Though at the start of the 14th century Vêlez consisted of a number of separate villages including Torrox, Torre del Mar and Nerja, Cómpeta was not mentioned until its capture in 1457, whereupon it was subjected to the authority of the magistrate of Vêlez, which suggests that it was probably founded at some time between these two dates, having previously been a small farmstead.
The most important event in the town’s history is an episode involving the eminent morisco (Moorish convert to Christianity) Martîn Alcacîn (or Alwacin) during the Moorish rebellion in the Axarquîa region. Having sworn allegiance to the King and the Magistrate of Vêlez , and enjoying a reputation as a fair man, he was charged with defending the town and collecting the farda, the contribution paid by the converts to the Crown. Initially, he did not join the uprising, but, in the face of the tragic deaths of the leaders of the revolt, who included Aben Humeya and his cousin Aben Aboo, and pressure from other moriscos who had fled to join the struggle, he subsequently proclaimed himself king of Mount Bentomiz, occupying the castle of the same name, to which the local inhabitants swarmed. Following a series of attacks of varying severity, they were finally defeated in June 1569, most of the defenders perishing and those who managed to flee being chased down. The rebels were expelled and Cómpeta was left totally abandoned.
A manuscript that still survives in the local church records the first marriage between old Christians in February 1573; it is also known that the first distribution of land took place in 1570 and that settlers from Granada, Córdoba and Seville were given land which included mulberry trees, whose leaves were used to breed silkworms, and bee hives.
Geographically speaking, the town of Cómpeta is completely open to the exterior; in fact, it is the closest to the sea of all the towns and villages of the Sierra Tejeda and Sierra Almijara with the exception of Frigiliana. This position, combined with Cómpeta’s history, has given rise to paradoxes such as the fact that in the 16th century, it was home to the largest morisco community in the region before being left practically uninhabited following their expulsion, save for a garrison of some 200 soldiers who oversaw the passage of the deportees from Granada and caught those who fled.
However, since the end of the last century, Cómpeta has grown significantly, essentially as a result of the influx of foreigners, primarily Germans, Danes and British, which has seen the recovery of many old farms and houses and brought about a redistribution of population.
As far as urban layout is concerned, Cómpeta has tried to blend its internal appearance with its surroundings. Houses are decorated with climbing vines and doors and windows feature traditional Roman arches with lowered apices. The main street is Calle San Antonio, which divides the village into its two main districts, El Barrio and El Monte. Special mention must be made of the extreme beauty of Calle Barranco de Grana. The centre of the town is the Plaza de Almijara, on the edge of which the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the market and a number of shops all stand. The houses near the square are of the three-floor variety, though as we head away from here, their height gradually decreases until we come to the one-floor farmhouses to be found on the outskirts of the town. From the higher points of the surrounding area, the sea is clearly visible on one side and the mountain villages on the other, and it is for this reason that Cómpeta has traditionally been considered a crossroad town.
The local economy is not based on tourism alone but also on agriculture. Since the time of the Christian repopulation, terraces have been created and used almost exclusively for vine cultivation. The phylloxera plague of the late 19th century affected all of the towns in the Axarquîa, and Cómpeta was no exception. However, more resistant vines were soon introduced here (1920-1930), so the town’s traditional vineyards were never completely lost, hence the wine for which Cómpeta is now famous. Raisins, avocados and other tropical fruit are also produced here.