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Ten local curiosities you didn't know about Málaga (and their stories)



Ten local curiosities you didn't know about Málaga (and their stories)

Málaga is an open, cosmopolitan, cultural and artistic, gastronomic, family-friendly and green city.

However, the capital holds numerous curiosities that you should know and check out when you visit it, and 2023 is the perfect year for you to get to know this special side of a place that will never cease to surprise you. Ready?

The English Cemetery of Málaga

The Anglican Cemetery, St. George's Cemetery or English Cemetery in Málaga is the first Protestant cemetery in mainland Spain - construction began in 1831. It is the best-preserved cemetery of its kind in Europe. One of the first tombs in the cemetery was that of Robert Boyd, a liberal Irishman who helped General Torrijos and was shot alongside him on the beaches of San Andrés. Also buried there are artists such as the poet of the Generation of '27 Jorge Guillén and the British writer and Hispanist Gerald Brenan and his wife, Gamel Woolsey.

One of the most characteristic stories of the place is the monument to the victims of the sinking of the German frigate SMS Gneisenau, which ran aground off the coast of Málaga in 1900.

There is also a tombstone on which you can read a poem by the Málaga writer María Victoria Atencia inspired by one of the graves in the cemetery, that of a little girl called Violeta, born on 24 December 1958 and died on 23 January 1959, on which you can read 'Ce que vivent les violettes' (Violet, what the violets live).

The space is a historical and artistic garden that traces the 19th and 20th centuries in Málaga and was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest in 2012.

The Bridge of the Germans

Closely related to the English Cemetery is the Santo Domingo Bridge, popularly known as the Bridge of the Germans. This bridge came to Málaga as a gift from the German people for the city's help in the sinking of the German ship Gneisenau.

The story goes back to December 1900 when a storm caused the German frigate to be shipwrecked off the coast of Málaga. Many people from Málaga came to the aid of the sailors, some of whom lost their lives in the process. This heroic act earned Málaga the title of ‘Very Hospitable,’ which today appears on the city's coat of arms.

Years later, in 1907, when the Guadalmedina River overflowed, taking the existing bridges with it, the German people decided to return the favour and began collections for the construction of the ‘Bridge of the Germans.’ A plaque reads: ‘Germany donated this bridge to Málaga in gratitude for the heroic help the city gave to the shipwrecked survivors of the war frigate Gneisenau.’

Puente de los alemanes

A different cathedral

The Santa Iglesia Basílica Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación in Málaga is one of the fifteen European churches with the highest naves. But, in addition, this temple has a characteristic that makes it unique and around which different legends revolve, and that is that it is unfinished.

Its construction began around 1530 and was completed in the 18th century, although the main façade and the complete south tower are missing. A legend still circulates today that says that the money destined for the completion of this tower was spent to finance the wars in America at the beginning of the 19th century, although it has been proven that this money was used to finance urgent public works in the province of Málaga.

Located in the Plaza del Obispo, it is considered one of the most valuable Renaissance jewels in Andalusia and was built on the site of the original aljama mosque after the Catholic Monarchs ordered the construction of a Christian temple after conquering the city in 1487.

Its construction began in 1525 and lasted until 1782. Thus, although originally conceived as a Gothic temple, it was the Renaissance style that finally prevailed in the plans of Diego de Siloé and Andrés de Vandelvira. Later Baroque elements complete the structure and decoration.

Its construction process began in 1525 and was completed in 1782, albeit unfinished. The original Gothic style designs were transformed into a Renaissance project in which Diego de Siloé and Andrés de Vandelvira took part in the plans. The cathedral is a synthesis of architectural styles among which the Renaissance prevails over the early Gothic of the old factory and the Baroque elements added since the beginning of the 18th century.

An emblematic character: El Cenachero

Málaga and the figure of the Cenachero go hand in hand. But who was the Cenachero? He was a very popular figure in the city, a man who sold fish in the streets of the capital, keeping the balance between the two plates of ‘cenachos,’ hence his name.

The ‘cenachos’ used to be handmade from esparto grass and were filled on the beaches along the coast where the flake was taken. They usually sold Victorian boquerones (the typical ones from Málaga,) but also horse mackerel, sardines and anchovies.

In the Plaza de la Marina there is a sculpture dedicated to this figure in which the traditional clothing of the ‘cenachero’ can be seen in detail: sash, hanging ‘cenachos’ and hat.

Here's another curiosity: did you know that there is an American city that has a replica of this sculpture? It is Mobile, in Alabama, which houses this piece, donated by Málaga as a tribute to the twinning between the two cities. This sculpture is located in the fountain in Málaga Plaza, very close to the Spanish Plaza, where the Arcos de la Amistad, also donated by Málaga, is located.

The biznaga, the flower of Málaga

If there is one ‘flower’ called to be the symbol of Málaga, it is the biznaga. But the truth is that this is not a flower, but a handmade composition of small jasmine flowers which, placed especially, give shape to the white ball with a dry stem so characteristic of the city.

The biznaga has a distinctive smell and is typical of the summer period. But do you know its history? It is a legacy left by the Muslims and means 'gift from God.’

