Explore the ancient link between Motril and the production of sugar cane. It is a process that is now abandoned but that was the economic engine of the town for many centuries.
The Museum of Preindustrial Sugar Cane focuses on the preindustrial era, when the extraction of molasses was a difficult process and required highly skilled workers. It uses the raw material, sugarcane, as the link; the museum explains the shape of the landscape of the area, how sugar mills worked, and offers an insight into the crops and how sugar was harvested and processed.
On display is an impressive array of preindustrial factory parts together with archaeological remains found in the restored Casa de la Palma. Of particular note are the enormous presses.
Sugarcane was one of the most important preindustrial manufacturing activities in the Muslim period, and it was carried out all across the Mediterranean and was later taken to America. This essentially Mediterranean activity is not practised here any more, and instead has become the characteristic “flavour” of the American Caribbean.
As a legacy of this history, Motril still makes excellent rum.
1200 years of history
The Costa Tropical’s link with sugar cane dates back to the 10th century. The reason why sugarcane grew so well in this area was because of the excellent soil conditions of the Guadalfeo Valley. In the 17th century it was a true monoculture. Sugarcane cultivation travelled from here to the Canary Islands and later on to America, where now the root is an integral part of Caribbean culture.
Throughout the modern age the local economy revolved around the cultivation and processing of sugar cane. It demanded large amounts of manpower and generated significant profits for mills owners, landlords, the Catholic Church and the Royal Treasury.
From the 1860s onwards, seven sugar refineries were set up in Motril, each equipped with industrial technology. These were largely financed by capital from local oligarchs, a new phenomenon for the area, which had hitherto been free from industrialisation.
From 1900 onwards, sugarcane became less popular, with sugar beet taking its place, which has wiped out the industry entirely, with only a very few remaining to this day.