Glances, hands, words… Everything became vague and blurred along the solitude of the pathways. Memory, and history too, is a glass that shatters and that distorts reality when you try to mend it. Sometimes, some of its shards remain buried. These shards, these voices without a throat, these bodies that cast no shadow, these lives without names, just wither away and disappear. They die the most painful of deaths: they fall into oblivion.

These pages are merely an attempt to recover, with a greater or lesser degree of success, what oblivion has turned to ashes. To give names to the lives, shadows to the bodies, throats to the voices. This is just a small tribute to the men and women who extended the boundaries of the Lecrin Valley across the world.

Concealed behind these lines of prose are years of research. A constant exodus of archives, reams of paper, cracked and stained and yellowed by damp and time. And in the end, the name, the place that was sought and is discovered makes everything clear.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive history treatise, nor a biographical bestiary. Simply a look backwards, so that we can say that here also, in this valley, there were souls who, in their own way, changed the world. Each paragraph will be a small history, lines that sketch in lives that were outstanding. Now, aged in health, let us uncork the bottles that history offers us.

Let us begin our walk through orange and almond groves, irrigation channels and paths. The mill with its alchemy of olive oil. Children playing as children will. The chiming of the bell winding itself along the streets. Stars along the blade of a scythe. The water, the pupils, this valley …

In their cradle of stone lie weathered rocks, scarred by the wind and the ages. Mute witnesses, up there on top of the mountain. History and legend are combined in the stones of Mondújar castle. No trace remains of the refined baths, or of the splendid mihrab of the mosque, or of the gardens created as sister to the Alhambra Generalife gardens, that Muley-Hacén ordered to be built for his beloved Zoraya. This castle was the last one built by the sons of the crescent moon who ruled over the Iberian Peninsula for eight centuries. Perhaps because it was the last one, its skeleton of stone guards tales of love, and of death, and of battles. It tells the story of how Guiomar de Acuña, in the absence of her husband Pedro de Zafra, brother of the secretary to the Catholic Kings, repelled the attack of four thousand Moorish soldiers one night in 1499. But when we talk about the castle of Mondújar we must make special reference to Francisco de Paula Villa Real y Valdivia. The love of this man for Muslim Granada, for his land, for history, is reflected in his work The book of the traditions of Granada. However, writing was not the only activity of this 19th century Mondújar resident. Apart from his literary work with its combination of aesthetics and history, we find that he held positions such as Vice-President of the Provincial Government, Dean in the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature in the University of Granada, and even fellow of the Royal Academy of History. His written works range from novels such as Education of Vergara, The Two Brothers and Legends of the Reconquest, to works of a more academic nature, such as: Hernán Pérez del Pulgar and the Wars of Granada or The Christian and the Pagan Woman, A Critical History, in addition to a vast amount of leaflets, articles and speeches. But his legacy transcends his works and positions; we find in him a person who was always on the side of the most unfortunate. Being member of Granada Public Instruction and secretary of the Granada Financial Society, it was under his initiative that the school was rebuilt after the earthquakes of 1884 in Talará. In the area of public health, he introduced the Lister antiseptic technique into the Provincial Hospital, and in the field of education, the application of the Froebel method for infant teaching. Nor did he overlook women, being one of the first to establish free teaching for them in areas such as the postal service, business, teaching, music and drawing courses; successfully carrying this initiative over into the Malaga Financial Society. His cultural works are also noteworthy. For example, he was chronicler and president of the Committee that created the Dauro Golden Crown as a tribute to romantic poet and playwright José Zorrilla.

