Málaga Province - Cartajima

Chestnut forests surround the white village of Cartajima
Chestnut forests surround the white village of Cartajima

Located halfway between the Ronda-San Pedro road and village of Juzcar, Cartajima is a small, quiet hamlet. It is one of the highest communities in the province of Malaga, at 846m above sea level. Like other villages in the Alto Genal of the Serrania de Ronda, Cartajima is famous for its chestnut trees , which are harvested in October and November. In the 19th century cannon factories brought wealth, and the town was known as “Little Cadiz”.


Cartajima has a spectacular setting: a backdrop of mountainous limestone dominates the village from behind. The contrast between the white limestone massif (the Sierra de Oreganal) above the village, and the low-lying chestnut, oak and cork-oak woods below, is sharp and dramatic.

HISTORY

Records of the community’s long history were lost when the archives and church were torched during the early days of the Civil War in 1936. The village has Roman origins (some coins were found when Las Penuelas was built), as well as tombs from the Phoenician period at Cortijo del Raton. A further Roman site at Cañada de Harife may have had some baths, fed by natural hot springs, possibly located at Pilar de la Higuera.

The pueblo is certainly of Berber origin after the Moorish conquest of 711AD, though it may not have been founded immediately due to the high altitude. The place name stems from the Arabic Aljaria al Jaima. In Spanish, it means La Alquería de la Aljaima or the “Homestead of Aljaima”, which supports the theory that it was only a large family settlement and its population did not grow until later. Indeed, as the Christians moved on to Córdoba in the 1250s, so the refugee population grew in the Moorish territories. Grain and the vine at this altitude would have been of poor quality, but sufficient to feed a small population.

The pueblo survived the Christian conquest in 1485 but due to its remoteness, the Moriscos almost certainly continued with their old Moslem ways; the pueblo`s name was changed to Xaritalxime. The 1492 census recorded 147 inhabitants but made no mention of the other medieval settlements. The majority of the population was dispersed around Spain soon afterwards, as the 1501 census records only 63 inhabitants. Cartajima became the seat of a parish in 1505, established with one benefactor and sacrament.

The remaining population was coerced into being baptised in 1511 and largely carried on with their life, as the land was sparsely populated by the invading Christians. However, realising that the Moriscos were still practising their old ways, the Inquisition made a visitation to the pueblo in 1560. As a result, 11 Morisco members of the pueblo were fined for engaging in Moslem traditions, such as dress, eating habits and prayer. As the Christians continued to dominate this remote region, so deep resentment was born and this led to the uprisings of 1568 (see Juzcar). 

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INTERESTING SITES

The pueblo can be reached by its own very small side-road from the San Pedro highway. Just before the junction it is worth stopping and contemplating the landscape: the modern lane does not follow the old medieval track, and below the road by Pilar de la Higuera, the old mule track can be seen. This spot is the site of a spring where livestock were watered when going to market. A Roman hot water spring is also supposed to be located in this area. The water flows out of the limestone mass and is channelled into 18th-century water channels and pools.

The Church, Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary), occupies the highest point in the village and still dominates the pueblo. The16th-century building is very simple with a rectangular nave and a tower to the right. A flight of stairs leads up to a Baroque doorway. The interior was restored in 1941 after it was burned during the Civil War. The ceiling is of plain unpainted wood, with perforated tie beams in the artesanado tradition. A large painting by Miguel Martín, the celebrated Ronda painter-photographer, dedicated to the village in honour of his birth in the pueblo in 1947, adorns the wall. Two statues from the 17th and 18th century, one dedicated to Jesus and the other to Our Lady of the Rosary, are set in a central niche.

The village itself has steep, narrow streets, offering spectacular views over the surrounding chestnut, oak and cork-oak forests.

Heading south towards Juzcar, a number of interesting points are worthy of mention. El Risco is situated on the boundary with Juzcar in the limestone landscape on the right. Here the he limestone outcrop has been carved by the elements – wind and rain - into extraordinary natural sculptures, which are not as impressive as El Torcal, situated 40 kilometres north of Málaga, but still worth a visit. This limestone mountain is also the home to Cueva de Diego and Carrión. Many a treasure hunter in the search of hidden Moorish booty has probably visited both caves. On maps they are situated to the east of the pueblo, well inside the limestone mountain.

From the border with Juzcar, the Río Genal valley is the sight of Molino Real, whose name implies royal patronage – it was one of many sites of the cannon factory, which gave the town its name “Little Cadiz!. Two other nearby mills are the only evidence today of the once-flourishing iron ore industry.

In Semana Santa, there are special celebrations on Easter Saturday and Sunday, called “Las Cortesias”. Cartajima a lively feria in mid-August, when local specialities such as rabbit and a unique local mushroom soup are made and served. There is also the procession of the Virgen del Rosario in October. The real treat comes after the chestnut crop in October/November, particularly the dishes produced by the local population from the early fruits of their castaños or chestnut trees.

LOCATION

Cartajima is 108km from Malaga, just off the A-397; take the MA-525 between Ronda and San Pedro de Alcantara.

Here is a map showing the location of Cartajima

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