Genalguacil - Deserted villages of Genalguacil

Deserted Villages of GenalGuacil

Benestepar

Other than the outstanding beauty of the area, the mountainside is littered with sites from man's past. Probably the largest in the district was the village of Benestepar, which nearly survived the Morisco uprising, only to fade due to the economic pull of Casares and Genalguacil in the early 17th century. As its name suggests this was a Moorish settlement, which flourished due to its closeness to the fertile Río Genal and the access it had up a side valley to the various mines. In the 1492 census it had a population of 161 divided between 35 houses. This suggests that this was one of the bigger communities in the whole area and was certainly more than double the total of Genalguacil. In the previous year, it came under the lordship of the Duque de Arcos' Senorio de Casares and in 1505 the community joined the pastoral care of Casares.  The village suffered heavily during the 1568 revolt but its location was so important that, unlike other communities that simply disappeared, a decision was taken to re-populate it.

In October 1572, Benestepar was re-populated from Tarifa, Jimena and Gibraltar, and this resulted in the habitation of 18 homesteads. However, two years later, Royal Inspector Areualo de Zuazo favoured Casares as the main community that should be encouraged. He believed in fewer locations rather than spreading the population too thinly on the ground. His influence clearly prevailed because in the 1591 military census only 12 households were counted and it was agreed that many of the inhabitants were already living in Genalguacil and Casares. We can only presume that the village died soon after this point in time. Once a decision had been made that it was no longer viable, the houses were flattened so that it could not be used as a refuge for the remaining Moriscos and criminal bandits hiding in the hinterland. Today the name can be found on a map associated with Loma de Benaestepar and an arable area of the same name. It is located on the old Baños del Duque road (Casares) and overlooked both the Genal and the Almarchal valleys. The latter was large enough to power Molino del Charito, which was certainly associated with this site. Further up-stream another mill can be found, with easy access from Genalguacil via the track leading off from the cemetery. The archway of the aqueduct is said by the locals to be Roman, but more likely it is part of the medieval millthat served the village.

Almarchal

The Río Almarchal has kept the name alive of another deserted Moorish village.  Almarchal was located much further up-stream and seems to have been the "rail-head" for the mines in the area. Located on the old Estepona track, the site today is occupied by Cortijo Alcaría. The community had a population of 107 in the 1491 census, again larger than Genalguacil. The valley at this point offers some surprisingly long sections of fertile meadow land, which was a valuable commodity on these steep hillsides. It was part of the lordship and parish of Casares, but certainly disappeared after the 1568-70 Morisco uprising. Who serviced the mines after this date is not known, as they were still exploited up to the 18th century. Looking at the early editions of the map, three mines in this valley are clearly marked. The pits of San Pedro, La Herrumbrosía and Majal del Toro are all close to each other and were worked for their iron. Locals talk of other ores such as silver, although it was not found to be economically viable to extract in later centuries due to the mines of the South American empire. Down by the deserted village, the ruins of the foundry still exist, located in an area called Pascular Madoz.

Benihexin / Benaji or Benameji

The third and final settlement of Benihexin/Benaji or Benameji was situated much higher up the mountain slopes and was the first community to be deserted. It was located only two kilometres north of Genalguacil, on the slopes of Umbria 966 metres above sea level. In a time of downsizing it would have been an easy decision to absorb the population into the larger surviving village. The 1491 census does not record its size and it can only be presumed the community was at most a homestead that did not survive the Conquest of 1485.

 

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