This happened in around 1898. The last years of the century saw the disappearance of Spain’s last colonies. Meanwhile, some men gave their lives defending the twilight embers of an Empire. These lines are dedicated to one of these men, who abandoned his medical practices in Talará and Acequias and became involved in a pointless war against Philippinos fighting for independence. A war against the changing direction of history. Against death itself. Born in Marbella, after finishing his medical studies at the University of Granada, Rogelio Vigil de Quiñones y Alfaro began practising his profession in the villages of Acequias and Talará. However, he gave up this peaceful existence to enlist as a Provisional Lieutenant Doctor in the Philippines. After one month in the military hospital in Marlate, he was posted with the Rangers detachment that was detailed to occupy the church in the town of Baler. As Azorín writes, the siege of Baler was “the most heroic chapter since Numancia”. And Rogelio, along with fifty-four of his companions, had to fight against illness and constant attack. Beriberi disease due to deficient diet causes its sufferers to empty their bowels up to one hundred times a day, and this illness ravaged the Spanish soldiers. Our doctor also suffered from it, and had to be carried around on a chair to attend the sick. And he suffered a serious injury to a kidney, having to operate on himself with the aid of a mirror. In spite of the odds stacked against it, the Spanish redoubt, strong inside the church walls, repelled all attacks until 2nd June 1899, unaware of the Treaty of Paris signed on 10th December 1898. On that 2nd June, the “last to leave the Philippines” left Baler, acknowledged by those against whom they had fought.

A date marked by tragedy: 1884. Raging, the earth roared and shook beneath defenceless feet. The village of Murchas was left sobbing amongst the rubble. The earthquake had razed all to the ground. As a first measure, huts were erected for those whose homes had been destroyed. And by a cruel twist of fate, these huts burnt to the ground. But great adversity is overcome by greater people. It was at that moment that the Senator Fernando Escavias de Carvajal of Talará provided financial assistance to rebuild the huts and for the subsequent reconstruction of the village of Murchas. Nephew of General Riquelme, the greatness of Fernando Escavias can be seen in the way he managed the procedures for the creation of the Riquelme Institution, dedicated to assisting military widows and orphans. The new layout of Murchas began to take shape. This was largely possible thanks to the colossal work undertaken by Luis Seco de Lucena. Through the pages of his newspaper ‘El Defensor de Granada’(8), he raised public awareness of the gravity of the catastrophe. An army of journalists was dispatched to our villages to report the event across the world. In response to the work of Luis Seco de Lucena, numerous institutions and individuals offered their assistance to Murchas. Not content merely with creating a wave of solidarity, Luis also donated household equipment, clothing and money to the men and women affected by the disaster. The list of residents who received assistance from Luis, written in his own hand, is kept in the municipal archives.

Blue. Intense blue, a sharp nail that tears the soul. An infinite colour. Blue, the colour of the Chite sky. Blue, evoked by the artist’s palette of the genius José Guerrero. Hidden in the white alleys of Chite, a plaque on the wall of a house brings us closer to this man. He was born in 1914 to a Chite mother (whose surname he used as his artistic name), crossing our borders and triumphing in the United States as a painter. His style starts with naturalism and finishes with abstract, passing through impressionism, cubism and ‘phosphorescence’ en route (his own style, principal motifs being matches and fire). He is thus considered one of the greatest exponents of painting among recent generations. Before trying his luck in New York, he spent his youth as a bell ringer in the cathedral tower in Granada where he began painting in the same studio where, centuries earlier, Alonso Cano had worked. His work is now exhibited in the Guggenheim Museum in New York and in the Spanish Museum of Modern Art; in addition to the Art Centre founded in his honour in Granada. His paintings include the trilogy of the Brecha de Víznar, in which he pays personal tribute to friend Federico García Lorca; or his ‘phosphorescences’. So loved by his village was he that, with permission from New York and Madrid, some years ago in Chite there was an exhibition of his lithographs and poetry by Jorge Guillén. This area still remembers the tribute to the artist in 1977, under the grateful and luminous gaze of his daughter.

In Upper Chite, we find what was once a school. Example is synonymous with school and Chite school was a true example of how to overcome, persevere and the love for what one does and for the children one teaches. On March 3, 1919 Antonio García Martín, a schoolmaster who loved his profession, arrived in the village of Chite, where he encountered premises in dire conditions, damp, dark and airless on the ground floor of the old Town Hall. Far from resigning himself, our schoolmaster put all his effort into achieving an objective: the creation of a new and worthy school. First, he managed to obtain a plot of land in Upper Chite for his project. Then, he used all his imagination to raise funds for the project. In 1923, he even raffled a gramophone. He also set up a public donations scheme for contributions from King Alphonse XIII to the children at the school themselves. He managed to get the villagers to work on the construction. The Doctor Jesús Castillo made a generous donation of 120 props to build the roof. On 26 May 1927, construction of the school was complete, although then the work really began. Antonio gave regular classes to 37 boys and 20 girls. The classes were based on the study of nature. In this way the children, working as a cooperative, looked after the beehives, silkworms and the little orchard belonging to the school. Also of note in his teaching work was his book España, which he used to teach reading and writing to pupils. Influenced by Isidoire Poiry, and by his friend Fernando Giner de los Ríos, he wrote The Single School, a book advocating free education for all, love for one’s fellow human beings, the vocation to serve, honour and of course study.

