Cristóbal García Granados
Cristóbal García Granados is the Mayor of Arboleas in Almeria, just a short drive from Spain Buddy Heights. Living so close to Arboleas, we often hear about activity within the town and how the infrastructure is being improved on a regular basis. Alan recently went to spend some time with Cristóbal and the government team at Arboleas town hall to find out more about the man, the team alongside him and the town itself. Enjoy!
Cristóbal is a young at heart 60-year-old and is happily married with three children – two girls and a boy. Cristóbal’s wife runs the town’s pharmacy and is well known in the area for her regular involvement with local charities.
Cristóbal was born just seven kilometres from Arboleas in a cortijo (farmhouse). Back then there was only a rambla (dried river bed). There was no road, no water, no electricity and no telephone. Wanting to explore more from life, Cristóbal headed off to university to study engineering but he knew that he wanted to use that knowledge to benefit his home town and remedy their problems, bringing Arboleas into the modern age. His ambition was to provide services to the town and improve living standards through the provision of infrastructure and prosperity.
Cristóbal could have moved away and made his fortune in the large cities but he chose to help his home town instead, which gives you a good idea of the kind of man he is.
Being mayor of Arboleas is a full-time job for Cristóbal – in and out of office hours – but he balances this with the support of his family. He was the mayor of Arboleas from 1985 to 2003 and then again from 2011 until now.
During Cristóbal’s early years, the government team improved the town’s infrastructure, roads, water, and electric supply, and added the first industrial area to encourage business in the town. He also watched the town evolving as many Spanish left while foreign citizens came in. He has worked with these to revitalise the town. Arboleas is made up of 33 per cent Spanish and a whopping 67 per cent foreigners, predominantly European. There are also three British councillors at the town hall who work closely with the community, Roger Done, Michael Page and Danny Daniel.
Among recent improvements around the municipality, the recent team has placed a lot of focus on regularizing properties. In 2012 there were 3000 properties outstanding. Less than three years later and that figure is down to 300. The team are hoping that figure will be down to zero before the next election, no mean feat.
When asked what his biggest frustration was, Cristóbal said he didn’t have one. He added: “I don’t let things get to me. Every problem is an opportunity. But when we do encounter potential problems we’ll just look for the solution.”
Cristóbal is fiercely proud and grateful for the incredible support he gets from his family, and when he refers to family he speaks of the entire town, not just his relatives. He has massive pride in the achievements of the town hall and Arboleas’ residents in making Arboleas what it is today.
One of the town hall’s projects has been the provision of internet to the residents. The need was established because of regular problems with ISDN. The town was stuck on the fringes of other providers. So the town hall decided to take matters into their own hands and start their own Internet service. Currently it has 800 users and is run as a non-profit. Any customer payments take care of staff, equipment and improvements in service.
Currently, the town is installing its fourth water treatment plant, this time in the Los Higuerales district, Close to Rambla del Peral. Avenida Higuerales is also to be refurbished with new pavements and surfaces, cycle path, street lighting, trees and drainage.
Future plans for the town are varied and plentiful. In addition to the completion of the health centre which previously hit problems, the regularisation of the homes continues. Job creation is a priority and there are plans for a new home help service staffed by Arboleas residents.
It is easy to forget that there are still some good guys in the political world – but just a short time spent with Cristóbal and you know they still exist.
Arboleas is a small town nestled inland in Almeria’s Almanzora Valley. The town is a picture postcard dream with whitewashed buildings, bursts of floral colour and a sprinkling of great places to eat and drink as well as its own museum, Museo Pedro Gilabert, a regular spot for visitors… not only to view Pedro Gilabert Gallegos’ work but also for different exhibitions.
As soon as you enter the town you know that you are somewhere special as the modern infrastructure blends with the historic buildings. Arboleas is predominantly residential, but it is a lovely place to visit and grab a bite to eat.
Just outside the town, and en route to Albox, are a number of industrial units with everything from storage to bowling to building supplies.
The regularisation of properties makes this town stand out in the area, and is a good place to start if you are seeking a home in the sun, encased within rural Spain but with a healthy expat community to help you settle into your new life. There are plenty of clubs and communities in the local area so you will always find something to do.
by Elle Draper
Elle, along with Alan, is the owner of Spain Buddy and the busy web design business – Gandy-Draper. Born a “Norverner”, she then spent most of her life “Dann Saff” before moving to Spain in 2006. Elle’s loves are Alan, the internet, their three bouncing dogs, good food, and dry white wine – although not necessarily in that order.