It used a gravity fed irrigation system fed from a very large pool, much like a swimming pool, on the hill in back of the house. The view from the stairway, out through the open (not enclosed like today) archway down the road to the beach was stunning...'.
The house was built by the first Marquis de Chávarri (Benigno Chávarri y Salazar), who owned a shipping line. His captains were (apparently) instructed to fire off a cannon salute from their ships as they navigated past the estate on the way to or from the port of Garrucha.
Good times. Mojácar was so far away from the cities, so hard to get to, that many used to come by sea.

Thank you for the wonderful article. Joaquin had come to the US in 1955 and lived with my parents in Providence, Rhode Island for six months to learn English. It was a great success. The summer of 1956, I was 18, the Ambassador to be reciprocated and I came to Spain for the summer. With José Miguel I came to Garrucha for two weeks. I was an avid photographer then, still am. I still have the Kodachrome slides I took that summer, many at the farm.

I have many fond memories of Garrucha, the Garrigues family, and of Spain. I was fortunate to have such a wonderful experience and to have such memories. Thank you.
Zach Allen
Interesting article. I lived in Garrucha in the 80s when I was in secondary school and used to run or bike along the trails all around this house. There was one along the front and another one that went from the main entrance straigt down to the coast, only some 200m away. By that time, it had remained abandoned for many years, but was still an amazing building, with nothing more around hundreds of meters around than mostly abandoned cultivation fields. It lies within the municipality of Mojácar, but Mojácar is about 8 km away and Garrucha less than 1 km away.
Sad to hear. I know the Garrigues family sold the farm at some point, I am not sure when. One problem, and I don't remember exactly on the time scale this happened, I remember that French farmers had blockaded the border in protest against cheap, Spanish tomatoes (among other things). That created huge problems for Spanish farms.

I have wonderful photographs of those fields and their cultivation.


Do send in more pictures.

I would love to. Where, how, what format?
Have you got any on .jpg or .png ? Or are they all on paper ?

I have some inside and outside pictures somewhere that I will scan that we would have taken in the 70s. Although it was derelict at the time and full up with pigeons it was still an "imposing" building that could easily have been saved !
When I was there, the interior was very basic, scantly furnished. There was no refrigeration in the kitchen, so food was very fresh. We did not have lavish meals.

I have very limited memories of the interior of the house, did not explore it much. My most vivid memory was of standing at the top of the staircase and looking out through the open grill work, down the road to the beach and the sea beyond. Stunning view. I do have photos of that.
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