HISTORY OF ALCOLEA
Although the origins of Alcolea are uncertain, the oldest vestiges discovered locally correspond to the Neolithic period, which were found at the beginning of the twentieth century in Barranco de los Caballos. These are thought to be the remains of animals. Due to the location, with a nearby river and abundant groundwater, it is feasible that some type of population already existed here at this time, although it is most likely that they would have been nomadic and dedicated to hunting and harvesting.
It is feasible that, at later stages, the area was inhabited by Iberians, given the proximity to nearby towns such as Berja, in which Iberian remains have been located. Of the centuries between the Neolithic period and the Arab domination we know next to nothing; the distribution of the irrigation channels seems to follow a Roman style, and the proximity to Berja could corroborate this.
Today’s Alcolea probably developed during the Al-Andalus period, as indicated by its name, which comes from the Arabic for “small castle”; a defensive tower, of which only traces remain today, would have presided over the town. Names like Inizar, Guarros, Jocanes, Tajaule and Benomar testify to the passage of the Moors through the lands and the footprint they left for almost 800 years. This footprint was fundamentally agricultural, cultivating olive trees, fruit trees, cereals, and improving the yield of irrigation and encouraging its development.
This territory was one of the last to be re-conquered by the Kingdom of Castilla y León, and the Kingdom of Aragon. It fell alongside the Kingdom of Granada and depended directly on King Boabdil, the last Nasrid King of Granada, since the Alpujarras area apparently belonged to it. For almost 100 years, although the repopulation was carried out with Christians, a certain number were Moors who converted to Christianity. They continued to practice their customs and religion in privacy, until 1567, when this was revealed and they were expelled from the old Kingdom of Granada. With the new repopulation around 1570-1580, the Christian population occupied the new land. Smallholdings and subsistence agriculture predominated during this stage of modern Alcolea, which ended with the War of Independence.
During the twentieth century, the population of Alcolea was also involved in the Civil War, remaining on the republican side. After the Civil War, rationing had particularly cruel effects in the town. Although farmers formed 99% of the population and continued to cultivate their land, residents suffered hunger and hardship since crops were systematically required of them.
At the beginning of the 1960s, a large part of the young population emigrated, mainly to Catalonia, Madrid and Valencia, where the economic prospects generated by re-industrialization, encouraged by the state, tourism and population growth, promised new horizons of economic prosperity. This was, of course, to the detriment of the population of Alcolea, which decreased in number rapidly.
With the arrival of democracy, and given the economic hardship in the agricultural areas of Andalusia and Extremadura, economic subsidies were obtained through the PER (Rural Employment Plan) , which included unemployment benefits for seasonal workers. This managed to curb the depopulation that the area had been suffering. With the entry into the European Economic Community, subsidies to agricultural products were promoted, which meant an economic boom in the area, attracting even emigrants who, in the 1960s, were forced to leave their birthplace. Since 1986, thanks to subsidies and more intensive agriculture, they have fostered an economic boom, in turn followed by a registered trademark for the local oil.