La Gente de la Sierra
Visitors to the Costa del Sol often find themselves seduced by the contribution made to modern day Spain by its Islamic past. Architecture, food, place names, music - all show strong links with the Moorish period of Al Andalus. Highlights include the great Mezquita in Córdoba and the Alhambra palaces in Granada, but the links are there to be seen in even the smallest villages.
In many ways Frigiliana epitomises this heritage, having been the site of just about the last battle between Christian and Muslim, when in May 1569 Moriscos from across the Axarquía were defeated in the Battle of Frigiliana; the full story is told in panels of ceramic tiles mounted on walls around the village, the idea of a past alcalde (mayor), Antonio Navas Acosta. He was also responsible for the restoration of cobbles throughout the streets of the old part of the village, inset with their traditional patterns. Indeed, in 1983 Frigiliana was declared the prettiest village in Spain.
It was only after I came to live here permanently two years ago, that I learned of another, darker side to the history of Frigiliana, one which even today is very rarely spoken of. In November 1947, eight years after the end of the civil war, the area bounded by Frigiliana, Torrox and Cómpeta was declared a war zone by the government in Madrid. Earlier that year, 12 men from Frigiliana had gone up into the mountains to join the communist guerrillas under the leadership of José Muñoz Lozano (known by the code name, Roberto). Eventually, a total of 21 local men would become part of the guerrilla group fighting to overthrow the Franco government.
In response, the area was reinforced by large numbers of soldiers and Guardia Civil officers, tasked with wiping out the guerrillas. The conflict lasted for five years until the last of the guerrillas still in the mountains, Antonio Sanchez Martín, was shot dead. By the time it was all over, eleven guerrillas had been shot dead in skirmishes, ambushes, or summary executions; three had been executed after trial, one had committed suicide, and two had been killed by their comrades suspected of spying for the authorities.
I learned all of this, and more from a book* by local author, David Baird, published just after my arrival. I would unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone interested to see just how different life in this region was only 60 years ago.
The photograph that heads this posting is one of my favourites, showing the ridge La Loma de las Vacas surrounded by mist. It is a chastening thought that it was on that ridge on April 22nd 1950 that Civil Guard officers shot dead three village men whom they had arrested earlier in the day; their bodies were later delivered to the cemetery.
* "Between Two Fires", Baird,D, Maroma Press, 2008, Frigiliana