The village as we know it today dates back to the 19th century, when it sprang up as a result of the extension of the health spa that was to become one of the area’s main tourist attractions. Tradition has it that it was a beggar, Juan Camisón, who first discovered the therapeutic properties of its waters. His nickname of "camisón" or nightshirt was a reference to the garment he wore so that the wounds that covered his body would not trouble him. On his arrival at a farmhouse which stood next to the spring to seek the charity of its inhabitants, he observed that a goat herd was using its water to treat the ulcers that infested his animals’ skin and that, after a certain time, these ulcers were cured. He therefore decided to bathe in these same waters and he, too, was cured.
The balneario or spa is home to these curative waters and this Neoclassical building built from sandstone and marble stands in Calle Baños. It was built in the mid 19th century (1847) in response to growing demand and was inaugurated in its current form in 1855. It was extended using land belonging to the Count of Teba, the father of Doña Eugenia de Montijo, which was ceded on the condition that his daughter would be granted the exclusive use of a bath which still exists today. In any event, it would appear that Eugenia, who was the wife of Napoleon 3rd, never used this bath or even visited the town for that matter.
The curative powers of these waters has been scientifically proven and they are particularly effective in the treatment of skin and mucous conditions, invalidating rheumatic, arthrosic and arthritic processes and disorders of the nervous system. Famous past figures who used these baths include Moreno Carbonere, Rilke and Romero de Torres, while Antonio Gala, Marîa Victoria Atencia and Antonio Banderas are among the more recent visitors to the spa.
However, there is far more on offer here than the spa alone. From the top of the mountain in whose foothills the village is located, all of the major local landmarks can be seen: the bullring, the Palacete de Doña Trinidad (now the Town Hall) and the church, to name but a few. The distinctive character of the people of Carratraca is apparent even in its architecture, whose volume and design marks it out from that of the rest of the region. Here, we can find three-storey houses built by the bourgeoisie of the day, who were drawn here by the presence of the spa. Perhaps the most notable of these is the residence which was first owned by Carlos Donoy, governor of Málaga during the reign of Fernando 7th, and subsequently converted into a hotel.
So, for most of its history, the town’s economy has been based on tourism, since the area’s rugged terrain, part of the Alcaparîn, Aguas and Jarales mountain ranges, made agriculture difficult.