Two weeks ago we set off for a drive and got no further than the river bed just down the street. More info click here for those of you who haven’t read it on Just Land Rovers.
Anyway, today we had a proper trip. Into the hills.
In our search for the perfect finca with idyllic olive groves and almond trees we have explored the hills behind us more than once.
We went to Riogordo a couple of times. Beautiful place, with lots of rolling olive groves. We liked it but the second time we went we realised it was miles away from anywhere. And it seemed a bit chilly.
Then we discovered Canillas de Aceituno. It is only about 25 km from the coast, but very nice and high. It has beautiful views, and a lovely feel about it. From Canillas you can go walking in the hills, but it is sheltered and faces south. It has never been cold in Canillas when we have been, even in winter, although it is always a few degrees cooler than where we live on the coast. We thought this might be nice too. Not that we could find any reasonable properties that just happened to be for sale.
We still like to go up there. And after my embarrassing vertigo attack on Christmas Day I thought it was time I got my head around heights again. So onwards and upwards we went to Canillas today.
At 649m above sea level it nestles in the foothills of the Sierra de Tejeda, and is one of the starting points to climb the mighty Maroma. Technically Maroma is partly in Granada and partly in Málaga province, but it is known as the highest mountain in Málaga. Er, no, we didn’t climb Maroma today (2,065m).
Canillas has a long and colourful history going back to pre-historic times. But like everywhere else in La Axarquía, the most influential civilisation was that of the Muslim kingdom, when it was part of Al-Andalus. The pueblo’s prosperity – and apparently its name – dates from this period when it was a centre for the Moorish silk industry. (The Arabic word Azeytuni refers to silk).
This is very confusing to idiots like me who thought the name – Aceituno – referred to the countless olive trees around there, especially as there is a local olive oil factory. (The Spanish for olive is aceituna. However, one source I consulted seems to think that the name is derived from the arabic word for olive – az-zaytun). The factory was doing a roaring trade today, and we couldn’t be bothered to join the huge queue.
La Axarquía is not very touristy (Goody). Apart from the coastal resorts, there really isn’t much development here but there are five tourist routes that you can drive to get to know most of the region. Canillas is the start of the Ruta Mudéjar – the route of the Moorish architecture. Either side of the main street, the town still has the basic lay-out dating from the Muslim old town.
The church was built in Gothic-Mudéjar style in the C16 on the site of the old mosque, and then reformed in the nineteenth century.
In the era of Muslim rule there was also a castle, but now all that remains is a square of the same name on the site.
After the reconquest, its history included the establishment of a community of franciscan monks in the seventeenth century, a period of local banditry in the 1840s, years of hunger and a cholera epidemic from 1865-1878, followed by the commercial production of timber and the sale of ice from the mountains behind.
In the 20th century, the pueblo took a republican stance. In 1911, a group of republican workers declared a republic – resulting in a number of deaths and injuries (see New York times here). With the start of the Civil War in Spain, Canillas remained in the republican zone, although it was later occupied by Spanish Nationalist and Italian fascist troops.
The area supported the Spanish Maquis, who continued to oppose the Franco dictatorship, but by the 1960s many families were emigrating to escape from the political regime and to seek a better life.
It currently has a population of 2,336 (2007), less than half the number of inhabitants when the republic was declared in 1911. Of the population now, 364 are foreigners – with the main nationality being British. In 2006, there were 441 telephone lines, and only five ADSL lines.
People here are not rich though, with the average household income only up to 7,200€. Although this is an old figure (2003), it is unlikely to have gone up hugely. Agriculture still features in the economy of the area, with the main crops being tomatoes, avocados, and olives. Now, like elsewhere in Andalucía, the main industry in the area is in construction. But for how much longer, given the current slow-down in the building boom?
Anyway, enough of the history and geography lessons. Here are some more pictures of modern-day Canillas.
Sources: Ayuntamiento de Canillas de Aceituno, El Portal de la Axarquía, Instituto de Estadística de Andalucía, New York Times