The name Torrox is derived from an Arabic word meaning “tower”, though archaeological remains found at the mouth of the River Torrox point to settlements here as early as the 1st and 4th centuries.
Before the arrival of the Romans, the Phoenicians had also settled in the area, as they had at other points along the coast of Málaga. In any event, it was the Romans who made the first significant impact in the area. The Roman factory known as Claviclum was discovered thanks to the lighthouse keeper Tomás Garcîa Ruiz. Here, the Romans produced the famous "garum" (preserved fish) which was exported to Rome itself.
In 755, Prince Abd-el-Rahamn Ben Muawiya, the last representative of the Omeya dynasty, arrived in Torrox after landing at Almuñecar, fleeing from Damascus in order to meet up with his supporters in Al-Ándalus. Once here, he mustered a sizeable army which he led to Archidona, where he was proclaimed Emir of the believers in March 756. Abd-el-Rahman was the first independent Emir and Caliph of Córdoba. His dynasty, which lasted three centuries, saw the promotion of culture, commerce, agriculture and the arts. However, the Mozarabs (Christians who co-habited with their Muslim neighbours) living in Torrox were unhappy. This discontent led to them joining the insurrection known as the Mozarabic Uprising led by Ben Hafsun against the Caliphate of Córdoba in the late IX century. Caliph Abd-el-Rahman laid siege to Torrox Castle in 914, defeating and capturing the rebels and burning the boats which came to the shore in support of the besieged. The 11th century saw the appearance of a totally Muslim settlement that was a dependency of the Taha of Frigiliana.
Torrox was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs in 1487, following the capture of Vêlez-Málaga, though the conquest was not consolidated until the following year. In 1503, the Monarchs awarded it the title of Most Noble and Loyal Town of Torrox in a Royal Decree signed by Isabel 1st which authorised the building of a tower to protect the coast against the attacks of Berber pirates.
Records confirm that in the mid 19th century, the town was home to three flour factories, two oil factories, two pottery workshops, and factories producing liquor and sugar cane, the latter belonging to the Larios family. However, the earthquakes that shook the whole region in 1884 and 1885 wrought serious destruction in the town, the resulting crisis worsening to such an extent by the early 20th century that many local inhabitants emigrated to Argentina, primarily Buenos Aires.
Torrox is said to have been the birthplace of the Arabic leader Almanzor in 939, though this is an honour also claimed by Cortes de la Frontera. In any event, Torrox still retains the upper district of Almedina, the longest surviving remnant of the town’s Andalusî past. Like the rest of the towns and villages of the Axarquîa region, its urban design is typified by contrasts, minimal use of space and mysterious combinations and light and shade, though in Torrox these characteristics are especially marked. Calle Espadas and Calle La Bola are the main thoroughfares around which the rest of the town’s streets are laid out. Higher up, we find the 17th century Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, which still retains one of the turrets of the former fortress, adjoining a house standing close to the Plaza de la Constitución.
Torrox’s economy is driven by two separate forces; on the one hand, the influence of tourism is evident in the coastal locations of Torrox-Costa, El Morche and Peñoncillo; on the other, traditional agriculture has been preserved, particularly in the greenhouses that stand close to the town itself, in which vegetables, fruit and tropical produce are grown, not forgetting almond trees that grow on terraces inaccessible to machinery or the hillside olive groves. In fact, in Torrox no-one forgets their roots; the town is noted for encouraging the expression of all aspects of its local culture, whether it be folklore, cuisine, architecture or mere superstition.
One environmental curiosity worthy of note is that the local countryside is home to a unique species, the monarch butterfly, now extinct in the rest of Europe. Tourism in the area is also based on another major natural resource: nine kilometres of relatively unexploited beaches. Rural tourism, mainly of German origin, is another key factor, and, as we said earlier, traditions die hard in Torrox, where a number of craft workshops are devoted to activities such as silk and cloth painting, glass pottery and woodwork.