When we think of taking a walk in Torrevieja it’s easy to imagine the sea beside us, the sand beneath our feet and the sea breeze caressing our face. For many people, the Costa Blanca is the promised land, a special place in which to find themselves and discover new beginnings.
This may be true, but there is more to those leisurely walks through the beautiful, natural landscapes of Torrevieja. Whilst taking our stroll we are also walking through some of the most important territory in the history of the Mediterranean. An area that can even be linked to the discovery of America.
Who hasn’t walked, at least once, along the beaches of La Mata, its choppy waters reminding us of the strength of the elements. But not even the force of the sea can erase the remnants of the Roman infrastructure, dated from the 1st century B.C., that you can still see emerging from the same sea they used to refer as “Mare Nostrum”, our sea.
At the end of the Avenida de la Sal, next to the salt water channel that flows into the sea, are the remains of a Roman wall. If you don’t pay attention, It can be mistaken for just rocks but was, in fact, a Roman pier and part of the salt trade centuries ago. The Romans, Phoenicians and Carthaginians exchanged their goods for salt, an important product which was used for the preservation of many types of food.
Centuries later and salt continued to dominate. Visiting the salt lakes you can be mesmerised by the calm waters and beautiful pink and blue hues. They seem quite out of step with anything revolutionary. But things are not always that simple. In the 15th century the salt from these same marshes in la Mata was a key product in European trade routes.
This natural resource was exploited by the rich Santángel family who were wealthy merchants and close friends of the royal family. In 1491 the Catholic monarchs were looking for financial backing to pay for Christopher Columbus ‘ voyages to the Indies. The Santángel family provided part of the money that would pay for an expedition in 1492. This voyage culminated in the discovery of a new continent by Europe: America. We’ll never know how much of that expedition was financed by the salt industry, but we can be sure that it had a significant role to play.
So, during your peaceful strolls through the Torrevejense landscape you are making a journey that spans history and time. One whose fortune has been guided by salt and that reminds us that there is a story behind everything and that the story continues to be written.