Another schoolmaster who loved teaching, friend and colleague of Antonio García Martín, was Joaquín Muñoz Ruiz. This man established a prototype for model schools in the villages of Saleres and Restábal, schools that today bear his name and which have even been visited by UNESCO and various official corporations. He dedicated his life to quality teaching for all. Proof of this is the first post given to him by the Central Government for his fight against illiteracy. A columnist for the newspaper El Ideal, his work as a teacher was combined harmoniously with his bent for writing, of a style similar to Juan Ramón Jiménez, is his book Recuerdos de Antaño (Memories of Yesteryear). The two words that best encapsulate the life of Joaquín can be read on his epitaph: master poet.

Gonzalo Muñoz Ruiz, brother of Joaquín, was Director of the Teacher Training School. In Ciudad Real he defended a public water supply, which earned him the post of mayor. In the same city he was vice-president of the Athenaeum. In Granada he was elected to office in las Cortes (parliament), a post he never took up as the 1936 elections were contested. The teacher training schools in this city were named after him.

There are great men whose names appear in history books. An example is Hernán Pérez del Pulgar. “He of the Feats” is known for his brilliant trajectory in the service of the Catholic Kings during the Wars of Granada. The books portray him as an absolute hero. However, there are records of his sacking of Melegís, which the inhabitants of the village themselves denounced to the kings. A hero, who was sometimes a rustler, and who appears in history books. But often, history is made by anonymous men such as Cristóbal de Miras. The Cadastre of the Marquis of Ensenada records the humble pharmacist of Melegís. Assisted by his daughters, he spent his life collecting plants that he subsequently made into medicines. The point is that sometimes the smallest things, such as picking plants, are just as important as capturing a city.

Members of the Sáenz-Diente family, residents of Melegís, Restábal and Saleres, are descendents of an extremely old family line of Notaries Public. It is in this last village that we find José Ortega Sáenz-Diente. Public Prosecutor, Inspector of the Corps of Public Prosecutors, member of the Cortes for the districts of Cañete and Cuenca in five legislatures, councillor, deputy mayor of Cuenca, Dean of the Illustrious College of Lawyers of Cuenca, president of the Partido Liberal and of the Committee of the Province of Cuenca, on the Board of the Bank of Spain. Decorated with the crosses of Charles III and Merit in Agriculture … Romantic fighter for lost causes. Without doubt, what earned him a place in the hearts of the inhabitants of Cuenca was his brilliant action in the court case of Villa Nueva de San Carlos. The inhabitants of this locality were being denied land which was theirs by right. There was not enough money to carry on the legal battle for this land, and when all seemed lost José Ortega stepped in and, for no fee, won the case. As a reward, to express thanks, he was adopted as a son of this town. There is something which is worth more than all the positions, appointments and tributes: the smile and the appreciation of the inhabitants of Villa Nueva de San Carlos. And of all Cuenca.

Academic year 1924-1925. Of the two hundred and eleven students studying for a Degree in Chemistry at the University of Granada, only five were women. Josefa González Aguado was among this pioneering group. From Albuñuelas, she left her home village to study chemistry. She began her degree at the University of Granada and completed it in Madrid, at the same time gaining a Degree in Pharmacy. She joined the Spanish Society of Physics and Chemistry. However, a future which looked so promising was extinguished by a war that began in 1936. A war which clipped the wings of Josefa and of so many other men and women. With great disenchantment and resignation, she read award-winning works she had written but under pseudonyms. However, far from giving in, she rose up in the face of adversity and with great efforts she set up her own pharmacy back in her native Albuñuelas, where she served fellow villagers as a pharmacist.

