Málaga Province - Macharaviaya

The tiny village of Macharaviaya, in the hills of La Axarquia. © Sophie Carefull
The tiny village of Macharaviaya, in the hills of La Axarquia.

This hill village, part of the Ruta Turistica del Sol y el Aguacate, enjoyed the height of its fortunes from the 18th century until the beginning of the 19th century. In fact, such was Macharaviaya's status that it was known as "little Madrid".

The architects of this splendour were the Gálvez family, an influential political dynasty (high-ranking officers and governors of New World territories, who also helped the Americans against the British in the War of Independence) who made this town their home, became its patron and gave it a huge economic boost. Among the projects undertaken in Macharaviaya during this period were the Real Fábrica de Naipes (Royal Playing Card Factory), an agricultural bank, a drinking water system (unheard of in villages at this time) and the reconstruction of the Iglesia de San Jacinto, built in 1505, many years before Macharaviaya (the name comes from the Arabic Machar Ibn Yahha, Court of Yahha's son) had been founded as a town, over an old Arabic farmhouse.

Town hall and statue of Bernardo de Galvez. © Sophie Carefull
Town hall and statue of Bernardo de Galvez.

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At the entrance to the village you can see a shrine to the memory of the Galvez family and its contributions to the municipality. There is also a mausoleum crypt, located underneath the San Jacinto church, where you can find statues of some family members, as well as a Galvez museum. The former Royal Playing Card Factory, which enjoyed a monopoly over sales of this product in America during the 18th century, is now a residential building.

 Bernardo de Galvez. © Sophie Carefull
Bernardo de Galvez.

The American painter Robert Harvey, whose pop art paintings were very fashionable in the 1960s (Barbra Streisand, Vincent Price and Eva Marie Saint all own works of his), lived in the town for over 30 years. He was a much-loved local figure; the Friends of Robert Harvey Association works to keep his memory alive. In recent decades, the town has attracted more foreign artists and craftsmen, many of whom have restored the town's old abandoned houses.

The house of the poet Salvador Rueda, in a hamlet called Benaque, 2km from Macharaviaya, and which he describes in one of his poems as a "poor house", is now a museum. Once you're in Benaque, as well as the Casa-Museo Salvador Rueda, it's worth paying a visit to the Iglesia del Rosario - built over an ancient mosque, whose original minaret is now the bell tower. Inside the church you can admire the 17th-century frescoes.

To get into the festival spirit of the Macharatungos (people from Macharaviaya), visit the town in August during the Feria y Procesión del San Bernardo. In the first week of the month, ceramic, painting and photography exhibitions are organised. You can also see folk groups singing and dancing, with typical performances from Verdiales groups. Furthermore, on 7 October the Procesión de la Virgen del Rosario takes place and on 2 December there is the Certamen de Pastorales (a pastoral song contest).

Typical Macharaviayan cuisine includes sopas de maimones (soup made from garlic, ham, bread, eggs, oil and salt), gazpachuelo (soup made using fish, egg, oil, vinegar, bread and salt), uvas en aguardiente (a drink made from grapes, alcohol and sugar) and pestiños (a pastry-based dessert made using oranges, white wine, lemon and sesame), which are eaten all year round.

Macharaviaya is located 20km north-east of Malaga city.