Pedro Zaragoza

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Pedro Zaragoza Orts (May 15, 1922 – April 1, 2008) was the mayor of Benidorm from 1950 to 1967. He is credited with helping turn the town into one of the most popular holiday resorts in Spain.


Pedro Zaragoza was born on May 15, 1922, the son of a merchant sea captain. He worked in phosphate mines in western Spain and as a railway porter in Madrid before returning to Benidorm, when in his late twenties, on the death of his father. His appointment as mayor soon followed.

Having arranged for water to be pumped to Benidorm from 10 miles distant to service the village, Zaragoza set about encouraging package tour operators who could fly planeloads of tourists to Spain. Initially he contacted airlines in Germany and Scandinavia, and came up with the less than snappy slogan "sun and beach" to attract visitors from northern Europe.

It was primarily the British who responded, and the women brought with them the bikini, leading to the most celebrated episode in Zaragoza's career as mayor. He had seen the two-piece swimming costumes in magazines, and knew that - in northern Europe - they were considered unremarkable. In Spain, however, they were banned by General Franco's regime.

In 1953 - on the principle that "you couldn't stop it" - Zaragoza authorised the wearing of bikinis at Benidorm. No one in the country had attempted this, and there was uproar. As members of the Civil Guard scuffled with scantily-clad girls on Benidorm's beaches, the local archbishop threatened to excommunicate Zaragoza, who decided to appeal directly to Franco.

At 6am one morning he set off for Madrid on his Vespa motor scooter, arriving in the Spanish capital eight hours later. "I changed my shirt but I went in to the General with my trousers spattered with motor oil", he later claimed. "He backed me, and the bikini stayed."

After retiring from his post as mayor, Pedro Zaragoza became a director of a number of Spanish companies. He was president of Alicante council, and also worked for the Ministry of Information in Madrid. He was civil governor of Guadalajara, and a member of parliament.