ArticlePDF Available

From industrial activity to cultural and environmental heritage: the Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)

Authors:

Abstract

The town of Torrevieja owes its existence to the sea, to its climate, to the two saltwater lagoons that it sits between, and to the watchtower from which it took its name. The town's motto, "Blanca de sales, morena de soles" ("Salt-white, sun-tanned"), neatly sums up the essence of this part of the Mediterranean, where singular environmental features have always been the driving force behind the area's economic and cultural heritage. In this regard, the salt industry and the growth of tourism are the two activities that have had most impact on this town located next to the Torrevieja and La Mata lagoons, an area of great environmental value and now classed as a nature reserve. Key words: Torrevieja lagoons, salt works, environmental economics, tourism, industrial archaeology, nature reserve, cultural heritage and sustainable development.
311
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008, págs. 311-331
FROM INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITY TO CULTURAL AND
ENVIRONMENTAL HERITAGE:
THE TORREVIEJA AND LA MATA LAGOONS
(ALICANTE)1
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Dept. of Applied Economic Analysis
Universidad de Alicante
SUMMARY
The town of Torrevieja owes its existence to the sea, to its climate, to the two saltwater
lagoons that it sits between, and to the watchtower from which it took its name. The town’s
motto,
Blanca de sales, morena de soles
(“Salt-white, sun-tanned”), neatly sums up the
essence of this part of the Mediterranean, where singular environmental features have always
been the driving force behind the area’s economic and cultural heritage. In this regard, the
this town located next to the Torrevieja and La Mata lagoons, an area of great environmental
value and now classed as a nature reserve.
Key words:
Torrevieja lagoons, salt works, environmental economics, tourism, industrial
archaeology, nature reserve, cultural heritage and sustainable development.
Fecha de recepción: diciembre 2007.
Fecha de aceptación: agosto 2008.
1 This article has been fulfilled as a part of the SEJ2004-08224/ECON project of Ministerio de Educación y
Ciencia. It has also got partial financing from CONSOLIDER-TRAGUA, CSD 200644 project.
312
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
“We walked by the lagoon, a vast cauldron
fuelled by the climate; a mine of prodigious wealth,
around which grew a town that now finds itself in misery.
Eugenio Noel,
Intimate Journal
, 1912
I. INTRODUCTION
The Torrevieja and La Mata lagoons cover 1,400 and 700 hectares respectively and have
a combined perimeter of more than 25 kilometres. They are located in the town of Torrevieja,
in the south-east of the Iberian Peninsula within the province of Alicante, in the Region of
Valencia. The Spanish coast includes a great many lagoons, particularly along the Valencian
coastline, where they are known as
albuferas
. This is due to the abundance of low-lying
coastal areas influenced by the morphogenetic processes of sea and land
2
. The lagoons are,
therefore, a place where different environments converge: sea, river, lake, land etc; which
makes them somewhat unique, blessed as they are with features that differ significantly
from those of the surrounding areas. The Alicante coastline was once abundant in lagoon
formations of this type, but they have almost all been wiped out by the actions of man (Box,
2004: 192). Although in many lagoons the presence of openings in the sand banks is clearly
linked to the morphogenesis of the coastline, in other cases serious doubts exist as to their
Figure 1
LOCATION MAP OF TORREVIEJA AND LA MATA LAGOONS
2 The word “albufera” (from the Arabic al-buhaira), which originally meant little sea, is used to refer to any
area of “shallow waters, located parallel to the coast, separated from the sea by sand ridges, the openings or inlets of
which allow for a certain amount of communication” (Roselló, 1981:43).
313
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
origin, as it is often difficult to ascertain to what extent they are natural or artificial (Roselló,
1981: 64). The Torrevieja and La Mata lagoons are a singular phenomenon within the area’s
coastal landscape and differ in a number of ways from other
albuferas
within the Region
of Valencia, due to the fact that they were formed partly by tectonic activity (Costa, 1981:
399). These two lagoons have yet to be sufficiently categorised, as they are neither endoreic
areas nor
albufera
-type lagoons. In this regard it is unclear how they were originally linked
to the sea, though the Torrevieja lagoon’s connection seems clearer, as the dune disappears
in the channel known as
el Acequión
that was opened up in the fifteenth century, possibly
indicating where the inlet was located. However, it is more difficult to classify La Mata as
an
albufera
-type lagoon. Currently, both lagoons are separated from the sea by a sand dune
or ridge from the Quaternary period. Regardless of whether or not the lagoons are in fact
albuferas
, the geomorphologic evolution that these areas underwent led to the appearance of
endoreic basins with a distinctive morphology and characteristics, which man in turn used to
his advantage, namely for salt production. La Mata and Torrevieja are the only sea-salt works
in Spain located in completely natural lagoons. There was no need for them to be adapted in
any way – they simply had to be linked to the sea. The local climate, with little rainfall (an
annual average of around 250 millimetres) and high levels of evaporation (up to 20 millime-
tres in 24 hours) is another important factor that has favoured salt production here to a great
extent (Costa, 1981: 401).
The town of Torrevieja owes its existence, then, to the sea, to its climate, to the two
In much the same way, the town’s motto, “
Blanca de sales, morena de soles
” (“Salt-white,
sun-tanned”), neatly sums up the essence of this part of the Mediterranean, where singular
environmental features have always been the driving force behind local economic and cultu-
ral heritage. In this regard, the salt industry and the growth of tourism have had the greatest
impact on the town, located next to these lagoons of such environmental value that they are
now classed as a nature reserve. Thus, contrary to the comments made by Eugenio Noel at
the beginning of the twentieth century, Torrevieja today is hardly a town in economic ruin:
proof of which lies in the town’s strong economic growth, thanks to the development of the
tourist industry, which is sustained in part by the incessant increase in construction, and in
the growth of the town’s population. In 1972, Torrevieja registered a population of 10,158
inhabitants, whilst the figure for 2006 is over a hundred thousand, a figure which increases
six fold during the summer season. Indeed, this economic boom, particularly over the past
few decades, is based not on the traditional activity that actually gave rise to the town (salt)
but on another activity (tourism), which has meant an ongoing attack on the physical space
available, placing serious pressure on the Torrevieja and La Mata lagoons and their exceptio-
nal cultural and environmental value.
Although the cultural value of natural spaces may be the most subjective and difficult
value to determine, there is no doubt that the aesthetic values of ecosystems and landscapes
contribute to the emotional wellbeing of the local population
3
. Natural resources can also
3 In this sense, the term value can be applied using the definition given by the Royal Academy of the
Spanish Language, which says: “the degree of utility or aptitude of things to satisfy needs or provide wellbeing or
pleasure”.
314
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
be said to have an intrinsic value, quite apart from human feelings or needs
4
. In this regard,
a negative aspect usually associated with economic growth and urbanisation or industriali-
such goods are free, they tend to be over-exploited, in such a way that citizens derive wellbe-
ing by using additional quantities of these goods without taking any steps to preserve them.
One of the most common preservation instruments used is to regulate an area of nature with
various kinds of protection in order to preserve scarce environmental assets. Environmental
economics is based on the hypothesis that analysis should focus not on the goods but rather
on the services, which are also to a large degree public, have no market and thus lack prices
by which they may be immediately quantified. These services cover the usefulness and/or
wellbeing that people derive from the existence of suitably conserved natural heritage. With
advances in environmental economics, a monetary value can now be established for goods
which, in general, do not have a market and for natural heritage in particular. The basic ele-
ment of valuation is personal preferences and, consequently, the satisfaction that an indivi-
dual derives from the conservation and/or consumption of natural heritage, in a similar way
to the value derived from prices as a reflection of the satisfaction obtained from goods that
are bought and sold on the market. Such values are known as bequest, existence and option
values, as well as indirect use value (images, videos, books, etc.) From this environmental
point of view, the values that can be associated with enjoyment of the Torrevieja-La Mata
lagoons are shown in the following table:
Figure 2
BENEFITS PROVIDED BY THE TORREVIEJA NATURE RESERVE
Value of the Park
Current visitors
Direct enjoyment
Non-visitors
Existence
Option
Bequest
Indirect use
Residents
Landscape
Leisure
Direct economic
Salt, hunting, agriculture
Developers
Tourism
Environmental value Biodiversity
Cultural value Tangible
Intangible
Own table.
