Origins, Moorish uprising and their legacy in Las Alpujarras
Archaeological remains show that human settlements in Las Alpujarras date back to prehistoric times.
During the Iberian, Phoenician and Roman periods, there were occasional settlements but it wasn’t until the Muslims arrived in the 8th century that the population became permanent and reached its highest levels.
The Muslims set an indelible mark on the region. Indeed they had found their heaven on earth and treated it as such, respecting their surroundings and adapting their way of life to preserve it, living in total harmony with nature. This was reflected in the urban architecture of their villages that cascaded down the hills, taking their shapes.
They devised a sophisticated and efficient irrigation system to create a flourishing arboriculture in an otherwise barren area. They also developed a prosperous silk industry that survived until they were thrown out of Spain and Las Alpujarras fell back into the dark ages.
Alpujarras uprising of 1568
It is said that Philip II of Spain, the consort of Isabela la Católica instigated in 1568 a Muslim uprising led by Abén Humeya in order to have an excuse to destroy and finally expel them from the Iberian Peninsula.
Ferag Ben Ferag and Ben Aboo planned the plot, which declared Abén Humaya king, in the Lecrín Valley.
When Las Alpujarras saw the last of the Moors, it also saw the end of prosperous farming and the end of a successful silk industry. People from the North of Spain, who were either fishermen or farmers used to farming on flat land, repopulated it. They couldn’t manage neither the system of terraced farming, nor handle the sophisticated yet simple acequia irrigation system, and it wasn’t until the advent of tourism in the fifties that Las Alpujarras began to awaken from its deep slumber.
The Muslim legacy can still be seen in this, their last stronghold. The architecture of the buildings, minarets that were transformed into church towers, the irrigation system that was maintained and still used today, the Mudéjar building style etc. The new Christian inhabitants introduced new customs and the prosperity has shifted from being due to silk production to the curing of ham.
The jamones of Las Alpujarras, namely of Trévelez, are the envy of any ham producing regions in Spain.
Fortresses and Castles
Arab castles and fortresses dot las Alpujarras and it has one of the oldest garden in Europe lying in Velez Benaudalla, not far from the ruined castle. One can see beautiful silhouettes of old castles at two of the points of entry into La Alpujarra, one in the spa town of Lanjarón, the other on the approach to Orgiva.
El Fuerte is the fortress of Juvíles and El Peñon del Moro that of Dúrcal. Other remains of castles and fortresses are to be seen in Mondújar, in Bubión, in Capileira as well as in the Tajo Fuerte gorge in Los Güájares and the Melicena Tower in Sorvilán. Murtas, Válor and Yégen’s Piedra Fuerte also have their Arabic towers. The church in Pitres retains almost intact the minaret which now is its bell tower and there are remains of an old mosque near Búsquistar.