HIS goal was to put an end to Andalucia’s 36-year Socialist government.
And the PP’s Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla achieved his dream with 59 votes in favour, to 50 against, in the region’s historic elections last month.
By signing into a coalition with centre-right Ciudadanos and far-right Vox, it was the nail in the coffin that took down former leader Susana Diaz’s maligned PSOE party, which had plagued the region with corruption for decades.
It took four nervous weeks to confirm, but Moreno was finally sworn in as Andalucia’s seventh ever leader a fortnight ago – the first non-Socialist.
“I always believed in myself, because to change things you have to believe in yourself,” said the Guadalhorce Valley politician, who was born in Catalunya.
“I have worked, I came here four-and-a-half years ago with the goal to change Andalucia and luck has been on my side,” added the 48-year-old at his inauguration.
After his first public outing – to promote Andalucia at Madrid’s massive FITUR tourism fair – the Olive Press shines a torch on the private life of the once wannabe pop star, popularly known as ‘Juanma’.
The first Junta leader not from Sevilla, Juanma is a Catalan by birth, born on Workers Day, in Barcelona, in 1970, before moving at just eight weeks to Alhaurin el Grande, where his parents were originally from.
Although his father often used to speak to him in Catalan, he insists he is a true Andalucian.
“My parents always told me happy stories about Catalunya, a region I love, but I do not feel Catalan,” he explains.
Malaga’s very own Bono
While a clever lad, who excelled at school, he was anything but your normal Andalucian lad, initially planning to be a pop star.
Despite looking more like Tony Hadley, from Spandau Ballet, he preferred British ‘indie’ bands, including The Cure, U2 and Simple Minds.
Such were his singing talents he became lead singer of various Malaga groups including Lapsus Psiquico, Falsas Realidades and Cuarto Protocolo.
While none had any commercial success, he has never given up singing and even took to the mic on his wedding night to sing Danza Invisible’s Sabor de Amor.
Today he lists his pastimes as jamming to his favourite bands, playing basketball, and joining Antonio Banderas for his Semana Santa brotherhood ritual.
Working class roots
The son of a shopkeeper and the grandson of farm labourers, Moreno is an unconventional leader of the conservative PP party.
His family had emigrated to Catalunya for work and only came back when his father, an industrial draughtsman, swapped his job at SEAT in Martorell, to work as a taxi driver.
By a stroke of luck, the family won the lottery in 1975, which gave them the funds to buy a house and open a grocery store on Avenida Ingeniero de la Torre-Acosta in Las Chapas in Malaga, close to the city’s main mosque.
It gave Juanma and his two sisters plenty of work growing up, as well as, crucially, a grasp of commerce.
From pizza boy to politician
The politician has not forgotten his roots and says his early jobs of working as a pizza chef, a bartender, and a salesman, helped shape his career and got him to where he is now.
That, and a degree at Madrid’s Camilo Jose Cela University also helped.
A dad-of-three kids and a newly adopted Maltese Bichon pup, the politician certainly has his hands full in and out of the office.
The mother of his children and the ‘First Lady of Andalucia’, Manuela Villena, has been his biggest supporter since they married in 2006.
She too shares a successful career, with a degree in Political Science, leading to a job as an executive at pharmaceutical company Bidafarma.
Introducing ‘The Gilet Man’
The PP politician has become Spain’s answer to Gareth Southgate.
Moreno rarely makes an appearance without his puffer gilet, earning him the nickname ‘el hombre del chaleco’.
Those close to ‘Mr Gilet’ say he is proud of his image and loves having his photo taken, meaning he never steps out of the house looking less than camera-ready.
Malaga CF or Real Madrid fan?
Although he is a proud ‘boqueron’ follower of Malaga CF, Moreno has made it clear he is also a big fan of Real Madrid. Some speculate that the politician’s favourite team is the capital city’s leading equipo, but in order to keep up appearances he also supports the Costa del Sol lads.
Passion for the Partido Popular
Likely to do with his commercial upbringing Moreno has long been a staunch member of the PP party and joined at the age of 19.
He slowly worked up the political ladder to become the president of the PP’s New Generations in Malaga and later Andalucia, before becoming a councillor of Malaga at the tender age of 24.
His career really started to take off when he joined Congress in 2000 as the Secretary of State for Social Services and Equality, under former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s premiership.