This book is available from Amazon UK and ES; £9.50 or €11; or within Spain, directly from me at €10 – firstname.lastname@example.org (postage extra in each case). To read more about the book, please go to www.hermitagebook.net
On this site I shall indicate updates, and others can make comments, criticism, corrections…
It is now about a year since I published this little book. I have been getting feedback which shows that it is fulfilling its main purpose: that of providing background to visitors to the area. I wish the book could also be read by some at least of my vecinos in the village, but I’m afraid that very few have enough knowledge of English. I am often asked if I can produce a Spanish edition: my answer has to be “No”, because my starting-point was the book in Spanish by a former mayor of the village. This is still on sale, but I have not found anyone who has read it; the fact is, that Spaniards do not read very much, least so in a mountain village. I regret this particularly because the problems which I stressed at the end of my book, arising from increasing traffic and shortage of parking space, has become increasingly acute: people complain, but have no idea how to work out a coherent plan (least of all, I fear, the present mayor).
More constructively, I would like to mention some comments I have received which raised interesting points. A visitor from America wrote to me asking, in particular:
- Had there been more villages in the past? I answered “Yes”. Some disappeared after the war of 1569-71, particularly because not enough Catholic resettlers (repobladores) could be found to replace the Moorish population; also because of the plague which killed off many of those who did settle. One of these was Atalbeitar, which I mention in the book, between Bubión and Capileira.
- When were the villages created? I said that the origins are lost in the mists of history. We know very little about the “Iberians” who inhabited the area well before the Romans. If it is true that many village names are of Latin origin (I’m doubtful about this for Pampaneira and Bubión, but Capileira seems more probable), then they certainly existed in Roman times – sometime after 200 BC, and before the Moors invaded the peninsula in AD 711. In any case, villages would have developed gradually, starting perhaps from just a few peasant huts in places where there was water from springs.
- In Bubión, which is the oldest building? This is a really difficult one. I would guess that settlement started before Moorish times near the place where the church now stands; maybe before the mosque there was some kind of temple. There are many fountains in the lower part of the village, particularly around the church. So probably the first houses were in that area; as they have been constantly rebuilt – fortunately, keeping the Moorish style – it is difficult to tell just by looking at them, but there are several there tucked away in little corners which seem likely candidates.
My attempts to reconstruct the Poqueira battle – in January 1569, the first major conflict in the Alpujarran war between Christians and Moors – have aroused a good deal of speculation. A Danish couple who have a house nearby wrote to me about it: they took the trouble to go and look at the hydro-electric station (photo in my book) where I think the Catholic army must have crossed the Poqueira river. Several of my neighbours have gone with me to explore this site from below (a perilous path above the river, not advised for those who don’t have a head for heights) and from above. Our conclusion seems to be that yes: the crossing would have been difficult but not impossible, and from there foot-soldiers could have “gained the heights” (as is said by one of the chroniclers) above Bubión. And though the historical accounts are distressingly vague, my thesis is at least not inconsistent with what they say.
After completing the book, I was appalled to discover a recent book on the Christian “martyrs” of the 1568-71 war. Certainly there were martyrs and atrocities, but they were committed by both sides. The author is a priest; it terrifies me to think what he has been teaching, in particular to the children sent to him for catechism.
I also found a huge work on Órgiva, the relatively large market-town in the valley below my village. It makes the interesting point that in the Moorish period, land tenure was fairly egalitarian. Subsequently, after the expulsion of the Moors and under the Christian resettlers, some people acquired more land than others, until by the 20th century there were big differences in land ownership, hence in wealth. In fact, many peasants were landless, working – and being exploited – by others. This of course is relevant to the Civil War: the big landowners or “caciques” favoured Franco, while the poor peasants were powerless…
Another excellent recent book on Órgiva – Hablamos de Orgiva – confirms what I wrote about the Civil War: Órgiva stayed in Nationalist hands, but was constantly under attack from Republicans in the nearby Sierra de Lujar.
Also to be added to my bibliography: in El País Perdido, Justo NAVARRO has used the 16th-century sources to write a readable and objective account of the second Morisco rebellion in 1568-71: recommended to those who read Spanish.
And I had missed Dialogue with Death, written by Arthur KOESTLER who was a war correspondent in Malaga until it fell to Nationalist forces in January 1937. He was captured and narrowly avoided execution.
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