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The history of Eight Towns in the Guadalhorce Valley – Málaga’s Gardens

Diputación de Málaga
Castillo árabe de Alora. Valle del Guadalhorce

The history of Eight Towns in the Guadalhorce Valley – Málaga’s Gardens

The Guadalhorce Valley appealed to prehistoric people ages ago

The area of  Valle del Guadalhorce is known for its fertile soil, its vegetable gardens and orchards, which is why it is known as Málaga’s Garden. This area is perfect for irrigation farming as it is abundant with water and has accumulated silt so the main products there are wheat, wine, and olives – ‘the Mediterranean trinity’. However, the current town development in Málaga is focused on this area due to its closeness and good connections with the city of Málaga.

Long time ago, the Guadalhorce Valley has been a hot spot for prehistoric people. Hills and mountains close to the Guadalhorce river were places where they could settle in a more or less permanent way.

From the beginning of the 8th century BC to the middle of the 6th century BC, people from the Near East started coming. Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians were aware of how plentiful the valley was and exchanged knowledge so they could use better its resources. This resulted in trade and cultural exchange between people on both sides of the Mediterranean.

After the Roman Empire had extended to the Iberian Peninsula, the territory was organized differently, and new infrastructures were made. The Guadalhorce Valley got included in Conventus Iuridicus Gaditanus as the territory was undergoing the process of Romanization and some indigenous villages changed their location, which had previously been placed on high plateaus close to the access ways. This is how some towns like Nescania (Valle de Abdalajís) were created. Towns like Iluro (Álora) or Cartima (Cártama) also developed. The latter one was relocated close to the river due to farming and trade expansion on this fertile land which was ideal for fruit trees, olives and vineyards. There were villages which dedicated to oil production like Manguarra-San José in Cártama. The Romans also created aqueducts, water reservoirs and baths.

Muslims followed the Romans. They came in the middle of the 8th century and built plenty of villages, hamlets and farmsteads. These were built around the rivers Guadalhorce and Grande to take advantage of natural resources  ̶  fertile land, waterpower, and so on. The location of the area between the coast and the inland, as well as its role in certain periods of time, resulted in a wide range of buildings that were used to defend and watch over the territory.

As for the farming, new ways of water extraction (waterwheels), collecting (reservoirs) and channelling (drain pipes, ditches) were installed, which increased agricultural activity and allowed irrigation of the land which used to be used for non-irrigated kind of crops. Existing waterpower inspired the creation of new industrial devices, such as water mills and fulling mills. Arab watering techniques thrived in the Guadalhorce Valley in spite of the changes which happened later on.

Once Castilians came there, it was necessary to repopulate, organize and distribute the territory. That new society which added the territory of the Guadalhorce Valley to the Castilian Crown was based on a law of rights of birth. Agricultural landscape of the territorial divisions in 1492 shows this was an area dedicated to farming. Vineyards, olive groves and orchards, as well as wheat were main crops.

Late Modern Period was very important for this area. The use of train resulted in new infrastructures which were characteristic of the 19th and 20th centuries. Roads were also the reason for new infrastructures, above all bridges, which were used to overcome obstacles in natural surroundings. These metal structures were an important part of the scenery. We also underline hydraulic infrastructures in El Chorro in Álora, which are, no doubt, the greatest work in that period as for their size and features.

Round 1835, the biggest part of cemeteries was built, for example in Alhaurín el Grande, Coín and Álora. The Catholic Church also built important temples in this period.

Art Nouveau influenced many of the buildings and facilities. The most important example regarding its size and luxury was the palace of the Counts of Puerto-Hermoso in Pizarra of neo-Mudejar style, which was refurbished on several occasions after the Spanish Civil War.

The following links will provide you with the information about the history of these towns and villages, which are what they are today thanks to their past:
• Alhaurín de la Torre
• Alhaurín el Grande
• Almogía
• Álora
• Cártama
• Coín
• Pizarra
• Valle de Abdalajís.