A GUIDEPOST REPRINT: “Seekers of the Sun,” 27 October 1972

Money MattersNewssliderSpain


Massive foreign invasion is occurring on the sunny shores of the incredibly blue Mediterraneo.
Tourists barrel in by jet planes and on package tours lured by the sun, the affordable
prices, and the grace and fire of the people and their rich culture.



 by Art Carlbom
27 October 1972

GUIDEPOST cover, 27 October 1972

In 1492, when Columbus set sail from Sevilla¹ in Andalusia, the last of the foreign invaders had been driven from the Mediterranean shores of Southern Spain, from what is now known as La Costa del Sol, the Coast of the Sun. But these foreign cultures left their monuments here; the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans and most strongly, the last and most tenacious of them all, the Moors. They forged the Andalusian race, a people at once joyful and tragic, a folk of grace and style, yet haunted as you can hear in the native flamenco songs by the awareness of life, death, love, honor, pride, poverty and the inevitability of old age. It is in the ambiente of Andalusia, the ambience, the atmosphere.

Tourists on Costa del Sol enjoying warm weather in February. (Photo taken 14 February 2012, CC B Y-SA2.0, Flickr)

Today another massive foreign invasion is occurring on these sunny sand shores of the incredibly blue Mediterraneo as tourist forces of over 2,000,000 hit the beaches every year. Of those armies, the Americans are among the strongest, peaking out during the high season to over 30,000. They barrel in by jet planes and on package tours at the rate of a thousand United States citizens a day!

What brings ‘em to these shores?

Sunshine, for one thing, about 320 days per year. The climate is the best in Europe with an average annual temperature of 68 degrees. And low prices for another. It is less costly for an American to fly here on an all-expense tour than it would be for him to vacation in Las Vegas, Southern California or Miami. Lower liquor prices, too. In native Spanish bars or even in resort hotels the bar bill is a good deal less than anywhere in America. And then, as has been publicized and promoted in the States, the Costa is where the action is, the fun and games scene with its magnificent beaches, all weather sports, glamor hotels and swinging nightlife.

At the Feria de Caballo (Horse Fair) in Jerez de la Frontera. (Photo taken 12 March 2009/Dominic Alves, CC BY2.0, Flickr. Partial face blotout supplied.)

Against all this activity, there is the fascinating spectacle of Andalusia. There are the authentic folklore fiestas with all the grace and fire of the sensuous dance merging with the high drama of the flamenco lyrics. Through all seasons there are a succession of festivals and the first bullfight of the year is in Almeria. Holy Week in Malaga is an awesome experience with the massive religious floats borne on shoulders solemnly through the narrow streets. It all adds up to an exciting and memorable holiday.

The 11th century Alcazaba (Moorish Fortress) of Malaga/Rama, dated 10 August 2006 in Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA2.0)

The capital of the Costa del Sol is the seaport of Malaga. This is an old and dramatic city with teeming streets, narrow as arcades, ancient cathedrals, boulevards and the lush gardens of the waterfront. There are splendid vistas from the heights of the Gibralfaro and the Moorish castle of the Alcazaba. The beaches of Banos del Carmen and El Palo sweep the Mediterranean with stretches of clean fine sand.

The Calahonda Beach in the City of Nerja./Rober Martinez, CCO via Wikipedia (Image created 2012)

East of Malaga, a 20-mile drive through working fishing villages, is the resort of Torre del Mar. It is a growing town of new high-rise structures and old white-washed cottages further is the Hamlet of Nerja, another growing tourist attraction, set impressively over the rock ledge known as the “Balcony of Europe.” The caves of Nerja, open to the public, are a profound presentation of lights, shadows and labyrinthine depths. After another 25 miles of panoramic scenery, survives the 3,000-year-old town of Almuñecar, still virtually unknown to the package tour tourists.