4 In this sense, Pearce and Turner (1995:175) describe the intrinsic value of natural resources as “a value that
resides in something, but which people capture and express through their preferences in the form of a non-use value”.
315
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
II. HISTORICAL EVOLUTION: FROM SALT-WHITE TO SUN-TANNED
The history of Torrevieja is linked to the history of the salt works. The tradition and links
that the population has maintained with the salt industry is based not only on the fact that
for a long time this activity was the main source of income for the local inhabitants, it also
has to do with the very origin of the town. With good reason its name is derived from an old
watchtower called “
Torre Vieja de las Salinas
” (Old Tower of the Salt works) which was used
to protect the coast against pirate incursions
5
. It was at the end of the eighteenth century that
the first references were made to this place, where a small country house was built under
the auspices of the salt industry. The botanist Cavanilles, who travelled through Alicante
during that period, noted a growing group of houses in a place “next to the Cabo Cerver,
facing south-west where [according to his records] a settlement known as Torre Vieja has
been formed, where 25 years ago there were three families, and now there are 106, almost
all involved in some way with the salt works”. For centuries, the extraction and sale of salt
were the only resource for the people living in this area, besides fishing; as the town lacked
official municipal status (until 1957) and thus no land was available for farming. The town’s
large and well-equipped port was built to deal with the traffic of salt, which was transported
exclusively by sea. Despite the radical shift in Torrevieja’s economy in recent years as a
result of the boom in tourism and construction, the salt works and their facilities are still a
going concern. They are the only sea salt works still owned by the State, which means they
have their own dock, used exclusively for salt loading
6
. What follows is an examination of
the area’s historical evolution.
2.1. First uses of the lagoons
The amphorae and other remains found in the former loading dock at La Mata and at
other archaeological sites in Torrevieja suggest that salt was being extracted from La Mata
during the Roman era. Indeed, given the huge importance of the salt trade, ships are known
to have anchored in the area surrounding Torrevieja for the sole purpose of loading up with
dates from the Phoenician era. The second was at La Mata itself and is of Roman origin (Gar-
cía, 1991). However, it was in the medieval period that the lagoons really became important
producers of salt, although they were subsequently to have quite different futures. It should
5 Any activity on the Valencia coastline required defence mechanisms against potential enemies, particularly
corsairs, pirates and smugglers. Watchtowers played an essential role and were purposely located overlooking
the sea. Their proliferation along the Valencia coastline gave rise to a general system of hierarchical defence. In
an unusual event in history, military informers to Spanish monarchs often stressed the negative aspects of many
areas that are now saturated by a tourism searching for the very same kind of landscape that in other times was so
denigrated. For example, Juan Bautista Antonelli and Juan de Lacuna, engineers under Philip II, reported that “on
a coast such as that of Valencia, so lacking in large natural ports, except for Denia, any outlying coastal crag, any
small cliffs surrounded by sea, any cove protected from the Levantine winds was a place that had to be defended”.
By 1585, in the Kingdom of Valencia 52 watchtowers had been built, including those of Torrevieja and La Mata.
6 The Torrevieja salt works are managed by the Spanish Finance Ministry, through the Directorate-General
for Publicly Owned Assets.
316
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
be pointed out that the two lagoons were not joined and that they were exploited separately,
until the feeder channel was built (1926-28) between the sea and La Mata, as well as the
communication channel from La Mata to Torrevieja, which led to the two lagoons becoming
a single entity in terms of salt extraction
7
.
In 1252, during the reign of Alfonso X, the first regulations on the salt trade appeared, in
the Seven-Part Code. This established that all income from the salt works went to monarchs
and emperors, who were in turn responsible for their maintenance (Iglesia, 1980). In 1273
Alfonso X granted the locals of Orihuela the privilege of helping themselves to salt supplies
from the main salt works in the area, referring to Torrevieja. In 1283, Prince Sancho of Cas-
tile (later Sancho IV, ‘the Brave’) granted the Torrevieja salt works to the Council of Orihuela
in perpetuity, on the condition that they could not be sold, pledged or exchanged. With this,
the salt works at Torrevieja (not La Mata, which was excluded due to the rate of income it
generated for the crown) ceased to form part of the monarchy’s possessions, although they
reverted to the crown in the middle of the eighteenth century, having undergone various
other guises. In 1313, James II of Aragon granted Orihuela use of the natural port to the
ancient tower known as Torre del Cortijo de las Salinas, later known as Torre Vieja. In order
to defend this part of the coastline and the salt works, the Torre del Moro was built on Cabo
Cervera to guard against raids from Algerian corsairs and pirates. For the same purpose, the
tower at La Mata was rebuilt, on the site of a former Roman tower
8
.
In the Kingdom of Aragon, the extraction of salt, its distribution and the collection of the
corresponding revenue were the privilege of the crown, as in many European states. In the
Kingdom of Valencia, this privilege had been established by James I from the very moment
of conquest. What was important for monarchy and subjects alike was to establish fixed pri-
ces, set proper boundaries, centralise taxation, control the dispatch of consignments, prevent
tax fraud and stop salt entering the market from abroad or from privateers. At the end of the
Middle Ages, the salt works at La Mata were providing income for the bailiwick of Orihuela-
Alicante, which found it easier and safer to lease out the works than manage them directly.
The lease was granted by public auction (Salvador, 1982: 280-282). As frontier land, the
lagoons were not unaffected by clashes between Aragon and Castile. Peter I (‘the Cruel’) of
Castile promised La Mata to his Genoese allies in return for their naval help against Aragon,
but the Castilians were defeated, leaving the Genoese without their longed-for salt works.
Meanwhile, Peter IV, ‘the Ceremonious’, donated La Mata in perpetuity to the Council of
Orihuela in gratitude for the defence of the city as an ally of the Crown of Aragon.
7 As a result, La Mata was used as a warming lagoon, from where the salt-lye was transferred to the Torrevieja
lagoon to be left to concentrate before extraction. In 1973, a third element was incorporated into the production
chain which is of vital importance today: the Cabezo de la Sal or salt mound.
8 This tower was described in 1787 by military engineer Pedro Navas as follows: “It is located on the edge
of the sea and looked after by the people who live from the salt works. It is circular in shape and has its entrance on
the ground floor. For defence it has an eight-calibre bronze mounted cannon, 2 wall guards, 1 powder spoon, 1 wad
hook and 82 balls.” (Quoted by F. Rebollo, Cronología de Torrevieja).
317
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
2.2. Torrevieja’s lagoon as a fish hachery
The production capacity at La Mata (which along with the salt works in Ibiza was the
greatest salt producer in Aragon) contrasted with the diminished production at the Torre-
vieja lagoon, where the loss of interest by the lease holders led the Council of Orihuela to
transform the lagoon into an
albufera
to be used for fishing. Permission was requested from
King John I, and the Parliament at Monzón authorised a channel to be opened (
el Acequión
),
linking the lagoon with the sea to supply enough water for the fishing industry to develop.
Plagued with setbacks and delays due to the high cost of opening the channel, there were two
failed attempts, in 1407 and 1429 (Vilar, 1977). The channel was finally completed in 1482,
at a length of 1,648
varas
(between 1,200 and 1,500 metres). However, the problems did not
end there: in 1500, following heavy storms, the lagoon was cut off from the sea, and repair
work by the Council of Orihuela was not completed until 1509. However, the lagoon’s main
problem as a fishery was the high salinity of its waters, making it impossible for species to
flourish. With such high running costs and its declining value as a fishery, the Torrevieja
lagoon reverted to state ownership in 1759, which turned Torrevieja into the most predomi-
nant salt lagoon in the eighteenth century
9
.
