What’s in a name? According to the two opposing sides of a passionate debate in Murcia – quite a lot. On the one side is the regional government controlled by the right-wing Partido Popular and on the other, the Socialist-left-wing national coalition government in Madrid.
The former has long been advocating a name change to the airport (officially known as “Aeropuerto Internacional Región de Murcia”), to honour Juan de la Cierva, while the latter argues that the aviator and engineer’s alleged close ties with the Franco dictatorship should be taken into account. Born in Murcia in 1895, de la Cierva was the inventor in 1920 of a single-rotor aircraft called the “autogiro”.
Until now there has been something of a stand-off, but last month the regional government, which initially funded construction of the airport and has a franchise agreement with management operator Aena, took the initiative, adding “Juan de la Cierva” to the access façade and other areas of the airport.
So far, the national ministry of transport, mobility and urban agenda, which has administrative jurisdiction over Spain’s airports, has not responded officially, although other groups opposing the renaming have indicated they will take legal action.
Back in May, the regional government unveiled a new “corporate identity” for the airport, based on de la Cierva’s autogyro invention, during a presentation presided over by minister for development and infrastructure José Ramón Díez de Revenga and the engineer’s grandson, Fernando de la Cierva.
The aircraft’s rotating blades are the cornerstone of the image, which comprises a set of linear segments arranged in a circular manner and is described as “creating the sensation of movement… resulting in an abstract C that condenses the inventor’s surname and generates an isotype that contains the essence of the autogyro”.
Noting that the autogyro invention was hailed as “the greatest aeronautical advance since the Wright brothers’ first flight”, the minister said, “The idea is to capture the visual universe of Juan de la Cierva in a widely recognisable graphic concept in the world of global aeronautics.”
Changing Spanish Airport Names
The move to change Corvera Airport Murcia’s name is by no means the first time this has occurred in Spain in recent times, although it is one of the most controversial proposals.
Last year, in a widely supported initiative, Alicante-Elche Airport was renamed during celebrations to mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of Orihuela-born poet and playwright Miguel Hernández.
Previously, other locally-born historical figures have been incorporated into the names of airports throughout Spain:
- Granada-Jaén in 2006 – poet and playwright Federico García Lorca
- Madrid-Barajas in 2014 – transition-era prime minister Adolfo Suárez
- Santander in 2015 – golfer Seve Ballesteros
- Lanzarote in 2019 – artist and sculptor César Manrique
- Barcelona in 2019 – former Catalan president Josep Tarradellas
- Santiago in 2020 – poet and novelist Rosalía de Castro
In 2011 Málaga became Málaga-Costa del Sol, although there was also some discussion about honouring Pablo Picasso, who was born in the nearby capital city.
In addition, formal institutional proposals are pending for:
- Asturias – Nobel Prize-winning doctor and scientist Severo Ochoa
- Zaragoza – artist Francisco de Goya
- Almería – 19th century guitarist and luthier Antonio de Torres
And finally to Palma de Mallorca, where a Change.com campaign has been launched to rename the airport in honour of tennis star Rafael Nadal, born about 50 kilometres away in Manacor.