Valencia’s Vinalopó valley was a hub of paper manufacturing in Spain between the 18th century and the late 20th century, and Banyares de Mariola was one of the most important towns in the valley that depended on paper for its economy. Before the industrial boom, Banyares had been a center for the manufacture of rope-soled shoes (espadrilles). But with the expansion of the paper industry the town grew rapidly, developing both paper manufacturing technologies and industries to make use of the product.
This local heritage is chronicled today at the Valencian Paper Museum in Banyares, which is beautifully located within Villa Rosario, the former country house of a prominent physician from Alicante, which dates back to 1902. This unusual museum covers a story that is rarely told, and does so with some panache in a lovely setting.
Throughout the museum, the exhibits attempt to put the paper industry into a clear social framework. On the ground floor, alongside an exhibit about the history of the house, is a display on the history of writing prior to the invention of paper. The main display on the first floor covers the history of the local paper industry and historic use of paper, with some fantastic models illustrating both handmade and continuous paper production. Particularly interesting is a great section on the artworks associated with cigarette papers, packaging, and advertising, for which the town was famous.
Another section focuses on the narrow gauge railway that transported products via Alcoy to the port of Gandia until the 1960s. This includes some great video footage. In a separate room on the first floor is a display of ornate items of clothing made entirely from paper, which originate from paper-clothing fashion competitions organized by the museum and held every two years.
The grounds of Villa Rosario form the municipal park of Banyares, a very attractive space with many pine trees for shade, a children’s play area, a duck pond, and a nice aviary stocked mainly with zebra finches. The park also houses the local tourist office, a small pharmaceutical museum, and a museum dedicated to the local traditional art of espadrille-making.