At La Mata, meanwhile, the lagoon continued to be used for extracting salt, leased out
under the monopoly of the crown. Most of the supply was for the kingdom itself, with only
the surplus being exported, although by all accounts up to the second half of the fifteenth cen-
tury La Mata did not produce a very high yield
10
. Up to that period, the salt works had been
leased to local merchants, craftsmen or relatives of the local patriciate, such as the Masquefá
family. However, this changed following the liberalising measures brought in by John II in
1460 in an attempt to increase exports. All ships were now allowed to load and transport salt,
provided they did not belong to enemies of the crown. Captains, patrons and other officials
had to swear an oath
de mans e de boca
” (“of hands and of mouth”) that their shipments
were not bound for Genoa, which continued to be punished for helping the Castilians against
Aragon. That said, in 1461 this did not prevent the very same king from granting permission
to two Genoese merchants living in Valencia (Francesc Foderat and Gaspar Gavoto) to ship
salt to Genoa and Savona (Hinojosa, 1993: 285). In 1465 the salt works of La Mata were lea-
sed by the Santángel family
11
, converted Jews who had settled in Valencia (Hinojosa, 1992),
and in 1480 Ferdinand II granted them the lease for life. The ties between this family and the
Italian merchants living in Valencia (particularly the Genoese), strengthened the export of
9 By around 1758 the lagoon had dried up completely, giving the appearance of an enormous natural salt flat
(Vilar, 1981: 622-623).
10 It is no coincidence that most of the contracts for the sale of salt, particularly for the largest sales, are
documented from the 1480s onwards (Hinojosa, 1993: 284).
11 Luis de Santángel, the Younger (so called to differentiate him from his father, the Elder), was the first
member of this family to lease the salt works at La Mata. Secretary to King Ferdinand II of Aragon, he was present
at the Santa Fé capitulations in Granada, and participated in Christopher Columbus’s venture with a loan of 140,000
maravedíes and a further 500,000 from financier friends and Andalusian and Genoese merchants. Some letters from
Columbus were addressed directly to him. As a reward for his services, the king named him bailiff in perpetuity of
Orihuela, where he remained until 1501. He was already lord of Redován and owner of the estate there. His relatives
held the bailiwick of Orihuela until 1579 (Serrano, 1991).
318
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
salt from La Mata, as the Genoese had a greater interest than anyone in this trade, as the salt
formed part of the cargo of ships returning from Flanders to Italy
12
. As the world entered the
modern age, the Genoese had firmly established their monopoly (Hinojosa, 1993: 289).
The growth of the salt industry triggered a demographic influx and economic expansion
in the area, drawing people from el Campo de Salinas, Guardamar, Rojales and Campo de
Cartagena. A population nucleus sprung up around La Mata made up of the salt production
workers, and as time went on and the population increased, other activities began to emerge
that conflicted with the salt works, threatening the unique environmental balance of the place.
This led the authorities to announce protective measures, and in 1716 the governing body of
the salt works decided to mark out the boundary of the lagoon to prevent any damage to be
caused by farming in the nearby fields. This protective perimeter was progressively extended
to safeguard the lagoon from the growing population. In 1758, Ferdinand VI ordered a new
perimeter to be marked out around La Mata to prevent any farming on the land. In 1763 the
marquis of Esquilache made provisions “inside its uncultivated land established in reserve
and round in its circumference, so that rainwater may enter it clear and pure, and so the afo-
rementioned salt works [La Mata] should not be altered nor the abundance and quality of the
the extraction method consisted of simply waiting for the lagoon water to evaporate, which
occurred in spring and summer, when the banks of the lagoon would become encrusted with
horse on routes known as “
caminales
”, along the bed of the lagoon itself
13
. The salt was
loaded on the quay at the lagoon tower. Harvest yields were highly erratic, as they depended
entirely on the weather.
2.3. Salter industry’s growth
As we have seen, the attempt to turn the Torrevieja lagoon into an
albufera
was a failure,
and the project was abandoned in 1763 (Claravana, 1880: 367). However, the work carried
out had altered the lagoon’s physical nature and economic possibilities. The channel to
the sea had enlarged the lagoon bed and increased its surface area, causing flooding of the
the neighbouring farmland
14
. These negative consequences were a counterpoint to the increa-
the dominant establishment, was overtaken by the salt works at Torrevieja, which had better
conditions in its estuary for anchorage and substantially cheaper haulage costs as it was clo-
12 As well as Genoa, other destinations for La Mata salt in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were Naples,
Sicily and, sporadically, Rome and Florence.
13 Cavanilles commented of this method that “the only artifice that works on this item [salt] is nature, with no
need of help from man other than for its extraction”.
14 This was denounced in a text from 1739, which stated: “and having turned said lagoon into an albufera,
this has encroached upon all that was salt marsh before and upon a growing number of lands of various owners and
all else that lies next to the whole of the circumference of said albufera, with great loss for their owners”. (Cited by
Box, 2004: 377).
319
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
abandonment of the
albufera
project, meant that in 1802 the offices installed by the Royal
Treasury at La Mata were transferred to the new operation on the site of the old Cabo Cer-
vera salt works, which in turn led to the building of the village of Torrevieja.
It must be pointed out that the docks, quays and silos located in what is known as “Las
Eras de la Sal” are strongly linked to the origin of Torrevieja and its subsequent urban expan-
sion
15
. Work began in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and this became the place
where salt from the Torrevieja lagoon was loaded for shipment
16
. This singular example of
port engineering was in use up to 1958, when loading was transferred to the west breakwater.
Las Eras de la Sal was where the old salt loaders and storage areas (
las eras
) were located as
a regulating depot for the mounds of salt as they were piled up. The storage facilities filled up
at night with wagons brought by locomotives, and the salt was then loaded from the docks.
The two existing docks were built at different times: the first, to the west, was built from
1777 during the reign of Charles III; the second, known as the east dock, was built at the
beginning of the reign of Isabella II, between 1835 and 1841, with an investment of 36,000
copper
reales
. Finally, in the 1880s, a wooden structure was built on the east dock to increase
its loading capacity. This structure, popularly known as the “
caballete de madera
” (“wooden
trestle”), stood from 1898 to 1958, and included a railway that brought loaded wagons, from
where the salt was tipped down chutes onto barges, which then set off for the tanker ships
anchored in the bay. On the west dock metal wagons brought the salt from the depot and
loaded the barges using revolving dumpers. The complex also included an administrative
building, to the east of the smaller storage area. In 1795, the illustrious writer Montesinos
recorded the various destinations of salt from Torrevieja, as well as stating how the dock was
used by locals from Orihuela, Almoradí, Murcia and neighbouring areas to sell their wares,
attracted by the presence of European traders, particularly those from Italy.
In 1803 the king approved the plan for the new town that was growing as a result of the
flourishing salt trade, and it was given the name of Torrevieja. Initially the State was in con-
trol of the construction work, and in 1804 the necessary buildings for the administration and
rooms for salt workers were built, including a chapel. These initial buildings disappeared as
a result of the 1829 earthquake (Canales, 1995). The constant expansion of Torrevieja during
the eighteenth century meant that, in the early nineteenth century, the administration office
for the salt works was transferred from La Mata to Torrevieja. There were various reasons
for the move: better anchorage for boats, a greater yield from the Torrevieja lagoon and,
finally, the large investment required to repair the buildings at La Mata that had almost been
destroyed by an earthquake (Costa, 1981: 402). Torrevieja succeeded in separating from the
municipality of Orihuela, although its municipal boundaries were limited to just the built-up
15 Las Eras de la Sal and its docks were located next to where the tower stood that gave the town its name,
which was knocked down following damage sustained during the earthquake that hit the town in 1829.
