This book is available from Amazon UK and ES; £9.50 or €11; or within Spain, directly from me at €10 – michaeltracy4@gmail.com (postage extra in each case). To read more about the book and the author, please go to www.hermitagebook.net

On this site I shall indicate updates, and others can make comments, criticism, corrections…

It is now nearly two years since I published this little book. Recently, I have rather neglected this site, but time does not stand still: I continue to come to my house in Bubion 3-4 times a year, and stay for a month or two. Each time I find something new, talk to more people…
I become increasingly attached to the Alpujarra, and this village in particular. There is not much to change or add to what I wrote in the book about the history of the area, but I will maintain below some interesting comments I received and answers I gave.
On the other hand, the concerns I expressed at the end of the book become more-and-more relevant. Nothing has been done to resolve the problem of traffic. On the contrary, the vital piece of land in the centre of the village, which could have been so valuable as a multi-story car-park (I know that sounds horrid but I believed it could have been done in an aesthetic way) has been sold. At least, the buyers are not developers but two villagers, who have been planting fruit trees and seem to intend to keep it as a green area.
But meanwhile, with the new school building taking up much of the previous parking area in the centre, congestion only gets worse: cars park all along the narrow street leading down from the main road into the lower village, they fill up the Placeta de Sol and squeeze into any other available space.
This is not just inconvenient for those who live here: it detracts from the charm of the village, and of course, if visitors find it difficult to park they will continue up the road to Capileira (although this too has its problems) and shops and restaurants get fewer customers (they been already been suffering badly from the recession).
True, money is short at present; but the most worrying feature is the absence of any coherent plan. Such a plan must provide for more adequate parking: the only remaining area is the waste land above the village, though this is at the end of a narrow street and is a bit too far from the centre, and the walk down to the church is less attractive. Then it should be possible to restrict entry for vehicles into the lower village: this could already be done by a simple notice (“residents only”), perhaps even by bollards below the Placeta del Sol which could be lowered by remote control devices provided only to residents (a system used in other ancient towns and villages).
Villagers agree that there is a problem, though I think they do not realise that it can only get worse and that action becomes increasingly urgent. The mayor seems to think that what remains of the central car park could be excavated to create an additional story: that, of course, would have been the ideal solution before the new school was built.
Another case of inability to act is the swimming-pool being built on the waste area already mentioned. For three summers now there was just a pool with water; now changing-rooms etc have been built, but there is some problem about electric cabling: either money has run out again or some permit is lacking. Nobody ever knows exactly about such things, and the mayor is uncommunicative (I tried). So for another summer season the village is still waiting for this feature which would greatly help to encourage visitors.
The irony is that Capileira remains in much the same situation, although I hear that their pool – construction was started at about the same time – is crumbling for lack of maintenance… If the two villages could have co-operated to build a single pool, probably that would now have been in operation.
Despite all this, the Alpujarra and all its village remains a glorious place to visit, and I hope that anyone reading this will not be discouraged from coming – or coming again. Surely the pool will be available in 2015, though I don’t hold out much hope for the traffic problem.
Finally, I must add the Juan Perez Ramon, the former mayor who wrote the book in Spanish which gave me the idea of writing one in English, died very recently. He was much loved: most of the village people followed the funeral procession to the cemetery below the village, and many tears were shed.

Here are some earlier comments:
I have been getting feedback which shows that the book is fulfilling its main purpose: that of providing background to visitors to the area. I wish it 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 Alguastar, 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.

This “blog” site is open – comments welcome here! So would comments posted on Amazon, favourable or otherwise!

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3 thoughts on “WELCOME !