There is no trace of the palace and its chapel. The cloister, now a neighbours’ patio, is but a memory of the convent of the Franciscan descalzos (barefoot) Order. School and Seminary for many inhabitants of the Lecrin Valley, the Convent was preparation for University. It was founded in the 18th century by Francisco Perea y Porras, Bishop of Plasencia, later appointed Archbishop of Granada, and writer of various theological works, sermons and pastoral letters. In his time, politics and religion usually went hand in hand. In the War of Succession, he backed the future Philip V. In Salamanca, the archbishop had no qualms about picking up a rifle to defend the city from the attack by the English and the Portuguese. It is said that it was the eloquence of his intervention that prevented the city from being sacked. We must not overlook his friendship with the pious Manuel Padial: rector of the University of Granada and teacher of Francisco. Thanks to these two men, in Lecrin Valley there is great devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lady is the patron of the parish and has a number of chapels in different villages across the valley. An example of this, and of his great devotion, is that Francisco Perea y Porras dedicated the convent to his beloved Virgin.

Like a rose growing in barren ground. Like a warm laugh in the cold of winter. Like a star glimpsed between streetlights. An incandescent genius. The hands of an archangel. The feet of a Titan. A constant, unwavering soul. We may be before one of the greatest, yet least known, characters in this narrative. Let us begin by saying that he was called José Mariano Vallejo y Ortega. And that he was born in Albuñuelas, back in the 19th century. His work, in both political and scientific spheres, is recorded in his books. Examples are the five volumes he wrote on the Elements of Mathematics. Then there is his Mathematical Compendium. Notable in the two volumes of this work is his discovery for solving any degree of equation. For this, all that is required are the four basic operations of mathematics. All this led Vallejo to be one of the most distinguished mathematicians of his time. His brilliance in this subject not only gained him teaching posts in a number of places, but also made it possible to apply mathematics to diverse areas of great usefulness and importance. He carried out major studies on water supply for Madrid, on which the Isabel II Canal is based. He also proposed the creation of railways. Concerned for the development of his country, he prepared a three volume treatise on the best use of water. Along the same lines was his treatise on agriculture and the influence on it of astronomy. Another treatise in mining resulted in prospecting for mines across the whole of the Lecrin Valley. An outstanding achievement was his introduction into Spain of the French decimal system of weights and measures. He bought a printing press which he used to publish many of his scientific works and, above all, his works for schoolchildren. He thought up a method of analytical synthesis for reading. His political activities began around the War of Independence. In Cádiz he carried out a study on the parabolas described by the bullets of the French enemy. Subsequently, he was a member of the Cortes of Cádiz. Senator during the reign of Isabel II, he took part in the proclamation of the young Queen’s coming of age. His time in exile enabled him to come into contact with the great mathematicians of the time in countries such as England, Belgium, France and Holland. He became general director of studies, starting adult education and the foundation of the Teacher Training Schools. Amongst his other numerous works, notable are his contribution to the foundation of the Madrid Athenaeum and the Royal Academy of Natural Science. Mariano José Vallejo, who commanded such great respect in his time, stands out above all for his capacity for work and commitment. His legacy is proof of this.

In Padul are the Isidoro schools, inaugurated on St Sebastian’s Day in 1922. Following the model of Andrés Manjón for his Ave María schools, they were founded by a Count of Padul, descendent of the Herrasti and Pulgar. For many generations, this family has had an important role. Lt General Andrés Pérez is remembered for defending Ciudad Rodrigo against the French enemy in 1811. Although in the time of Philip III, we have Antonio Aróstegui. To this Herrasti, protégé of John of Austria and secretary of State to His Majesty, the monarch gave the title of Colossus of the Order of St James. His father rendered great service to Philip II during the Moorish rebellion in Padul. Aróstegui was charged with arranging the marriage of the daughter of Philip III, Anne of Austria, to the French king Louis XIII. In remembrance of all these events, a palace castle was ordered to be built in Padul.

Padul, its lake and Holy Week. The cradle of great artists. Let us name but two names: Julio García Villena and Benito Prieto Coussent. The first drew and coloured exceptionally well, a master of landscapes and still life. The second, after a long journey that began in his native Ribadeo, settled in Padul. Coussent, a master of portraits, attained notable success with his Christ. His works are exhibited from Istanbul to Buenos Aires and Havana, via Madrid and Paris.