16 In 1792, Cavanilles visited Torrevieja and witnessed the work being carried out at las Eras de la Sal:
“This [the quay] is almost in the centre of the inlet, and is a large construction ending in a small dock, all well
paved and clean: around the square there is a wall, into which they tip the salt from an upper level, having been
brought there in carts from the lagoon. The men loading the launches transport the salt to them from the square in
baskets, and I believe it would be more advantageous to the Royal Treasury if they used wheelbarrows.
(Cited by Esteban, 2000: 53).
320
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
area. Torrevieja remained this way until 1957 when the current demarcation of its municipal
territory was set out. The new town of Torrevieja did not escape the devastating effects of
the earthquakes that periodically hit the Levant area of Spain, and in 1829 it was comple-
tely razed to the ground
17
. The engineer Larramendi was put in charge of the reconstruction
project that same year, and he proposed that only the buildings needed to house salt workers
occurred earlier.
18
.
With the growth of Torrevieja’s salt industry, a new port was needed. From the middle of
the nineteenth century, this project became one of the most important economic aspirations
of the inhabitants of the Bajo Segura area, as a solution to the loading problems for salt pro-
duction and in order to introduce agricultural produce into the market, thus providing two
good reasons for the new port: the importance of the salt works and the agricultural wealth of
its area of influence (the Vega Baja del Segura) (Canales and Crespo, 1997: 73). The project
to build the new port suffered constant delays and setbacks, until it was finally completed in
the second half of the twentieth century
19
. The Port Law of 1880 did not include Torrevieja
among the ports considered of general interest, causing local protest which led to the port’s
inclusion in the 1882 list of works of general interest of second order. With this, the State
was now obliged to build the port itself. However, good intentions were not backed up by any
budgetary assignations whatsoever; to the contrary, the State’s financial insufficiency led to a
return, in 1888, to the policy of private concessions to try to strengthen infrastructures, such
as the Torrevieja port, that were awaiting investment. Following a series of failed attempts,
the State recovered administrative control, although this did not spell the beginning of cons-
truction work. The facilities that existed for the first decades of the twentieth century were
limited to the small general-purpose Minguer dock and another owned by the salt works for
its shipments. It was considered essential to build a main breakwater as the bay of Torrevieja
is open and boats could not remain there when the east winds blew too strongly. There were
further delays until, in the 1940s, the State decided that work should begin, which was com-
pleted in 1963. Up to that point, salt had been loaded using the docks at Las Eras de la Sal.
17 From 15 January to 15 June 1829 60 earthquakes were recorded in the area. The major earthquakes on 21
March devastated several towns, including Torrevieja, where 32 deaths and 67 injuries were recorded. Part of the
temple, a hermitage, two mills and 534 homes were destroyed.
18 Larramendi justified his recommendation of fewer buildings with the following arguments:
“The main purpose is the salt works; and the interests of the Royal Treasury seem to demand that no more
houses than necessary be built and exclusively for those people employed in this important service. The town had
become highly populated without there being land to farm or any industry, and neither is its situation advantageous
for legal trade. No other stimulus is known for people to establish themselves here if it is not for smuggling. It seems
to me, and R. Obispo is of the same opinion, that half the number of houses as before will suffice.
(Cited by Esteban, 2000: 53).
19 Thus several projects were carried out in the latter half of the nineteenth century. In 1860 a project was
drawn up by the engineer Agustín Elcoro and work began in 1862, but the contract was cancelled a year later. In
1868 another project was designed, this time by Antonio María Jándenes, which was never approved. Other attempts
also ended in failure. The only project that was actually undertaken, by Elcoro, was suspended due, it was claimed,
to a lack of available stone, although the real reason was because of hostility from the nearby ports of Cartagena and
Alicante, which felt threatened by the commercial importance that the Torrevieja port could acquire (Esteban, 2000:
54).
321
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
2.4. Stage of modernization of the salter exploitation
As the Torrevieja and La Mata lagoons were used for the extraction of salt, they were
fully controlled by the State, and this was established by the Mine Law of 1859. The State
leased them in 1897 to José Guardiola, and there followed a series of private leases, the last
of which was signed in 1959 to La Nueva Compañía Arrendataria de las Salinas de Torre-
vieja, S. A., for a period of 30 years, which was then extended to 2001 as a consequence of
the project known as El Pinós. This introduced a new system of extraction from the tradi-
tional methods of obtaining salt (Costa, 1981: 407). The methods at Torrevieja and La Mata
lagoons had evolved by adapting to the prevailing circumstances, which led to technological
innovations that greatly increased production. Salt has always been obtained by means of
crystallisation. Writing of the traditional methods at La Mata, Cavanilles described how the
product obtained was “a crust of salt at times as hard as marble itself, and the salt workers
use axes to break them into pieces, which are then taken by horse along tracks known as
caminales
to the depots and storage areas”. The salt was loaded onto the ships at a quay of
unknown age that gave La Mata dominance over Torrevieja (Box, 2004: 379).
Between 1841 and 1923 a number of innovations were introduced that lowered costs
and improved product quality
20
. The leasing company of the financier Salamanca (1841-46)
implemented improvements that would be completed and perfected later under State mana-
gement, establishing an extraction method that remained in place for more than half a cen-
tury. The salt began to be collected by small boats, and was washed to eliminate impurities.
Another great innovation was to ensure there was always a minimum amount of water in the
lagoon; in winter it would be filled to around 80 centimetres so that, as the water evaporated
over the months and the salt precipitated, by June or July the water would have sunk to a
depth of 30 centimetres with a sheet of salt five centimetres thick at the bottom. To extract
the salt, hooks called “
paletas
the salt, hooks called “paletasthe salt, hooks called “
” or pallets were used by specialised workers (“
volvedores
” or
turners) who tore out the fragments, which were collected by “
tiradores
” or throwers, who
loaded the salt pieces into the boats. A new, much cheaper transport system had been devised
flotation. Trains of boats were driven across the lagoon to the dykes or channels next to
the depots by boys using poles, where crews of “
llenadores
” or fillers would unload the salt
and pile it in mounds before breaking up the fragments. The salt at this point contained many
impurities (hence the name “red salt”), so was then washed using rakes and sieves in the
lagoon water to remove the sludge. Over time a few improvement were added to the system
up to 1922, but otherwise the process did not alter substantially. A floating cable was insta-
lled in the lagoon to help the boat trains ferry back and forth, a wooden dock was built for
loading the salt and a new railway transported loads from the storage area to the dock. Four
mechanical washers were installed at the dykes, where the salt was piled up into mounds at
the exit.
The lease to Unión Salinera de España in 1923 marked a milestone in the extraction of
20 For a detailed description of the changes introduced in salt activity, see Box (2004) and Costa (1981).
322
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
production capacity and improving working conditions. In 1928, the salt works at La Mata
(where a channel to the sea had been opened in 1907) were incorporated into the Torrevieja
production and the two lagoons were connected by means of a channel 2.5 kilometres long.
This allowed the Torrevieja lagoon to be fed with brine saturated in sodium chloride from
La Mata, which required a pumping station to be installed in 1928. The salt extraction pro-
cedure was also modernised, replacing manual extraction with machines that used a sloping
blade to cut out the fragments. The salt was then transported to a hopper, from where it was
loaded into the boats. This system was mounted on floating tanks and was moved around
by helmsmen using poles. By 1930 manual extraction had been completely replaced. With
mechanisation the harvest period was brought forward and shortened, thus avoiding the
catastrophic consequences the autumn storms had on harvests. The last major modifications
from this period, which lasted up to 1951, involved the building of the eastern breakwater,
which greatly improved loading conditions for the large ships.
When the Treasury opened the lease to tender in 1950, the intention was to make Torre-
vieja a modern and profitable establishment. To achieve this, it made the winning company
commit to an ambitious project of modernisation and industrialisation, with State help. In
1951 the winning bid was submitted by La Nueva Compañía Arrendataria de las Salinas de
Torrevieja, S. A. This firm was owned by Unión Salinera de España (the main shareholder,
with a 63.5 per cent stake), Salinera Española, Salinera Gaditana and Aprovechamientos
Salineros. The initial lease was for 30 years, which was later extended to 2001 as a result of
the Pinoso project. From 1951, therefore, a major process of modernisation began, including
improvements in the extraction process and transport both in and around the lagoon, insta-
lling electricity for all services, mechanising stockpiling process, changing the washing sys-
tem and installing a factory for by-products. The State, meanwhile, spent six years building
the west breakwater and loading dock, which were completed in 1958.
