El Contador is a small farming hamlet in the municipal district of Chirivel, in the comarca of Los Velez. It sits on the Plateau of Chirivel, within the province of Almeria. Located just south of the A-92N motorway off junction km 82, it has a population of around 200.
Almonds are one of the most important crops cultivated in the area, with the almond trees blossoming in May.
The early history of the area stems from the location being near an important Roman road. In the middle ages, this area south of the Sierra de María and Sierra de Marmon was forested and known as the Campo de Chirivel (Chirivel Plateau). During the thirteenth century, the region was on the eastern border of the Nasrid Emirate of Granada alongside the Christian Kingdom of Murcia. It was only lightly farmed, and as a potentially dangerous frontier location, the area was gradually depopulated. More>
There are two different legends about the origin of the village’s name of El Contador (or ‘the Counter’); one is that the early settlers had a special fixation on the accurate annual counting of their sheep. The other suggests that the early settlers were established before the reconquest, and as Ferdinand and Isabella’s army passed through en-route to Granada in 1488, they stopped here for several days to take an inventory of their soldiers and equipment.
THINGS TO SEE IN THE VILLAGE
Parish Church de San Antonio de Padua
The present church of San Antonio de Padua was built in 1900 on the former site of an eighteenth-century hermitage. It is built in a modern architectural style, and comprises a central nave and two side naves, separated by large pilasters joined by semi-circular arches. Above the right-hand nave stands a small tower that houses four bells. A highlight is the image of the Patron Saint Anthony of Padua, elegantly carved into wood. The altarpiece is also carved in wood, and features the images of Saint Joseph, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Conception. An icon of the infant Jesus sits in front of the main altar.
Plaza de San Antonio
Remodelled twice, the square is one of the emblematic projects of the village. A large area of earth was replaced with tiles in the mid-1980s. It was renovated again in 2015. As well as the tiled centre, the large rectangular space has small green areas and children’s swings, and well as a small central fountain.
The village’s outdoor municipal washing station is covered and has a rectangular floor plan. Three of its four sides were closed off by simple masonry walls, however, in 2006, renovations were carried out and it now has windows on its left side and bottom enclosure. The sloping ceramic tile roof is supported on wooden joists.
The excess water from the San Antonio spring makes its way to the open water tank to be stored for use in the irrigation of the orchards and terraces.
Museo del Esparto
The first esparto grass museum in the world is located in El Contador. Esparto has been practised by different civilisations for thousands of years and remains a popular craft in much of rural Andalucia. It consists of soaking grass before chopping, braiding and weaving it to make hundreds of objects, including footwear, bags, tools, ropes and mats. It is something of a dying art and the museum is helping it to survive. It can be found on Calle Ballesteros, tel: 950 413 365 / 950 413 001. The museum has no regular opening hours; a key is kept at the tobacconist in the square so visitors must phone ahead to arrange entry.
THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE
Natural Park of the Sierra Maria-Los Vélez
The Natural Park of the Sierra Maria-Los Vélez is to the north of the village. It attracts a host of wild animals and birds that form habitats in the park for its abundance of vegetation. More>
El Villar is a Roman archaeological site, believed to be the former location of a group of villas. It was discovered in the eighteenth century and announced as the site of Ad Morum, a point on the Antonine itinerary. The origin of the town dates back to the end of the first century AD, and it probably attained its maximum splendour in the second century, before being definitively abandoned in the late third or early fourth century.
Further excavation carried out in the 1980s confirmed the site to be a Roman villa; one of the rooms shows a masonry pavement with decoration of eight-pointed stars and rhombuses between which squares and rectangles are interspersed, surrounded by a linear vegetal design. These mosaics are dated to the second century AD.
Two white marble sculptures of excellent quality, plus a foot fragment of another and the white marble sculpture of the god Dionysus, from Macael, have been recovered and are on display in the Almeria Museum. Replicas are displayed in one of the parks in the town.
La Casona De Don Bruno is a two-star hotel located in the village at Plaza de San Antonio, 7. Hotel Casa Lorenzo El Contador is located on the north side of the motorway and is suitable for overnight stops or as a base to explore the area.