The process of creating the biznaga begins with picking the flower very early in the morning before it opens. In the afternoon, the jasmines are grafted one by one onto each of the tips of the previously cut wild thistle skeleton. Thus, as night falls, the flowers open, creating this curious artificial flower.

If you want a biznaga, just spot a ‘biznaguero’ in the streets of Málaga. You'll find them dressed in their traditional costume: black trousers, white shirt and red sash.

Last but not least, the biznaga is the award given at the Málaga Film Festival.


Spits and their relationship with the letter R

Gastronomy and Málaga are the main results of the ‘espeto de sardinas’ (sardine skewer). ‘Espetar’ is to skewer the fish on a piece of reed and roast it over a fire on the sand of the beach, and this is how sardines are cooked in the capital.

Although this dish can be eaten all year round, the truth is that there is a saying that ‘espetos’ in Málaga are best eaten in the months without R, that is, from May to August. There are others who, on the other hand, say that the correct time is 'from Carmen to Victoria' (from 16th July to 8th September). But why? Because it is at this time of year that the fish has its full fat, a fat that contains the beneficial and well-known omega 3, and is therefore tastier.

But we must bear in mind that the Málaga sardine is a different species. It is a small blue fish, almost the size of an index finger, which acquires its characteristics from the area where it is caught: the Mediterranean Sea, waters that, as they have higher temperatures, increase the amount of plankton, allowing the fish to eat more and thus increase its fat percentage and, therefore, its flavour.

Eating a 'loca' one

Tortas Locas (crazy cakes) are a typical sweet from Málaga. It is a cake made with puff pastry, custard, egg yolk icing and decorated with cherries. This sweet was created in the so-called times of hunger when it was normal for only the wealthy classes to have access to fine pastries, as sweets were a luxury. At that time, the Tejeros bakery invented a different cake, simple and cheap, but more juicy and creamy, which it christened 'loca.’

And this way of calling it? The famous cake takes its name from a 1954 hit by Luisa Linares y los Galindos, 'A lo loco se vive mejor’ (crazy way is the best way to live).

The colour of this cake is its hallmark and, such was its importance in the fifties of the last century among the lower classes, that today it is the typical sweet par excellence among the people of Málaga and one of the most popular among visitors. The recipe has remained practically unchanged to this day.

La Farola

The city of Málaga does not have just any lighthouse. The lighthouse of Málaga is known as farola. And it is so special that the Farola de Málaga is the only one of its kind on the peninsula. It is a monument dating from the 19th century and is located on the promenade of the same name, in the district of La Malagueta, between the port of Málaga and the Ciudad de Melilla promenade.

This emblem of the capital is also one of the oldest lighthouses in Spain, behind the Tower of Hercules (2nd century), Porto Pí (14th century), Cabo Roche (16th century) and Carbonera and Punta Carnero (17th century).

The Farola del Mar in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands and Sa Farola (La Farola) in Ciudadela in Menorca are the other two lampposts in Spain.


The release of a prisoner during Holy Week

Holy Week in Málaga is special for many reasons. One of the most special moments of it happens every Holy Wednesday: the act of liberation of a prisoner by the Brotherhood of Jesús El Rico.

This tradition of freeing a prisoner in Málaga is based on a royal pragmatic order by Charles III, issued after a plague epidemic in 1756, which had a serious impact on the population and led to the suspension of the Holy Week processions in 1759 since there were no healthy men and women to carry the images.

At this point, due to the particular conditions of isolation, the inmates of the prison, most of whom were healthy, asked to take the image of El Rico out themselves and, when their request was denied, they rioted, went out into the street, moved to the immediate church, took possession of the image of Jesús El Rico kept in its chapel and carried it around the places most affected by the epidemic.

Once the procession was over, they returned it to the church and, accompanied by a watching public, returned to the prison without a single person having taken advantage of the event to flee. The epidemic suddenly disappeared and this was interpreted as a miracle that impressed the king, who granted the privilege, ratified by Juan Carlos I shortly after being proclaimed king.

Since then, the Brotherhood has been able to count on the King's signature to carry out, year after year, the act of release with the collaboration of the Penitentiary Institutions Corps in the province of Málaga and the President of the Provincial Court, bodies responsible for studying and selecting which inmates meet the necessary conditions of behaviour and possibilities of reintegration to be released. Then, the Council of Ministers prior to Holy Week chooses from among the last three candidates and informs the Director of the Penitentiary Centre, who, together with the members of the Brotherhood, receives the inmate and reads the Edict of Freedom to him/her.

The verdiales

The verdiales are a distinctive manifestation of Málaga's popular culture. It is a song, a style of singing, playing and dancing, apparently predating flamenco itself. It is a kind of fandango sung and danced, and accompanied by an orchestra made up of a violin, two to four guitars, a tambourine, two or more pairs of cymbals (crótalos), several ‘palillos’ (castanets) and, in some styles, a lute or bandurria.

The verdiales denote Arab influence and it is a song made for dancing, where the singer's show-off is subordinated to the dance. The costume of the panda is the same as that used by the people of the countryside, a costume that only varies on the Fiesta Mayor de Verdiales, on the day of the Santos Inocentes, when the palm hat is introduced, overloaded with ornaments: mirrors, flowers, ribbons, beads..., which denote the ancestral origin of the fiesta.

Fiesta Mayor Verdiales