The War of Independence earned Spain its reputation as a romantic country in 19th century Europe. Anybody could become an expert in war, confronting the most talented Napoleonic generals who had managed to conquer half of Europe. Such was Juan Fernández Cañas, mayor of Otívar. However, from mayor to guerrilla, he soon became one of the heroes of the War of Independence. With not the slightest idea of the art of war, he was nevertheless a born leader and brilliant strategist. One of his feats was capturing Padul with very few men; pursuing to within two leagues of the city of Granada the numerous and skilled troops of General Sebastiani.

During 1626, tender was made to the Granada City Council for the purchase of the jurisdiction of Padul. Martín de Aróstegui and Gregorio López Madero took part, but it was awarded to the Council of Granada. In 1639, the lawyer Gregorio López Madero, of His Majesty’s council and hearer in the Royal Council of Castile, gained the burgh of Cozvíjar. The Cadastre of the Marquis of Ensenada tells us that the jurisdiction of this burgh was held by Francisco Fernández, Count of Villa Mena, resident in Granada, who had no rights by jurisdiction. He owned the only flour mill of Laguna River and the country mansion situated beside the church.

Around the 13th century, the Lecrin Valley was teeming with wise men of the Nasrid Kingdom. Ibn Yaafar was one of these men. He was born in Chite and studied in Granada, then went on pilgrimage to Mecca. In the East, he struck up relationships with the most significant mystics and ascetics of the time. By the end of his life he was known as al- Qunyi “he of Cónchar”, the village in which he was preacher. His book The Book of Lights, of which we have no record other than being cited by other authors, is probably the oldest book in the Lecrin Valley.

If there is something which deserves our attention in Dúrcal Square, it is the pillar-fountain. It was donated by the second Marquis of Márgena. Nicolás Bonel y Guzmán, Member of the Cortes, Provincial Councillor and knight of the Military Order of Alcántara, was the son of Nicolás Bonel y Orbe, the first Marquis of Márgena, Member of the Provincial Government, Procurator in the Cortes and Senator. He also did sterling work as mayor of Dúrcal. He is remembered in these parts as providing a solution to the conflict between the people of Dúrcal and Nigüelas over irrigation rights for an area of cultivation. He created a new aqueduct in the Pavilla of Nigüelas which ended the dispute. He managed to quash the Royal Census of Population Types in the province of Granada, thus releasing the population from payment of taxes that had been in place since the time of Philip II. He was named Marquis of Márgena by Isabel II as a token of her appreciation of Nicolas’ brother, the archbishop Juan José Bonel y Orbe. The Garden Palace of the Marquises of Márgena in Dúrcal no longer exists.

Before the Moorish uprising in the time of Philip II, there lived two men in Nigüelas. Both had a great reputation for their knowledge of the area. One was known as El Nacoz (The Bell), and Pedro de Vílches was nicknamed Pegleg. The first was a Moor, the second a Christian. At the outbreak of the uprising, each took opposing sides. El Nacoz, a cunning Moorish chief held the Valley area. He cut off Christian communication between Granada and Órgiva. Luis de Mármol Carvajal relates how John of Austria requested the help of Pedro de Vílches to take El Nacoz prisoner. And how, with his wooden leg, he acted as guide for the Christian troops and trapped the Moor near Albuñuelas.

Diego and Juan Solier Maldonado. These are two of the many names overlooked by history, yet they rendered significant service to Lecrin Valley. Based in Acequias, they were established Christians and among the first to repopulate the area after the Moors were expelled. Their names are recorded in the Acequias Property Register which they helped compile, providing information on land boundaries, number of houses and types of irrigation used by the village.

It was in the Church Square in Béznar that Hernando de Córdoba y Válor crowned himself king of the Moors. With his new name Mahamet Aben Humeya, descendent of the Omeyas, he became the visible head of the Moorish rebellion. Philip II sparked the rebellion by demanding that the Moors abandon their language, attire and other indications of their culture. Based on the Pragmatic Sanction of Charles V, the monarch wanted to carry out his mission. The Lecrin Valley area, lying between and connecting the Alpujarras and Granada, took on vital importance. This was why so much Moorish and Christian blood was spilled and that there are so many tales of heroic deeds and defeats. All told, so many dates, so many names appearing in the history books and events that surprise us today - as they surprised John of Austria at that time. He received news that a group of Béznar residents, armed with twenty-five muskets donated by the Marquis of Mondéjar, had rescued the Saint figure that had been stolen by a group of El Nacoz’ men.

