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History of Algatocín

Diputación de Málaga
Algatocín. Vista

History of Algatocín

Algatocîn stretches from east to west across the mountain range that separates the River Genal from the River Guadiaro, among hilltops crowned with pine, chestnut, cork and oak trees. The village lies at the foot of the Sierrecilla, 724 metres above sea level, on a mountain known as "La Prontitud". It overlooks the Genal valley, embellishing the landscape with the white splashes of its houses atop a time-hewn rock known as "El Fraile" in reference to its monk-like appearance.

Its urban layout is a legacy of the Arab presence in the area. The village centre is adapted to the orography of the terrain, with steep, narrow, winding streets populated by squat, whitewashed houses. The porticoed faèades of 18th century houses are also in evidence here. At the top of the village stands the chapel of Santo Cristo, while at its centre we find the church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which dates back to the 16th century. Tradition has it that was built on the site once occupied by a palace belonging to Algatois, the daughter of a Muslim king. In fact, the village is believed to have been founded by the Berber tribe of Al Atusiyin, from which its present-day name is derived. However, little is known of its history and development over the years.

A geographical accident in the shape of a small cliff has enabled the village’s layout to be preserved almost as it was originally built in days gone by. The cliff, which stands at the end of the village, marks a boundary beyond which the newer building have been constructed. So, we can speak of two villages in Algatocîn: one in which stately homes and noble houses still remain intact and another, more modern version in the district known as La Cecerîa, where, aesthetically speaking, the buildings struggle to blend in with the terrain. In the nobler area, in addition to the church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, we can admire the secluded Plazoleta and the picturesque Plaza de la Fuente, which can be reached via a number of different streets.

Also in the old quarter is the Alameda de Andalucîa, the village’s main street and home to the Town Hall, while in the lower district we find a cemetery whose peculiarity lies in the fact that it does not comply with the Iberian tradition of situating such locations outside the settlement, standing instead in the village itself. Strolling through the streets, we can delight at the sight of houses whose grilles are adorned with geraniums and enjoy the vantage points upon which many of these streets converge.

What is certain is that following its Christian repopulation, Algatocîn grew to become the thriving mountain village that we know today. Agriculture is now the main source of income here. There are two clearly-defined agricultural areas; the first, located in the upper part of the Guadiaro Valley and known as Salitre, enjoys an abundant water supply and is therefore devoted mainly to crops that require irrigation. The second lies at the heart of the Genal Valley, and, as a result of its rugged terrain covered with a mass of forest vegetation which includes evergreen oaks, corks and pines, as well as olive, citrus, fig, almond, chestnut and other fruit-bearing trees, is dedicated to cultivating this type of produce. Also abundant in the area are aromatic plants such as rockrose, thyme and rosemary, while medicinal plants such as balm, eucalyptus and mint are also much sought-after locally.