History of Isla Mayor

One morning in 1923 two noted English noblemen, Mr Remy Eric Fisher and Lord Alfred Milner, a key figure in the British Empire’s colonies in South Africa and Egypt, noted as they sailed up the River Guadalquivir that the banks resembled the landscape of the Nile. It was thanks to that boat trip that the company Sociedad Islas del Guadalquivir was founded. The Spanish Crown took a favourable view of this pharaonic project, with King Alfonso XIII demonstrating his clear support in order to gain the trust of foreign investors, above all from Britain and Germany. So it was that in 1928 the first industrial settlement to bear the company’s name was founded.

Years later, following the failure of Fisher the engineer, the Argentinian investors behind a second undertaking, the Compañía Hispalense de la Valoración de las Marimas S.A., or “La Chispalense”, focused on the only crop that could withstand such a high level of salinity: RICE.

In 1929 “La Chispalense” successfully sowed a crop of rice, the first time that the region had grown the grain, except for fruitless early attempts by the Moors. It was not until 1936, however, courtesy of a businessman from Seville, Mr Rafal Beca, that today’s Isla Mayor (formerly known as Villafranco del Guadalquivir) came into being, with its large area of rice fields, tilled and harvested by settlers from Valencia attracted by the prospects of a better life and the chance to make history, along with workers drawn from all over Spain, including Andalusia, Extremadura and the Canary Islands.

The local entrepreneur, driven by the ambition to establish a flagship rice-growing district by extending the crop further than anyone had ever managed, turned to the leading experts in Spain to transform the inhospitable and wild lands into a region dedicated purely to rice.

In 1938 the company then set about the arduous task of redeveloping the islands on the right-hand bank of the Guadalquivir, Isla Mayor and Isla Mínima.

So it was that Isla Mayor saw itself transformed from livestock pasture into Spain’s largest area of rice fields.

Our family history

As part of this rice venture on Isla Mayor, two lead characters in the thrilling story arrived in 1943 from Sueca, near Valencia, in the form of our maternal grandparents Sebastián Borja Nacher and Carmen Ibañez Morell, who were among those intrepid settlers to make their home in Isla Mayor, growing rice and teaching the techniques to other farmers from the region. In 1961 our grandparents Vicente Baixauli Domenech and Julia Alonso Tamarit also arrived from the city of Valencia. An entrepreneurial family with the initiative to get involved in the trade in organic mineral fertilisers manufactured by the family business in Valencia.

A hard-working family with ambition and ties to the land, unaware that they were making history they drew on all their boldness, courage, drive and plenty of passion, the passion that was our ally and legacy over the coming years as our father, Vicente, a local businessman, and Marisol extended our interest, knowledge and love for our rice, for our village, for its people, making a name for our crop beyond our boundaries.

A family first and foremost, with entrepreneurial drive and a highly international and universal spirit.