discover our legacy

On March 16, 2006, the first five-star hotel in Terres de l’Ebre was inaugurated in Xerta. This establishment is located in the old building known as “the house of the millionaire“, a man from Xerta who made a great fortune in Argentina.

Jaime Martí Tomàs was born on March 27, 1844. He was the second of six siblings. His father, Antonio Juan Marti Cases, a river merchant, was a river trader. The main product of his business was wheat, which is why he was known as “Ceremines”.

Jaime grew up alongside the family business, but when his older brother married his father’s entire business went to him. In fact, no more than one family could live from this business, so three of the brothers, Jaime, Ramón and Fernando, decided to leave. They chose to travel to Argentina because the news about the Catalans who had emigrated was quite positive. Thus begins the history of the “Americanos de Xerta”.

Initially (1870s) they were established in Buenos Aires. The first business was owned by the three brothers and was called “Martí Hermanos”. The company traded different food products from the Peninsula to Argentina: olive oil, olives, canned food, wines, liquors, etc.

Over time, each of the brothers founded other totally independent businesses. Ramón returned to Xerta and bought the house that currently belongs to the Blanch-Navarro family, known as the “Ceremines” house. Fernando always lived in Argentina and paid for the remodeling of the Xerta bell tower in 1910.

As for Jaime, during his stay in Argentina he met other Catalans who, like him, had gone to seek their fortune. With some of them he created new businesses, although he also participated as a shareholder in different banking and insurance companies and acquired properties and farms in Bahía Blanca, a city south of Buenos Aires. Thus, it can be deduced that it fulfilled the commercial prospects that corresponded to the Catalan bourgeois who settled in different parts of Latin America in the nineteenth century.

In 1871 Jaime married a noblewoman, Maria Dolores de Còdol Tomàs, Baroness of Còdol. This wedding fulfilled all the requirements for success: businessman, merchant and related to the Catalan nobility. James divorced the baroness in 1897 without having children. Later, during his stay in Argentina, he met a girl of Uruguayan nationality, Juana Orfilia, with whom he married and had a son, Ernesto Carlos.

In 1913 he decided to spend the last years of his life in Xerta with his wife and son in his Villa Retiro residence. Possibly the name of the house responds to its purpose. On this property there was an old house that Jaime ordered to be demolished, although some of the foundations were taken advantage of. The new construction would be an architectural revolution: a building with first floor, second floor and terrace, built according to the new style of the time, modernism, with a special colonial touch. The house was completed in 1892.

Its owner would spend seasons there until he finally settled permanently in 1913. Thus, Villa Retiro was Jaime’s definitive residence for only one year, since a year later, in 1914, he died. His wife and son would be the heirs.

After Jaime’s death, Ernesto Carlos married his first cousin Ernestina, daughter of Ramón, his paternal uncle. From this marriage two sons were born: Jaime and Ernesto Marti Marti. In July 1936, with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Jaime’s widow, Ernesto Carlos and his family decided to leave Xerta. They spent the Civil War first in Italy and then in San Sebastian. When the war ended, the family returned to the house, but they found it in a deplorable situation since it had been used as a warehouse and military shelter. Even so, they returned to settle in.

The widow Juana died in Villa Retiro on May 10, 1960. The house became the property of his son who transferred the inheritance to his eldest son Jaime. He married and had three children, residing in Villa Retiro practically all his life. He spent his last years in Pinell de Brai, at his daughter’s house, where his wife still lives.

Villa Retiro today

In 2001 he accepted the offer of purchase from the López-Gilabert family, who bought the complex with the intention of creating hotel facilities. The new owners have remodeled “Villa Retiro” to the point of converting it into a 5-star hotel. The new complex respects at all times the initial architecture and the modernist style of the complex. In addition, an immense garden has been restored and a restaurant, Villa Retiro 1* Michelin, has been installed, taking advantage of the old workers’ quarters and finally recovering the splendor that the war once took away.


As for the architect responsible for the construction, there are a number of indications that suggest that it was the work of Josep Fontserè, one of Antoni Gaudí ‘s masters and a great representative of Catalan modernism. In fact, the type of construction and complements of the building are very similar to other works by Fontserè, such as Parc Samà. Around the building, Jaime ordered the construction of a series of exterior complements that helped to urbanize the surroundings: gardens with tropical trees and a waterfall with a small lake. Also on the outside, they created an auxiliary warehouse and workers’ quarters, where the construction of an oval-shaped well made of brick, a marvel from an architectural point of view, stands out.