Visitors gravitate to the El Bajondillo neighborhood, an old fisherman’s village now teeming with shops, restaurants, discos. . . (Photo created 1 March 2009 by Tyk, CC BY-SA3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

But it is to the west of Malaga that draws the hordes of the new invaders. That swingin’ discotheque town, Torremolinos, is where the kids from all over the world come for kicks. The groovy town is a junior jet-set resort with roaring rock ‘n’ roll, an easy-going casualness and familiarity between the visiting boys and girls. It is a carnival. It is the midway with hamburgers, pizza pies, boutiques and bars. It is Miami Beach amid a riot of foreign languages. It may not be authentic Spain, but it can be a swinger’s escapade of a lifetime.

Fuengirola, the next town on the Costa del Sol, is a still-growing resort built around the white-washed fishermen’s cottages from which the men take off for the sea every day. A splendid new paseo — a marina promenade — runs along the seafront by garden landscapes. There are vast sidewalk cafes, smart bars and boutiques as well to give an American a cosmopolitan consciousness.

About five miles inland up the mountain from Fuengirola lies the glistening white village of Mijas. There are narrow cobbled terraced streets, gift shops, burros, gift shops, cascading flowers, gift shops and a spectacular view of the Mediterranean world below.

Puerto Banus (Banus Port) in Marbella, where the Yacht Club is/kallerna, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Photo dated 27 December 2020.

Marbella is quiet elegance. Discreet real estate developments among the umbrella pines. Sleek residential areas along the sea. Pleasure people with pleasure craft berthed out at the Yacht Club. Boutiques cunningly concealed within the Andalusian cottages in the old village. One of the stops on the Jet Set route along with the resident titled aristocracy (both movie and royal) and celebrities of the gossip columns.

Sixteen miles from Marbella is Estepona, a town of Roman origin, with the nearby ruins of their ancient aqueduct still standing. The old quarter still retains its Andalusian character. Situated 51 miles from the international airport of Malaga, Estepona has not yet experienced the full impact of the tourist assault forces. But it has prepared itself with accommodations for yachting, water sports, golf, tennis, hunting, fishing and a new landscaped marina along the seafront. Any day now. . .

“Many Americans who come to Costa del Sol as tourists stay on as permanent residents but retain their U.S. passports and citizenship.” (Photo taken in 2022 by Ajay Suresh, CC BY2.0, Flickr)

Many Americans who come to this Coast as tourists, scout out the turf, and then return to remain as permanent residents. They retain their U.S. passports and citizenship but apply for a Residencia permit from the Spanish government. There is a style and variety of real estate to choose from on the Coast-from an uncountable number of high-rise apartment blocks and modern urbanizations to Antique fishermen’s cottages in a wide price range. As anywhere, cost of land, houses and apartments depends upon location, size of structure, construction and current labor costs. Renting during the high season of June through September can be considerably higher than during the other months of the year. The best would be to consult a local realtor for either rental or purchase of property.

Alleged portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, created 1 January 1519, PD via Wikimedia Commons

Almost 500 years after Columbus sailed from Andalusia for the New World, the American results of that expedition are exploring this historical coast. Just as ole Chris didn’t know exactly what he would find on his travels, so too the Americans seem to be seeking something unknown in Spain that they cannot find at home.²

Perhaps they will find it under the sun along the sparkling Mediterranean on the golden shores of La Costa del Sol.



Ed’s notes:
1) Columbus actually set sail from Palos de la Frontera on the southwestern Atlantic coast of the Andalusian province of Huelva on the Costa del la Luz (Coast of Light) and not from the Costa del Sol.
2) See how the “seekers of the sun”‘s scenario in Spain looks 52 years later in 2024: Check out “Spain is Number 1 Tourist Destination.”


Additional images
Featured image: Bullfighter/HELENGALVEZ. Gleeful people at sunset/4679693. Pixabay, edited.
Quote mark/Oakus53, CC BY-SA4.0, Wikimedia Commons