In a section of Málaga, Spain, nowadays almost devoid of tourists -- the sorts of places I always seek out -- there is a small park in a square, just less than a typical city block in size, along Calle1 Victoria, about 8 blocks north of the much more famous Plaza de la Merced. There are a few statues, far more trees than a typical Málaga park, some benches, flowers, graffiti, and a few broken streetlights. There is no evidence of its history, no sign announcing its significance, and nothing to tell you that this park, officially, "La Plaza de la Victoria", (Victory Plaza), is the namesake of a main north-south boulevard, Calle Victoria, (Victory Street).
What's more, hardly anyone refers to the Plaza by its official name anyway, because most people confuse the name of the garden inside the Plaza with the name of the Plaza itself. The "victory" to which Victory Plaza refers is the victory of Christian troops during the Crusades2 over the Moors that ruled Andalucia for so many hundreds of years. But the garden contained in the Plaza is called El Jardín de los Monos; "The Garden of Monkeys", so the Plaza usually ends up being called "La Plaza de los Monos", (Monkey Plaza). And almost nobody can explain why. They just call it that. But I just had to know, so I investigated, and so, before the legend dies, I node it here.
Only older Malagueños will remember that the early 1960's marked the beginning of a tourist boom along the Costa del Sol, (of which Málaga is a part).3 The story goes that it was around this time that a dozen or so living, breathing monkeys, were imported to La Plaza de la Victoria, and allowed to roam free. The monkeys have all been dead for at least 20 years now, possibly much longer. It should be no surprise, of course. The monkeys were roaming free in an increasingly-populous city, far away from their natural habitats.
It is unclear who was responsible for bringing the monkeys to Málaga, but it seems evident to me that (as with so many other things), the decision was a financial one. It is clear that a cash-starved Málaga would want to give the (mostly-British) tourists exactly what they were looking for: a beachside paradise full of exotic people, exotic food, and exotic animals. The fact that monkeys were not ever native to this area was irrelevant -- neither were British tourists!
1. calle = street
2. From a almost-lost page that took me days to find, its final footprints evident in a cached Google page called La Flora Ornamental Malagueña más representiva y su entorno, (in English: The Most Representative Ornamental Flowers of Málaga, and their Settings).
3. Garvey, Geoff and Mark Ellingham. Andalucia, Fourth Edition. 2003. New York: Rough Guides, Ltd. p.81