The song of the pirate is the model of the spirit of European romanticism par excellence. It is a well known fact that this work was penned by the author José de Espronceda. What is less well known is that this writer had his origins in the village of Pinos del Valle. His mother, María del Carmen Delgado y Lara, was from this corner of the valley. Another little known fact is that a Pinos local related to this genius, Juan José Bonel y Orbe, guided the duelling of this turbulent romantic’s spirit.

Pinos del Valle has two churches. The Church of the Immaculate, dating from the 16th century, and the Church of St Sebastian, co-patron of the village, dating from the 19th. However, the latter church, more modern than its sister church in Lower Pinos, is original in that it was ordered to be constructed by the cardinal Juan José Bonel y Orbe. Born in Pinos, he spent his childhood in the village until leaving for Granada under the tutelage of his relative Archbishop Moscoso y Peralta. After completing his doctorate in Civil Law and the Holy Canons, he was ordained priest in Alcalá la Real. This is where his meteoric career began, and after being appointed bishop of Malaga and Cordoba, he was appointed archbishop of Toledo. He was Isabel II’s confessor and held in great esteem by her. He blessed one of Spain’s first railways: the Madrid-Aranjuez line. In the provinces of Almeria and Granada he carried out the functions of Patriarch of the Indies and Senator. The zenith of his career came with his appointment as cardinal in Rome and the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. In spite of holding such lofty positions, he was always there for the least fortunate; his tireless help was greatly appreciated by the poor of Malaga during outbreaks of epidemics.

Years later, we come across another noteworthy member of this family, Aureliano Fernández-Guerra y Orbe. This intellectual was a literary critic, playwright, journalist and even historian. His immense work, his thirst for knowledge, his wide cultural references, led him to occupy highly prestigious positions. Life Member of the Royal Spanish Academy of Language, he was named Perpetual Archivist and Librarian. His work as a historian and archaeologist was rewarded by being made a member of the Royal Academy of History. He exercised these functions at the same time as his political ones as Secretary, and then Director General of Public Instruction, in the Ministry of Development, and Senator of the Kingdom for the Royal Academy of History. In addition, he lectured in Foreign Literature at the Central University.

We have already made reference to the importance of the Lecrin Valley in the Wars of Granada. However, a key element was the village of Tablate, today abandoned. It is hard to imagine, among its now silent precipices, the bloodshed that took place to try and capture the village. Many battles were fought around its rocky escarpments. Let us remember fray Cristóbal Molina. When the Moors destroyed the Tablate bridge to prevent the Christians from reaching the Alpujarras, Fray Cristóbal crossed the gap to confront the Moors with a board under his feet, a crucifix in one hand and a sword in the other. When he arrived at the other side, the Christian soldiers followed his example and battle was joined.

Ízbor is like a village in a dream, which has remained silent throughout History. Where the years pass because that is what years do. The builder Cristóbal de Miranda and the carpenter Álvaro de Miranda built the church single-handedly in the mid 16th century. It was restored centuries later by order of Perea y Porras. After preaching towards the end of the 16th century, the Jesuit Pedro de León commented that Ízbor was the most remote village, and where he was treated best. And perhaps all we need highlight about Ízbor is the humanity and humbleness that have always characterised its people.

We have arrived at the last full stop. It is my sincere hope that these lines have not distorted what they were intended to honour. As was stated at the outset, they were not intended to be a biographical bestiary. For this reason, and with the resulting difficulty, entire lives have been condensed into a few modest paragraphs. There are also many other men and women who should have been included in these pages. Not to mention those illustrious authors, from Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, to Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, Benito Pérez Galdós and Camilo José Cela, who created literary portraits of our valley so many years ago. However, also stated at the outset was that this is not an exhaustive history treatise. At the end of the day, if any reader has felt in the least attracted by what is written here; if any reader has looked beyond the years, if any reader has been made to feel alive by capturing the scent of his roots, then the hours spent executing this humble canvas will not have been in vain. At this juncture, let the reader use these pages as shoes, for if everything becomes vague and blurred along the solitude of the pathways, there is always some other path that will give its essence to the person walking along it in search of a route.

Autor: Felix Manuel Martín Gijón