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Rosa Melchor is the mayor of Alcázar de San Juan, Source: Ayuntamiento de Alcázar de San Juan

Rosa Melchor: Alive and dynamic, Alcázar has not lost its rhythm throughout history

Rosa Melchor: Alive and dynamic, Alcázar has not lost its rhythm throughout history

An interview with the mayor of Alcázar de San Juan (Spain)

Rosa Melchor has been the mayor of Alcázar de San Juan since 2015. She is a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), and has served as a deputy in the VI, VII and VIII legislatures of the regional parliament of Castilla-La Mancha before being elected as a mayor.

Madam Mayor, what defines Alcázar de San Juan, in your opinion?

I will describe Alcázar de San Juan as a living city. Alive and dynamic, it has not lost its rhythm throughout history; not even in the worst moments has it stopped living and that makes it a very important regional engine. We are currently working so that this is not lost.

Proof of this is that during the pandemic we have improved our unemployment indicators. We have been able to create hope, stay attractive and increase the number of inhabitants. We, therefore, continue to be a thriving city and we are going to continue working so that it does not cease to be so.

It could be said that Alcázar is a city of symbols: the flamingo, the train, the windmill. Can you tell us more about each of these and what their particular meaning is for your city?

It is a city with identity. These three symbols to which you’ve alluded represent concepts. The flamingo symbolizes our aspiration to be a city, which is increasingly sustainable, and towards which we advance with different environmental policies and care for our surroundings.

The train has been, and continues to be, the engine of economic development of the city, as it has been for 150 years now, transporting both freight and passengers. Now we want to use that railway history and give it a new momentum to become one of the logistics nodes in Europe by installing a new Intermodal Logistics Platform for the transport of goods.

Finally, the windmills are the most representative symbol of the land of Cervantes, of our landscapes, and of the way of being and living – all of which is collected and clearly reflected in the universal work of this author: Don Quixote de La Mancha.

Bullfighting is something that also has a long tradition and acceptance in this region. How has the local bullring been modernized?

We have been implementing for a few years now a Sustainable, Inclusive, Comprehensive Urban Development Strategy for the entire city. The bullring is located in an area that sees a lot of traffic of vehicles and people.

Pedestrians usually pass it on their way to the swimming pools, or to the market on workdays or to the Fair on holidays; Likewise, to access the Avenida del Deporte, where all the city's sports facilities are located, it is a place whose distinct quality is that it receives a lot of traffic. It was very run down because it hadn't been remodelled for 30 years.

It was, thus, essential to renovate it and we have achieved an open and light space, with a lot of room for individual and collective leisure. It is planned to be one of the places in the city where many events will take place.

We unveiled it with the exhibition of a large-scale sculpture by Juan Méjica and it will continue to be a space that hosts music and culture of all kinds in different formats. It is also one of the main sights that anyone who arrives in the city from Toledo and Madrid sees first. It is a nice way of welcoming you to our city. Its modern and avant-garde appearance is like a welcoming card that we have created in this area.

All of the above brings us to the topic of tourism and its role in the economy of Alcázar.

Tourism is essential in the economy and development of the city. I think we have been able to do something that is very important for us, which is to use tourism to promote the city and to promote the city to use tourism. This seems like a tongue twister, but what it means is we try to make all our resources available to all those who come to our city.

It’s a city that is very easy to visit. It can be seen on foot, by bicycle, as a family, as a couple, in small and larger groups, because it is not very extensive and is completely flat. We have worked to make our heritage resources well maintained and interesting to those who come to visit us.

In Alcázar de San Juan you can take a journey through all of history, including the history of the Iberian Peninsula, since, contrary to what many think, we are not a place of passage, but rather have been a place of settlement. We are also not “La Mancha-La Seca” (La Mancha the Dry), since in this land of ours there is water, and all the civilizations that have passed through have found water in order to survive.

We have also been able to establish different types of tourism throughout the year, such as event tourism, nature tourism -with several protected sites, among which the lagoon complex stands out, gastronomic tourism or wine tourism.

All of these add to our historic and heritage assets, among which one crown jewel stands out: the Casa Museo del Hidalgo (16-century house). There is also a calendar of events that is distributed every weekend throughout the year in which we should highlight the celebration of carnivals during Christmas, the Moors and Christians parade in June, or the Fair of Flavours of the Land of Quixote, as well as the Regional Wine Tasting Contest (1000 No Se Equivocan). These are accompanied by the "Quervantino" Wine and Baptism Days, which in November allow you to taste our delicious Camacho wedding stew (a recipe from “Don Quixote”).

November 2021 was the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of the Charter of Educating Cities. Can you explain to us what an Educating City is and how this defines your policies at the municipal level?

It’s important to us that all citizens consider Alcázar as an "Educating City" because it is essential that all of them collaborate and participate to make it such. An “educating city” is one that educates all its residents, not only in the schools but with all the activities it carries out.

For us, education is a transversal area, which has to concern and occupy all spheres of the municipal government. We are convinced that a city that has a high level of education is a rich city, far beyond the material riches that are ephemeral.

We have worked on this for 30 years and we have been able to raise several generations with the conviction that this is the most guaranteed method of continuing to advance and grow - and I think we have achieved it.

What is the role of the digital inclusion points (PIDs) that are already distributed throughout the municipal territory?

The PIDs are here to give the municipalities of the province of Ciudad Real, hand in hand with the Provincial Council, an opportunity to put an end to digital illiteracy, or as it has come to be called the digital divide. We are forced to do many procedures online and not all of us have been trained to know how to do them.

That’s why, these digital inclusion points are here to serve all citizens, not only as a place from which to carry out these procedures but also as a tutor or a counsellor who can teach them how to do them. They can then know how to carry out these procedures from their own homes on their own personal devices.

I think it is a magnificent idea and one of the initiatives of the Provincial Council that I would highlight. The municipality of Alcázar de San Juan is especially grateful for it, because we have not only set up 14 points with computers but have also, in a way, equipped ourselves with 14 advisors, which help our citizens to get out of or to minimize their digital gap.

In 2021, the 40th anniversary of the twinning between Alcázar and the city of Macon (France) was celebrated. What kind of advantages has this long relationship between the two municipalities brought along?

In these 40 years, the world has changed a lot, the so-called globalization has made it much easier to get to know other cultures, but back then everything felt further away. This type of twinning - we have others with other countries – has allowed us to learn about other customs and different ways of understanding culture or traditions.

Throughout these years, relations have been maintained with that French city and events have been organized around wine, which is one of the products that unite us. Tolerance and the creation of a closer Europe is something that this type of relationship also provides, especially with the exchanges of high school students that have taken place for many years. It’s a coexistence that has shown us ways of understanding different relationships, and it has been very enriching.

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