The growing needs of the Spanish national market for salt led the Treasury Ministry and
the lease-holding company to design a project to transfer salt lyes from the Cabezo de la Sal
in Pinoso to the Torrevieja lagoon so as to increase production capacity to a million tons.
However, at this time any plans to expand production areas for sea salt (the only kind to be
exported) was hampered by the volume of coastal land being developed for tourism, ruling
out any future expansion of sea salt facilities. Studies from 1967 indicated that the diapiric
outcrops at Pinoso were the most appropriate for transfer, for two reasons: they were relati-
vely close, at only 50 kilometres, and they contained a large reserve of rock salt – around 500
million tons. Furthermore, the Cabezo was belonged to the State, which had awarded licen-
ces for the extraction of the salt from the site since ancient times, albeit in a very rudimentary
way. The company at Torrevieja thus focused its interest on Pinoso, as it could provide high-
quality lyes for a long time, and it went about acquiring the appropriate licenses. The project
was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in 1970 and by 1972 the infrastructures were in
place (Costa, 1981: 409). The State provided 26 per cent of the funding and the remainder
came from the company. The method used now obtains brine by dissolution, pumping water
from wells drilled at la Partida del Rodriguillo (La Algueña) that provide a constant supply of
water which, due to its high salinity, could not be used for any other purpose. Once all impu-
rities are eliminated from the brine, it flows to a collector at the foot of the hill and into the
323
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
pipeline onto Torrevieja
21
. The pipeline pours the brine into the channel joining the Torrevieja
and La Mata lagoons, where sluice gates regulate the amount of lye required. In this way, the
saturation process is much quicker: whereas sea water has a salinity of around 30 grams per
litre, the Pinoso brines can reach 300 grams per litre, with an initial concentration of 21.5º
Bé, placing them nearer to saturation point than sea water (Costa, 1981: 410). The new pro-
cedure increased the collection period to eight months, as the precipitation and crystallisation
of the salt occurs much more quickly. Extraction, transport and dispatch are managed just as
they were previously
22
.
As regards the industrialisation process at the Torrevieja lagoons, until the beginning of
the twentieth century only unaltered coarse salt was extracted and sold. With the introduc-
tion of newer, more industrialised processes, using specialised equipment and new systems,
the salt could be transformed and sold in different ways and as different types. The current
milling plant dates from the 1930s and replaced another that had been built prior to 1920.
The new factory housed two types of mills: a steel Krupp mill that produced crushed salt
and horizontal stone mills that produced a much finer grain. In the mid-1960s, a factory was
opened to obtain dry salt for table use and which also produced other types of special salts,
containing different additives depending on their planned use. This factory was complemen-
ted by the existing packaging plants and the loading warehouse. In 1956, a further set of
buildings was built in the area surrounding the salt works for processing by-products. Howe-
ver, they closed in the 1960s as saturation of the Spanish market and pressure from Israeli
production from the Dead Sea made such products unviable.
As for trading, the Spanish national market is once again a priority, as salt trades at higher
prices here. However, as Spain produces more salt than it consumes, surplus production is
exported, albeit at a lower price. In recent years the United States has become a major des-
tination for Torrevieja salt, which is exported as return freight. The second largest importer
is Italy, which buys the salt to supply a Sardinian electrochemical company. Other countries
import Torrevieja salt in much smaller quantities, headed by Portugal, which uses the salt in
its fisheries industry, along with Iceland and Canada. Only a few African countries import
Torrevieja salt for domestic use.
To sum up, modernisation has transformed Torrevieja into Europe’s largest salt producer,
with production reaching up to a million tons per year (Box, 2004: 387)
23
. By including the
Cabezo de la Sal at Pinoso in the production system, the Torrevieja salt industry has become
a hybrid model that is unique in the world (Costa 1981: 407). The salt works have suffered a
group, Spain’s leading salt-producing company with operations in the Cabo de Gata nature
reserve in Almería, the Puerto de Santa María nature reserve in Cadiz and the Torrelavega
21 The pipeline is made from steel and lined with fibre cement. It has a diameter of 45 centimetres, runs for
52.7 kilometres and has a maximum load of 22 litres per second.
22 Traditionally, all the salt trade was carried out by sea, with only very small amounts transported by land,
mainly for national consumption. However, as land traffic increased, dispatch by road eventually took over from the
railway as the main form of salt transportation.
23 The average gross production of salt between 1990 and 2002 was 616 metric tons (Celdrán and Azorín,
2004: 115).
324
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
of the group’s production (Such, 2003: 51). In 1989 the Belgian multinational Solvay bought
la Unión Salinera de España, S.A. (the Unión Sal group), including the State’s share in the
Torrevieja salt works. After seven years of direct management and disappointing results, Sol-
vay sold its share to the French group Salins du Midi et de l’Est, which was later taken over
by the American multinational Morton Salt, which in turn was acquired by the North Ame-
rican multinational Rohm Haas. The Salins group has since bought the share of Rohm Haas,
which means that all the capital is now French-owned, making for one of the main producers
of salt in Europe, with operations in France, Spain and Italy. In 2003, La Nueva Compañía
Arrendataria de las Salinas de Torrevieja, of which Salins du Midi is the main shareholder,
registered a net profit of between five and ten per cent, of which the State paid 2.5 million
euros in royalties (Celdrán y Azorín, 2004: 109). The current leasing contract was signed
in 1987, renewed in 1990, and will end in 2019. The salt works currently face an uncertain
future, due to weaknesses that include the following: 1) The operation coexists alongside dis-
proportionate human pressure, with facilities clustered around the extraction sites themsel-
ves. 2) The irrigated fields around the salt works inject fresh water into the lagoons, affecting
their salinity. 3) Yields per surface unit are very low. 4) State ownership and the nature of a
leasing contract limit investment possibilities. 5) National and international competition is
very strong on the salt market, seriously threatening economic viability. These five problems
still exist despite the advantages offered by the Torrevieja operation such as: its high export
capacity, its location, the deep draught of its port, the high integration of the production cycle
in comparison with other rival operations, the highly technical infrastructure, which has
minimised costs and significantly increased productivity, and finally the guarantee of ongo-
ing production from the Pinoso-Torrevieja brine pipeline, which has reduced climatic risks to
a minimum (Such, 2003). Nevertheless, there is no doubt as to the value of maintaining ope-
rations at the Torrevieja-La Mata lagoons, as salt production guarantees the survival and via-
bility of the nature reserve and, consequently, priceless environmental and cultural heritage.
Thus, the lease-holder is obliged by a fixed clause in the contract to conserve the surface of
the lagoons, without any modifications; it must also respect all ecological and scenic values;
and it must collaborate with organised visits to the nature reserve (Such, 2003: 51). Salt pro-
duction has, therefore, been transformed from a more or less profitable economic operation
into an activity that is essential for the preservation of the nature reserve itself.
2.5. Tourist boom and sustainable development
Furthermore, the widely held conviction that conserving the environment is the best gua-
rantee for continued tourism has meant that some resort towns pay much greater attention to
the environment and its resources in their restructuring strategies. This stems from the crisis
in the late 1980s that affected well-established sun-and-beach Mediterranean resorts, expo-
sing the risk of undifferentiated, standardised tourism and the loss of competitiveness resul-
ting from ecological deterioration and increased public awareness about the environment.
Clearly, conservation of natural and cultural heritage needed to be improved, and there was
a need to maximise the tourism potential, in terms of tourism, of resources that were being
insufficiently or inappropriately managed. The emphasis was thus on making use of the land
325
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
as a resource and not just a device (Vera and Monfort, 1994: 35). This meant designing new
products to differentiate tourism in the area and provide new attractions alongside conventio-
nal sun-and-beach options (Vera, 1997: 104). Environmental and cultural resources needed to
be enhanced to promote new leisure practices and design more specific and original products.