  1. Keith Oates

    I recently purchased and enjoyed your new book on Bubion. Perhaps you will indulge me in passing on a little of my own background as a lead in to my visits to the Alpujarras.
    I am well retired and live in Northern Ireland. At 15 I joined the RAF, and it was when we flew up the Med’ from Malta that I saw the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas for the first time (in 1967).
    In the early 1880s, when I was Scientific Officer at the NI Astronomical Observatory at Armagh, I was sent out with an ex-Cambridge astronomer to the Sierra Nevada Mountains above both Granada and the Poqueira barranco. Our two lots of three months there allowed us to sample the area. Our normal routine was to spend a week up at the Observatory, above Borreguiles, do our observing from 11 pm to 6 am, sleep until midday, ski in the afternoon, and go down to Granada for the weekends. It was during these weekends that an uncle of a Spanish teacher working in Armagh showed us around the high villages. We dined at Capileira, and made the customary visit to the jamon city: Trevelez. So that was my original introduction to the Alpujarras, your area.
    Then in 1996, I and a few mountaineering friends were looking for somewhere to make a mountaineering holiday: I suggested the Alpujarras. Purely by a pin in a map we chose Marie Sol’s cortijo “La Suerte”. From that time I have become great friends with both Marie Sol and her Irish husband Tony. Over the years I have taken out many friends, hill-walking groups and fellow artists (I play the French horn) and on one occasion I managed to get the Banco De Santander to sponsor the 16-piece Brass ensemble I played with. We holed up in the Hotel Salobreña, meals included; in return we played at a venue in black-and-whites every night. These included two in Granada, several in the towns close by, including Motril, where I remember their lovely theatre in which we played. Mari Sol’s cortijo is just around the corner from the hydro-electric station. It was a great place to take off in to the hills. Over the time we walked up on to Mulhacen and Alcazaba, as well as the western hills of Valletta and Elorrieta.
    Some of the most enjoyable times have been when I was with my painting friends. Then the routine was up for breakfast about 10am, as the sun came over the nearby hills with a breakfast view across to Sierra Luqua, out to one of the villages, paint until 3pm. Then vino/pan/jamon/frutas mid-afternoon. Doze at cortijo till 7pm, and then out to a restaurant for dinner. Yep all-in-all I have very good memories of an area that I have fallen in love with: my Alpujarras.
    So I put your name into Google and checked out a few sites, where I was able to find your email address, and very interestingly read about your own comings-and-goings over the years. You would appear to have had a similarly interesting life, albeit on the political and diplomatic fronts. Perhaps our paths will cross some time in the future.

  2. Tony Crowther

    Michael, I enjoyed the book as much as our lunchtime conversation in Capileira after which Val & I bought it. I was struck, as an architect, by the similarity of form which Bubion shares with Sfakia in Crete & places in Santorini, developed out of an abundance of stone, relatively little timber & extremely steep slopes, with access by foot or mule. I can see you are worried by the onset of the car, but the world-wide rule is that cars, like water, will fill up any available space. Restrictions are the only answer & the local populace always resist them in the belief that they will lose trade, convenience etc. In Libourne, a successful Bastide town in the Gironde, they managed to build a 3-storey deep car-park under the central market square (at what cost & inconvenience I dread to think). A splendid achievement, but the whole town is still choked on market-days to some 15-minutes walk from the square. Nothing will be effective in Bubion until the three villages co-operate & co-ordinate their strategies (impossible?). I would suggest that all vehicles (except for deliveries) be banned at the turn-off after Pamponeira & access to all 3 be solely by mule, bicycle or foot. Float that past the mayor; tell me what he says.
    I mentioned a couple of books on the Alhambra with which I think you were unfamiliar, they were:
    The Alhambra: Oleg Grabar, Alan Lane, 1978, ISBN 0 7139 1020 8 and more recently & most interestingly
    The Alhambra; Robert Irwin, Profile Books, 2004, ISBN 1 8619 7412 4
    Best wishes, Tony & Val Crowther

    1. mat1932 Post author

      Thank you, Tony and Val: I’m glad you liked the book. Discussing architecture, I struggled for an English equivalent for “mamposteria”, the term for the traditional house walls. “Rough stone” seems to be the nearest: a simple technique whereby the wall can be built by hand (“mam..” probably comes from “mano” i.e. hand), using local material. On reflection, I wonder whether clay could have been used to fill the gaps – there is not much clay in the mountains – so maybe dung was the original method (plenty of this when animals were kept under the village houses). Now there is cement.
      Your comments on the traffic and parking issue are apt, and I share your view about co-operation between the villages: alas, they could not even co-operate over the swimming-pool. I had the idea of a “navette” bus service from Pampaneira to the other two villages, at least on busy weekends, but I have not even dared to mention this!
      And thanks for the book suggestions: I already have Irwin on my Kindle!


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