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Conde Nast looks at Marbella’s history & revisits the legacy of Mayor Jesus Gil

Conde Nast’s Traveler magazine has just published an article, based largely on information and quotes provided by Panorama’s Managing Director, Christopher Clover, that studies the evolution of modern Marbella and its fascinating transformation. Now also the subject of a documentary series on HBO, “The Pioneer” (“El Pionero”), the legacy of the late Mayor of Marbella, Jesús Gil, has  been revisited in this July 2019 article.

Going back to 1943, the arrival of the multifaceted aristocrat Ricardo Soriano, Marquis of Ivanrey and his nephew, Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, is a milestone in the history of Marbella. Ricardo and Alfonso were considered the first promoters of Marbella since Alfonso purchased the beautiful Finca Santa Margarita, located in the area now known as The Golden Mile, surrounded by pine trees and bathed by the Mediterranean sea. This Finca then became the famous and luxurious Marbella Club hotel and during the sixties and seventies attracted the “Jet-Set” personalities, who fell in love with the city.

But in 1991, “El Pionero” (as refered to Jesús Gil, in the documentary series that premieres on HBO Spain) became the mayor of Marbella at a critical moment when the city had been neglected, was dirty and the infrastructure was not enough due to significant population growth and poor investment by the local administrations and the private sector.

Gil had been declared by the local administration preceding him “persona non grata” in 1987 due to a dispute over the granting of a building license, which was eventually resolved in his favor.
How sweet a victory it was for him when he won the elections in 1991, but with no money in the municipal treasury and no financing available, how did he finance the amazing public works he performed in his first years? Through a swap of municipal land with major building companies, for units of construction to be performed by those companies.

In his first years, Gil brought not only a renovation of Marbella by repairing severely deficient infrastructure, new planting everywhere, public art, decent public services, events of all sorts, but he really brought an amazing number of new investors and personalities to Marbella. In the 1990’s with Gil as Mayor it was “show business” like never seen before in our city.

Of course, the other side of the Jesus Gil story was the chaos in zoning he left behind him. As many of you know, Marbella is still in the process of recovering from this unfortunate mismanagement today. Fortunately, significant progress is being made by the local and regional governments, and a new general plan is already on the drawing board. I hope to soon be able to talk about Marbella’s zoning difficulties in the past tense. And of course there were the issues of corruption of those surrounding Jesus Gil.

  • Please click here to read the original article in Spanish published by Conde Nast Traveler.
  • Or click here to read the English Google translation of the article.