The environment and related cultural elements in the leisure and tourism industry provide
interesting possibilities to meet current trends that are more demanding in terms of environ-
mental quality, contact with nature and motivational diversity (Buendía and Colino, 2001).
According to specialists, sun-and-beach resorts, which are aimed squarely at mass tourism,
are showing major signs of exhaustion (Such, 2003: 48-49). As a priority, it is therefore
essential to define a new model for the sustainable development of tourism and to undertake
actions aimed at incorporating certain elements into the tourism products on offer in order to
increase quality and diversity, contrary to the traditional practice of continued growth.
In this sense, there is great potential for a protected area formed by an endoreic depres-
sion, next to the coast and containing two lagoons stretching across Torrevieja, Guardamar
del Segura and Los Montesinos. These wetlands are one of the Region of Valencia’s protected
natural areas and are classified as a nature reserve, covering a total surface area of 3,754 hec-
tares: Torrevieja covers 1,400 and La Mata 700
24
. The map in figure 1 shows these areas. The
geographic singularity and ecological importance of the diverse flora and fauna found in and
around the two lagoons make the need to conserve these wetlands abundantly clear. The area
is an important habitat for more than a hundred species of birds that use the area as a place of
rest on their annual migrations or as wintering and nesting places. The most common birds
include the black-necked grebe, the flamingo, the shelduck and the Montagu’s harrier. No
less important is the vegetation that provides these birds with shelter, including hydrophilous
and halophilous plant life, the importance of which is recognised by the EU (DM97/62/CE).
This vegetation grows in highly visible groupings of reeds, rushes and salt marshes. Plants
that are endemic to the south-east of the Iberian Peninsula include the
limonium caesium
and
the
salsola genistoides
. Furthermore, the combination of water and vegetation make this a
place of great beauty. Of course, this is not a natural area in the strict sense of the term, as
humans have shaped the landscape since at least as far back as the Middle Ages, when the
Torrevieja lagoon was opened to the sea to be used for fishing. More importantly, both lago-
ons have been used as salt works, which is the factor that has most influenced in the shaping
of the area as we know it today and has also helped its survival, as the continued flooding
ensures the survival of the wetlands.
It has been pointed out that the two lagoons and the radius of land around each one are
State property and classed as heritage sites, and are therefore managed by the Cultural Heri-
tage Commission, which leases them to private companies to be used to extract salt, which
in turn are obliged to observe a number of conditions to preserve the ecological and scenic
values of the area. Traditionally, the salt operation has shared use of the lagoons with other
activities, such as hunting, particularly fishing (which is currently banned), farming and gra-
24 The two lagoons are located in Torrevieja and make up 28.25 per cent of its surface area. This figure
increases to 35 per cent if we include the land surrounding the lagoons which can hold water when levels rise, and it
can even be as high as 50.3 per cent when considering the whole nature reserve.
326
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
zing
25
. However, added to this is the strong human pressure exerted by the density of tourist
and residential growth that has taken place on the edge of the lagoons. This is the main nega-
tive impact that economic growth has brought to the area, and it has worsened considerably
dumping, vegetation is trampled and eliminated, fires are started, and so on. All this has put
huge pressure on the lagoons, and there is much dispute over the various uses made of them.
In a perverse marketing ploy, property developers use this landscape as a selling point; the
With the coastline itself now fully built up, the lagoons have become a desirable location
for property development, conflicting with the environmental and sustainable use of these
spaces.
Figure 3
MAP OF THE TORREVIEJA-LA MATA NATURE RESERVE
25 Traditional activities in and around the Torrevieja lagoons are salt extraction, hunting (banned by the
Master Plan for the Use and Management of the Nature Reserve), agriculture and grazing on the protected land
circling the lagoons.
327
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
Tourism in Torrevieja has up to now been mainly what is classed as “intensive vacational”,
the result of permissive town planning in favour of property development
26
. This includes
high-capacity residential tourist establishments that take over and dominate large portions of
the landscape with disperse actions, contributing to its deterioration, high infrastructure costs
and a squandering of natural resources. The residential component itself therefore becomes a
defining element of a tourist development model that is based on the continuous construction
of tourist properties, which is clearly incompatible with environmental quality, respect for
natural heritage and the preservation of resources, due to their over-exploitation and the asso-
ciated environmental problems (noise, visual pollution, beach erosion, alteration and destruc-
tion of natural habitats, generation of waste, etc.). This model also exerts serious pressure of
use due to the growth in population, which increases six fold during the summer season, from
100,000 to 600,000 people. Along the 14 kilometres of Torrevieja’s coastline, only three
the magnitude of the town’s land occupation. Aside from this aspect, tourism in Torrevieja
is not dynamic in economic terms. The strategy used up to now requires a profound rethink,
and a new model established to attract tourists not only with greater purchasing power but
also with greater environmental awareness. In short, it is a question of improving the envi-
ronmental quality of the whole town and its image as a resort, by producing new options for
tourists based on the recovery and sustainable management of the public use of natural areas,
whereby conservation and tourism are mutually compatible (Such, 2003: 53).
The protected area of the Torrevieja-La Mata nature reserve lies right on the border of
systems. Despite such protection, it has clearly not been enough to safeguard the values of
these wetlands. The Torrevieja-La Mata lagoons were added to the Region of Valencia’s
protected natural areas in 1988, when they were declared a “natural site” (Law 5/1988, 24
June, on Natural Sites of the Region of Valencia). As well as being classed a Natural Protec-
ted Area, the lagoons were also included in the Catalogue of Wetlands, bringing additional
protective measures. Furthermore, the wetlands were granted maximum protection for their
high ecological value by the World Wildlife Fund. The lagoons are also classed as Wetlands
of International Importance (Ramsar Convention, 1971) and as Special Protection Areas for
Birds (DM 79/409/CE on Wild Birds). They have been included in the Nature 200 Network,
following proposals to be considered Areas of Community Interest by the Regional Valen-
cian Government (DM 92/43/CE on Natural Habitats and Wild Flora and Fauna). Law 11/94
on Natural Protected Areas, which establishes the type of protection to apply to such areas,
ruled that permitted activities should include the traditional uses of farming, cattle rearing
and forestry, as well as production systems that are compatible with the very reasons the
areas were given protection in the first place. The programme envisages the establishment of
itineraries and areas adapted or improved for use by naturalists, the creation of a reception
and information centre, and a programme of visits and information campaigns. Plans have
also been made to use these areas for environmentally aware leisure activities. All uses are
26 The occupation process began in the 1960s, when under the auspices of funding for town planning the first
developments were built on the edge of the Torrevieja lagoon, a situation helped by the (very large) existing farm
property and the low price of the land (Vera, 1987: 360).
328
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
to be geared towards scientific activities and nature conservation and interpretation, to make
these uses compatible with other recreational or naturalist activities that pose no risk of envi-
ronmental degradation and which involve only a passive use of the area, such as controlled
walking or hiking. The declaration as a protected area included establishing a 500-metre pro-
tection zone around the perimeter of the lagoons, but classification as a nature reserve has not
and population pressure on the area. These actions have even led to vegetation being ploug-
hed up and replaced by buildings or roads up to the very boundary of the reserve, making the
protection perimeter effectively redundant as an impact buffer zone.
Similarly, the Management Plan and Public Use Project for the La Mata and Torrevieja
Lagoons Nature Reserve (PGOU) is, along with the project to recover Las Eras de la Sal,
the most emblematic part of the Integral Plan for Quality in Spanish Tourism (PICTE 2000).
