Paper Mill Beach, Maro, Costa Del Sol, Spain: A History of Warfare, Smuggling and Paper Making Along the Coast
At the far eastern end of the Costa del Sol there are many rocky, secluded beaches and coves; One such beach is found near the coastal resort of Nerja; the beach is large and sandy and the Rio de la Miel and the Arroyo de los Colmenarejos (Colmenarejos Stream) flow into it. In the past the local people have often been poor with significant resulting health problems: In 1770 a paper mill, using the power provided by the Rio de la Miel, was built by a local aristocrat, which provided some employment for local people. For many centuries the beach has been used for smuggling and the tradition persists into the 21st century.
The beach can be found about 4 kilometers east of Nerja on the eastern Costa del Sol. Access is gained by taking a right-hand turning about 300 meters past kilometer 298 on the N-340; there should be no problem in parking. This track descends a steep slope onto the old coast road which you must follow until reaching the Molino de Papel, where you turn to the right and go down to the beach. From the N-340 the distance is less than 1 km.
The Paper Mill – El Molino Del Papel
The Mill used to be a paper factory known locally as El Molino de Papel (The Paper Mill), where rag or cotton cloth was used to make the paper. It was built at the end of the 18th century by Manuel Centurión Guerrero de Torres (born in nearby Nerja) who was Governor General of the overseas province of Guyana in South America in the reign of King Carlos III. Some of the paper produced here was sent to be used at the playing card factory owned by the Gálvez family in Macharaviaya, near Malaga. This factory was allowed the monopoly of the export of playing cards throughout the Spanish Empire. The paper mill was in operation from the end of the 18th century until the middle of the 19th century and is currently owned by Azucarera Larios (Larios Sugar Mill). In recent years there have been plans to turn the building into an environmental awareness centre or a series of craft workshops, but currently the buildings are used as a dwelling and are partly derelict.
Smuggling in World War Two
In 1943 the Allies began to transport Spanish Republican resistance fighters from their training bases in Northern Africa to Southern Spain and the rocky coves along the coastline from Nerja to Almunecar provided ideal, secluded landing places. The Miel valley was often known as “Little Russia” as a result of the communist sympathies of the inhabitants, and the anti-government guerillas were often protected by local people; one of these was Antonio Urbano Muñoz. He lived near the beach and concealed weapons in the watchtower built in the 16th century; it can still be seen but is just about to collapse into the sea. In 1944 Franco’s forces discovered huge caches of arms, ammunition and radios in the area and arrested large numbers of fighters and suspected sympathisers, one of which was a descendant of the Centurión family. The paper mill was used by the Guardia Civil as a lookout post and as a base for interrogating people suspected of sympathising with the guerrillas.
Modern Day Smuggling
The Guardia Civil still regularly patrol this area, as in recent years there has been evidence of people being smuggled from North Africa, and of this beach and others nearby being used as landing places. In recent times drug smugglers, using high speed boats, still try to bring their cargoes on to the Paper Mill beach.
Although the Paper Mill beach is now a quiet, secluded place, the pleasant surroundings not only belie a dramatic and often violent past, but the beach is still used by some for illegal purposes.