A new documentary explores one man’s wildly successful plans for a tourist paradise in 1950s Spain
He turned a small, sleepy fishing village on the Valencian coast into a hotspot for hordes of tourists seeking fun in the sun. Pedro Zaragoza, the mayor of Benidorm from 1951 to 1967, was an intelligent, overpowering figure who was fond of excess. And it was he who designed a city for the middle-class tourist revolution that was about to sweep the European continent.
A documentary now explores his legacy, underscoring his achievements and evidencing the falsehoods behind some of the urban legends that Zaragoza himself liked to fuel.
Zaragoza was friends with the family of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco; the dictator’s wife, Carmen Polo, even stayed at his house. But long before that, he had wisely deduced that Spain’s need for foreign investment would lead the regime to open up to tourism, despite the threat of outside influence on the straitlaced Spanish society.