This plan focuses on the role of local authorities and on sustainable development, generating
plans of excellence to recover and regenerate well-established or consolidated resorts by
diversifying and enhancing tourist options. The PGOU focuses environmental protection
on two areas: the north coast and the perimeter of the lagoons, where prescriptive plans are
required to maintain or regenerate the natural ecosystem without affecting visitor access and
enjoyment. The recommended protection measures for the lagoons include bringing a halt to
all building work in the adjoining areas, imposing a strict control on poaching, and repopu-
lating the area with autochthonous species. To date only the poaching has been successfully
controlled. In the future, co-ordination is needed between authorities to agree on political
actions affecting the area, specifically those relating to urban development and nature conser-
vation in order to prevent the lagoons from being exploited by property developers who may
wish to use the protected area and the existence of the natural park as an extra selling point
for properties, as this would only mean greater urban pressure on the area.
As regards Las Eras de la Sal, due to the inauguration of the west breakwater in 1958
in the Torrevieja port, this plant was closed and left to deteriorate, particularly around the
docks. However, this area did retain a seasonal function with the largest and oldest silo being
converted into an auditorium for the International Competition of Habaneras Songs, as well
as for other cultural events. In 1997, the docks were given over to the Torrevieja Town Coun-
cil, which designed a project to turn these facilities, now part of Torrevieja’s city centre, into
a cultural space that will house the future Sea and Salt Museum, an auditorium and a pro-
menade-viewpoint, among other possible open-air uses. This project initially led to recovery
work on the buildings at Las Eras de la Sal where the main aim was to restore the docks and
rebuild the wooden loading bay and the eastern quay’s loading chute, installing steps up to
the top of the structure in order to create an excellent scenic vantage point. This work has
provided the town with one of its most singular features by respectfully combining the area’s
historical features with cultural and environmental recovery. A key element of Torrevieja’s
history has thus been successfully reclaimed, as a symbol of the activity that gave birth to the
town. An activity which is still an integral part of Torrevieja’s urban, port and maritime envi-
ronment, within the context of the morphological and functional restructuring of the town’s
sea front and, consequently, the urban-tourism renovation process.
Another improvement regarding the public use of the lagoons is the refurbishment of the
former railway station at Torrevieja as an interpretation centre, breathing new life into pre-
329
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
viously abandoned facilities. The Torrevieja-Albatera railway was opened in 1884 to trans-
port salt freight, and in 1898 a rail road was built linking the Torrevieja-Albatera line to the
railway station was operative until 1964 and covered 30,000 square metres and is now part
of Torrevieja’s Plan for Excellence in Tourism, which means that it can be used as cultural
heritage. Once restored, the station was converted into a multi-purpose cultural centre which
may also be combined with other initiatives that promote the public use of areas related to the
salt works. Given its proximity, this centre could therefore be integrated with
el Acequión
,
creating a link with the green cycle route along the disused railway tracks.
III. CONCLUSION
To conclude, there is no doubt that all the area’s natural and cultural heritage referred to
here should play an important role in the future of Torrevieja. It is a question of strengthening
a high-quality environmentally-friendly tourism product, which helps people to discover
and interpret cultural heritage and promotes environmental education, along the lines of
the European Charter on Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas (EUROPAC 1998). Until
recently, the lagoons surrounded the town; today it is the town that surrounds the lagoons.
Torrevieja’s economic dynamism and the growth it has experienced over the past decades set
a real challenge for the immediate future: how to integrate the environmental values of the
nature reserve with the ongoing development of the town’s tourism industry, in a way that
both come out stronger as a result. Until now, Torrevieja has lived with its back to its own
Figure 4
AEREAL VIEW OF TORREVIEJA AND LA MATA LAGOONS
330
Joaquín Melgarejo Moreno y Mª Inmaculada López Ortiz
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
nature reserve. Now, these two areas need each other: on the one hand, the lagoons require
the protection of the local and regional authorities so as not to succumb to the urban expan-
and thus strengthen its identity. Any irreversible alteration to the protected area would cause
emotional, cultural and economic losses with serious repercussions.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
AZQUETA, D. (2002):
Introducción a la economía ambiental
. McGraw Hill. Madrid.
BOX AMORÓS, M. (2004):
Humedales y áreas lacustres de la provincia de Alicante
. Uni-
versidad de Alicante.
BUENDÍA AZORÍN, J. D. & COLINO SUEIRAS, J. (Eds.) (2001):
Turismo y Medio
Ambiente
. Civitas. Madrid.
CANALES MARTINEZ, G. (Dir.) (1995):
La catástrofe sísmica de 1829 y sus
repercusio-
nes.
Diputación de Alicante. Murcia.
CANALES, G. & CRESPO, F. (1997): “El puerto de Torrevieja: Gestación y desarrollo de
un largo proyecto para la comercialización de la sal”,
Investigaciones Geográficas
, no.17,
pp.69-88.
CAVANILLES, A. J. (1981):
Observaciones sobre la historia natural, geografía, agricul-
tura, población y frutos del Reyno de Valencia
. 2nd ed.
CELDRÁN BERNABÉU, M. A. & AZORÍN MOLINA, C. (2004): “La explotación indus-
trial de las salinas de Torrevieja (Alicante)”,
Investigaciones Geográficas
, no. 35, pp.
105-132.
CLAVARANA, A. (1880):
Apuntes sobre los amojonamientos de la Redonda de las salinas
de Torrevieja
. Imp. de Cornelio Payá. Orihuela.
COSTA MAS, J. (1981): “El mayor complejo salinero de Europa: Torrevieja-El Pinós”, in
Revista Estudios Geográficos
, no. 165, pp. 397-430.
ESTEBAN CHAPAPRÍA, V. (2000): “El embarque de sal en el puerto de Torrevieja. Las
Eras de la Sal”, in
Revista de Obras Públicas
, no. 3.404, pp. 49-60.
GARCÍA MENÁRGEZ, A.: “El embarcadero romano de La Mata (Torrevieja, Alicante)”,
Alebus, Cuadernos de Estudios Históricos de Elda y Valles del Vinalopó,
no. 1, Elda.
HINOJOSA MONTALVO, J. R. (1992): “Los Santángel en tierras alicantinas”, in
Actas del
Congreso Lluís de Santángel i la seva época
. Valencia.
HINOJOSA MONTALVO, J. R. (1993): “Las salinas del mediodía alicantino a fines de la
Edad Media”, in
Investigaciones Geográficas
, no. 11, pp. 279-292.
IGLESIA FERREIROS, A. (1980): “Alfonso X El Sabio y su obra legislativa”, in
Anuario de
Historia del Derecho Español
, no. 50, pp. 531-561.
LÓPEZ ORTIZ, M. I. & MELGAREJO, J. (1997): “El embalse de La Mata o la ambición de
regular al completo la cuenca del Segura”,
Alquibla
, no. 2.
MARTÍNEZ LÓPEZ, C. (1998):
Las salinas de Torrevieja y La Mata:
Un estudio histórico a
través de sus recursos naturales, industriales y humanos
. Torrevieja.
MARTÍNEZ MARINA, F. (1834):
Ensayo histórico-crítico sobre la legislación y principales
cuerpos legales de los reinos de León y Castilla, especialmente sobre el Código de Las
Siete Partidas
. Imp. D. E. Aguado. Madrid.
331
From industrial activity. To cultural and environmental heritage: The Torrevieja and La Mata Lagoons (Alicante)
Boletín de la A.G.E. N.º 47 - 2008
PEARCE, D. W. & TURNER, R. K. (1995):
Economía de los recursos naturales y medioam-
biente
. Colegio de Economistas de Madrid. Celeste Ediciones. Madrid.
ROSELLÓ VERGER, V. M. (1981): “Albuferas mediterráneas”, in
Actas de la V Reunión del
Grupo Español de Trabajo del Cuaternario
. Sevilla.
SALVADOR ESTEBAN, E. (1982): “La comercialización de la sal en el reino de Valencia
durante la época moderna”, in
Homenaje al Dr. Juan Peset Aleixandre
. Universidad de
Valencia. Vol. III, pp. 517-540.
