Bloody Foreigners – by guest blogger, local historian Andy Ormiston – Comaskey Properties

Did you know that Captain Cook visited Torrevieja or that revenue from the salt workings was behind the first venture of Columbus to discover America?

Those who attended a recent talk in the Real Club Nautico that was part of the annual Book Fair in Torrevieja, heard author Andy Ormiston talk of ‘Bloody Foreigners’ in the town. Andy, who was supported by a Spanish version given by Shani Ormiston, presented the talk in English.

Based on his book, “Torrevieja Cameos”, Andy ran through some of the many groups and individuals who had had a part to play in the founding and development of the town. These included Iberian Celts who, according to a DNA survey, arrived in Britain and left their genes behind in many of us expats from Ireland and Britain. The Phoenicians, and later the Romans, extracted salt from the La Mata lake, as did the Arabs who have left a trace behind, namely the Torre del Moro, which is named after a Moorish well that is located in this symbolic feature of the town.


Probably the best-known group are the Genovese who centuries ago had their own little country and were a magnificent seafaring and trading group and at one time the playa del Cura was actually known as the playa del Genovese. Many of these were caught up in Berber raids and became slaves in an island off Algeria called Tabarka, but they were ransomed in the time of the King Carlos III and transported to the small island off Alicante, which took its new name from their former prison – now Nueva Tabarca visited daily by ferries and day trippers. A large number of those Italians resettled along the coast including Torrevieja and as far as Gibraltar.

Among notable individuals was the Swedish Gabel family who took time off in the 1950’s to sail around the Mediterranean, but enjoyed the hospitality and what they saw of Torrevieja, which was still an open bay and low barraca style housing. The father Nils, bought a parcel of land near the Torre del Moro before returning to his native town to raise interest and funding for building properties on the land. It was his initiative that led to the concept of residential tourists in the Costa Blanca and the urbanisation at Lomas del Mar overlooking the sea and known as the Swedish Colony among the locals.

Surprisingly in the first decade of the 20th century there were several consulates in Torrevieja due to the trading of salt and produce from the Murcia orchards:- Russia (included Finland at that time), the Republic of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Britain, Cuba, Italy, Portugal and Norway. Most of these were closed at the time of the First World War.

Two others who helped in the development were Justo Quesada and his family with large urbanisations at the Torretas, Chaparral, La Siesta, Sal Luis and Cabo Cevera, not forgetting his own dream of a city named after him – Ciudad Quesada. Another was the development of Los Balcones in the 1970’s initially aimed at expatriate Poles who could no longer live freely in their own country after the Second World War and their presence is noted by some street names such as calle Varsovia (Warsaw).

Andy then went on to explain some of the astonishing numbers that jumped from a population of 16,000 to 100,000 in a couple of decades and the number of houses increased from 30,00 to 300,000. As budget holidays increased so did the number of visitors to Spain and the 11th million one to arrive at Alicante was 22-year old Patricia Ana Grey of England who visited Torrevieja in September 1963.

Andy emphasised how well integrated the foreign community is in general and the lack of xenophobia, which he puts down to the goodwill of as so many associations that have had a positive effect, coupled with the political intent of providing an office (OARI) to deal with their particular problems, as well as the introduction of European Day, the football supporters club, the international costaleros of Holy Week among many other events.

The book “Torrevieja Cameos” is available from Bargain Books and Ochoa book shop and covers Torrevieja’s place in Spanish history up to 1899, a year that marked the downfall of the Spanish Empire.

torrevieja cameos covertif

You might be interested in these related articles:

  • Archives