History of San Pedro

El Ingenio San Pedro, the original sugar factory.
El Ingenio San Pedro, the original sugar factory.

San Pedro de Alcántara - History

There was a small Roman town here on the Coast called Silniana. The Roman bathhouses can be seen in Guadalmina Baja and the Roman villa in Río Verde. There is also a Byzantine Early Christian Church of Vega del Mar.

San Pedro in its current state owes its existence to Manuel Gutiérrez de la Concha e Irigoyen (1808-1874), the first Marqués del Duero, who created a farming colony on the spot in the early 1860s, naming it after both his favourite saint and his mother, Petra de Alcántara Irigoyen. The project attracted tenant farmers from local towns Estepona and Marbella and from all over Spain. The Marqués's enlightened approach involved professional training and the importation of state-of-the art techniques and machinery form abroad, notably from America and the UK.

Gutiérrez had a utopian vision which encompassed the building of an observatory, a library, mills, factories and fish-farms - in fact, an entire new town. He embarked on the project with massive promises of state aid, both practical and financial, and as so often is the case the deeds fell short of the encouraging words. He was left to support the farm from his own pocket and by 1865 he was a ruined and bitter man, according to the "In Search of Andalucía" book by Chris Wawn and David Wood.

Gutiérrez's wife, Francisca de Paula Tovar, Marquesa de Revilla y Condesa de Cancelada, was from a noble Málaga family. From 1857, Manuel Gutiérrez acquired several farms in Marbella, Benahavís and Estepona, in total about 5,000 hectares. He grouped them together under the name "Colonia de San Pedro Alcántara" and a royal decree was later passed on 26 March 1867.

The colony was large and it extended from El Rodeo near to what is now Puerto Banús and to Cancelada, part of Estepona. In 1860 the population of San Pedro rose from 36 to 529. Animals were purchased from as far away as Switzerland. The main problem was the cost of transporting sugar cane by sea to Málaga for processing. More investment was needed to build the factory, carefully sited away from the centre of the estate in what is now El Ingenio. The factory went into production in October 1871 and was called El Ángel. Gutiérrez's wife died later that year and the colony had to be sold to De la Gándara y De la Cuadra to pay the debts.  

General Gutiérrez returned to active service in the Carlist Wars and triumphantly entered Bilbao together with General Francisco Serrano y Domínguez, President of the First Republic. Shortly after, the Marqués del Duero was mortally wounded in the battle of Monte Muru attacking Estella, the Carlist capital, on 27 June 1874 in the third Carlist war.

An oil on canvas painting by Joaquín Agrasot Juan in 1885 is now part of the Spanish Senate colection in Madrid. It is reproduces here as a mural on Calle Almo in San Pedro

Death of Marques del Duero in 1874 battle of Monte Muru
Death of Marques del Duero in 1874 battle of Monte Muru

The colony was reorganised as a commercial company called La Sociedad de la Colonia with Hispano-Franco capital. In 1881 the company secured a 1,500,000-peseta loan over 50 years from the newly-established Banco Hipotecario de España. In 1891 they sold the sugar and alcohol factory to Societé Sucrière de la Colonie de San Pedro Alcántara, for 300,000 pesetas, and the latter invested 500,000 pesetas ona modernisation and adapting it be able to process beetroot.  

This was the time when reservoirs and aqueducts were built to increase the number of hectares of irrigated land. The project was one of the most advanced in Spain and included Las Medranas (where the Cable Ski and Wakeboarding Centre is now located), Nuevo El Ángel in 1890 (now Turtle Lake in Nueva Andalucia), La Leche in 1905 and Cancelada in 1896 (now part of Los Flamingos Golf). The La Fuente del Spanto dam burst and became known as Pantano Roto - you now drive through its remains when leaving the AP-7 motorway at San Pedro.

In the 1890s only beet was ground at the factory, although cane returned later. This was partly due to the short-lived boom when, in 1898, Spain lost its Cuba colony and imposed heavy sugar import duties to protect the home industry. However,by the early 1900s the colony was in further debt as the price of sugar fell.

To try to solve these serious problems the national Sociedad General Azucarera was created, in 1903, to monopolise production and control prices. La General Society bought many factories, at a price well above their value, sometimes with the plan to close them. This is what happened in San Pedro:La Sociedad de la Colonia bought back their factory in 1903 for a sale price of 300,000 pesetas and sold it next year to the state company for 2,540,303 pesetas, and San Pedro farming was ceased in favour of processing sugar from neighbouring estates.The colony land was put up for sale. In 1933 Norberto Goizueta bought 350 acres of the land to farm, and later created the residential estate of Guadalmina. Read history of Guadalmina.

San Pedro without the sugar industry suffered economically and its population dwindled. Other products were farmed, including cotton. More people left during the Civil War and the church was burned to the ground. Things did not start to pick up again until the 1940's. The first hotel on the road, Venta y Alberge del El Rodeo, was opened in 1943. At this time San Pedro did not look like a village: it was still a scattering of small holdings.

There was no new construction until the 1950s when an area four blocks wide and eight blocks long was constructed at the top end of Calle Marqués del Duero. The Diputacion de Malaga built there a 'Casa de Medico'.  

In this decade a marble factory was inaugurated in El Ingenio which was supplied with material that came from a quarry in Benahavís (Mármoles Benahavís, SA), they had to dig extra wells to get the large amount of water that was consumed. 

Another initiative was the San Pedro Almadraba, the old Tuna fishing technique which continues in Barbate. The Almadraba captain was Juan Gámez who worked for Mackintosh.

The 'fabrica de hielo' (ice factory) was in full use in the 1950 in Guadalmina and supplied the fish lorries from Algeciras and Estepona enroute for Madrid.   

The Mackintosh family owned an estate and were pioneers in the early 1970s in deciding to divide it up and build houses and create what it now Urbanizacion Linda Vista.  Augusto Algueró,  Carmen Sevilla and  Luis Mariano were early residents. 

Those interested in the history of San Pedro should read the blog (in Spanish) Rosaverde.com and attend meetings of the Asociación San Pedro Alcántara 1860.