SERRANO Y SANZ, M. (1991):
Los amigos y protectores aragoneses de Cristóbal Colón
.
Ed. Riopiedras. Barcelona.
SUCH CLIMENT, M. P. (2003): “Ordenación del uso público de un espacio natural prote-
gido en un destino turístico de masas: Las lagunas de Torrevieja y La Mata”,
Investiga-
ciones Geográficas,
no. 30, pp. 47-75.
VERA REBOLLO, J. F. (1987) :
Turismo y urbanización en el litoral alicantino.
Instituto de
Cultura Juan Gil-Albert, Alicante.
VERA REBOLLO, J. F. & MONFORT MIR, V. (1994): “Agotamiento de modelos turísticos
clásicos. Una estrategia para la cualificación: La experiencia de la Comunidad Valen-
ciana”,
Estudios Turísticos
, no. 23, pp. 17-45.
VERA REBOLLO, J. F. (Coord.)(1997):
Análisis Territorial del Turismo,
Ariel Geografía.
Barcelona.
VILAR, J. B. (1977):
Los siglos XIV y XV en Orihuela
. CAAM. Murcia.
VILAR, J. B. (1981): “Orihuela, una ciudad valenciana en la España moderna”, en
Historia
de la ciudad y obispado de Orihuela
. Tome IV, Vol. 2. Patronato Ángel García Rogel.
CAAM.
... Beyond the environmental value of these treats, the cultural and scenic value of the coastal lagoons is recognized by the citizens of the surrounding area [38]. First of all, by the fishing exploitation of local communities since historical times [10,39], and also the scenery of the water from the shore, in conjunction with the visualization of the environment, makes it highly appreciated, not only for the richness in species, but also for the visualization of the sunrise or sunset. ...
... However, for Steinberg [37], the system was already in use about 4500 years ago in Denmark (Figure 7d). Beyond the environmental value of these treats, the cultural and scenic value of the coastal lagoons is recognized by the citizens of the surrounding area [38]. First of all, by the fishing exploitation of local communities since historical times [10,39], and also the scenery of the water from the shore, in conjunction with the visualization of the environment, makes it highly appreciated, not only for the richness in species, but also for the visualization of the sunrise or sunset. ...
Article
Full-text available
Coastal lagoons are an established priority habitat in the European environment because of the biological communities that inhabit them. Their origin is related to the transport of sediments from a nearby river or the movement of sands by the marine currents that produce the closure of a gulf. Therefore, they are recent geological formations, which also disappear quickly if environmental conditions change. The 37 coastal lagoons with a surface area greater than 10 km2 located in the Mediterranean basin have been identified. Fishing has been the traditional use of these lagoons, in addition to their use as a navigation harbor when they are open to the sea. Pollution, quality problems and their consequences are the most studied topics in recent publications. Sentinel-2 images taken in the summer of 2020 have been used to study water transparency, suspended matter and chlorophyll a concentration. The result was that only six of them are in good ecological condition, but most of them are eutrophic due to the impacts on their environment and the inflow of poor quality water. The cultural values of these lagoons must also be protected and preserved.
Chapter
Although industrial heritage tourism (or industrial tourism) is not a new phenomenon, it has acquired increasing importance as part of the cultural offering presented by a growing number of destinations. In fact, it can be a source of profitable differentiation for them, taking advantage of particular past and present industrial resources to generate potentially distinctive and memorable experiences. These resources are part of a destination’s culture, a feature of what the particular locality was, is and, perhaps, will be. A number of successful cases around the globe demonstrate the benefits of exploiting this potential, and, where people are poorly informed about the industrial past and the processes involved, there is a great opportunity to arouse their curiosity and encourage them to visit such places.
Article
Full-text available
Este artículo se enmarca en el tema de las relaciones entre turismo y medio ambiente, en el contexto de las estrategias de renovación-reestructuración planteadas en un destino turístico consolidado como es el municipio de Torrevieja, principal núcleo turístico de la zona suralicantina y uno de los más importantes de la Comunidad Valenciana. En particular, se exponen algunas de las iniciativas promovidas por la administración local, en relación con la ordenación del uso público del Parque Natural de las Lagunas de Torrevieja y La Mata. A propósito de este ejemplo, se previene acerca de la necesidad de adoptar criterios más amplios de ordenación territorial, respecto a un mejor aprovechamiento de las oportunidades que ofrecen los espacios naturales protegidos, en la cualificación de la oferta turística.
Article
Full-text available
La explotación salinera de Torrevieja ha experimentado un profundo cambio en su estructura empresarial y ampliación de los mercados de comercialización desde su creación en 1802 a la actualidad, con beneficio económico y social para su población. El presente trabajo de investigación tiene como propósito establecer una aproximación sistemática acerca de las características principales de la explotación industrial de las Salinas de Torrevieja (NCAST, S.A.). El criterio geográfico integra en este artículo un enfoque cualitativo y cuantitativo y enfatiza sus contenidos principales, entre otros, hacia el análisis de la evolución y situación actual del sector salinero, evaluación de los principales mercados y estudio de las fluctuaciones en la producción bruta de sal en función del comportamiento de determinados elementos meteorológicos. Since its beginnings in 1802, salt mining in Torrevieja has changed drastically as regards its managerial structure and the expansion of its markets, which has encouraged both social and economic growth in that region. This project aim is to make a systematic approximation about the main characteristics of the industrial exploitation of the Torrevieja salt mines (NCAST, S.A.). The geographical criteria in this work has both a quantitative and qualitative approach and remarks its contents through the analysis of the evolution and current situation of the saltworks, evaluation of the principal markets and an study of the fluctuations in the gross production of salt depending on the behaviour of several meteorological elements.
Article
Full-text available
Valencian salt, which during the Middle Ages was considered a royal prerogative, was principally found in the salt flats along the southern cost of Alicante, especially in the area known as La Mata. The leasing of the rights to exploit these flats was an important source of income for the Bailia of Orihuela, and the Santangel family was one of the most important leaseholders. The exportation of Valencian salt to Italian ports was clearly monopolized by the Genoese.
Article
Full-text available
El proyecto de construcción de un puerto en la rada de Torrevieja ha constituido, desde mediados del siglo XIX, una de las aspiraciones económicas más importantes de los habitantes del Bajo Segura. Desde los primeros planteamientos se vio en esta dota- ción la solución a los problemas de infraestructura para el embarque de la importante producción de sal de las lagunas cercanas a la localidad. Además, la comarca aspiraba a contar con un centro de conexión marítimo internacional para dar salida a las distintas cosechas agrícolas de su espacio de huerta. Estos dos factores fueron determinantes para mantener vivo el proyecto del puerto, a pesar de las constantes demoras y aplazamientos de su ejecución. No sería hasta bien entrado el siglo XX cuando se vieron cumplidas estas pretensiones debido al empuje que mantuvo el comercio de la sal.
Article
Sumario: El desarrollo histórico de la economía del medio ambiente -- La economía circular -- La economía sustentable -- El nivel óptimo de la contaminación -- El logro de la contaminación óptima a través del mercado -- Tributación y contaminación óptima -- Estándares ambientales, impuestos y subvenciones -- Permisos de contaminación negociables -- Medición del daño ambiental (El valor económico total. Metodologías de valoración) -- Políticas de control de la contaminación en economías mixtas -- Políticas de control de la contaminación en economías de planificación centralizada -- Políticas frente a la contaminación global -- El descuento del futuro -- La etica ambiental -- Los recursos renovables -- La extinción de especies -- Los recursos no renovables -- Cómo cuantificar y cómo mitigar la escasez de recursos naturales -- Desarrollo, preservación y conservación -- Un estudio de caso: las zonas húmedas -- El medio ambiente y los países en desarrollo
Dir.) (1995): La catástrofe sísmica de 1829 y sus repercusiones
  • G Canales Martinez
CANALES MARTINEZ, G. (Dir.) (1995): La catástrofe sísmica de 1829 y sus repercusiones. Diputación de Alicante. Murcia.