The Indalo Man, an ancient symbol
The Indalo Man is an ancient symbol found in the province of Almeria over 100 years ago. Also know to some as the “Indalo Puppet”, it was first found somewhere in the Las Velez mountain range of northern Almeria province in a caved known as La Cueva de los Letreros (Cave of the Signboards), near Velez Blanco by Antonio Gongónia y Martinez in 1868. The cave itself was made a National Historic Monument in 1924. The symbol is said to date back to Neolithic times and seems to depict a man holding a rainbow in his arms, over his head.
The original symbol was also placed along another of symbols, including horned men and animals. It is believed to date back some 4500 years. Some believe that the Indalo represents a prehistoric god holding the rainbow in his open arms in an apparent pact of protection with man. Others believe that the true meaning has been lost. The Indalo became a local “good charm” symbol and over time, it was used to ward away bad luck and even the “evil eye”.
The symbol’s rebirth in popularity coincided with the rebirth of the area. Mojacar’s fortunes began to change around the middle of the 19th century when its population began to decline. The reasons were numerous. The region (technically Europe’s only desert) began to suffer severely from droughts and many residents began to leave. Some went northward to seek employment in the factories of industrialising Catalunya while others immigrated to distant places like the Americas.
De-population had led to less than 300 inhabitants living in the Mojacar area during the mid-20th century. Running water, electricity, and telephone service all lagged other areas in Spain. Farms and homes were left abandoned to decay. The old town began to resemble more of a ghost town than the vibrant centre that it once was.
Then suddenly, Mojacar region began to see a rebirth. It first began with the influx of Almerian artists like Jesús de Perceval, a disciple of the Barcelonan philosopher, Eugenio d’Or. In the mid-1950s, de Perceval founded the Movimiento Indaliano, choosing the figure as its emblem. “Indalo” is derived from the Latin, “Indo Eccius”, which means “Messenger of the Gods” although once again, many believe that the original meaning of the symbol has been lost. The original group included musicians, artists, writers, poets but mostly painters. Mojacar was becoming a renowned artists’ colony and its symbol became more and more visible. This was also the beginning of the propagation of the Indalo as a local emblem.
The 1960s was also the time that the local government began to offer free land to anyone that would agree to construct a dwelling while adhering to certain conditions. This offer and the growing popularity of the region attracted not only international artists but also many counter-culturists who where looking for a special place in the sun. Mojacar was just the place and to many of these new mojaqueros (as residents of Mojacar call themselves), the symbol of the Indalo seemed the perfect mythical icon to represent their new-found home.
The construction of Mojacar Playa (beach) was also beginning at this time. Until now, the region was famous for the hillside town and its surrounding farms but now the natural beauty of the Mediterranean Sea and its beautiful sandy beaches was becoming the main attraction. Now the region was beginning to bustle with holiday-seekers, eager to enjoy their time playing in the sand and surf. The Indalo symbol became even more popular as it was incorporated into the ever-increasing number of businesses and consumer goods. Its use multiplied and the Indalo became more of a provincial emblem than just a local one. Over the next few years, the Indalo symbol saw a great increase in its popularity with it being painted on the front of houses and business as a good luck totem. It very much became the symbol of this region of Almeria and Mojacar in particular.
So the Indalo has taken on a new level of symbolism in its long existence. First known as a protector or good luck charm, its adoption by the intellectual/artistic community of the Mojacar area during the mid-20th century has also made it synonymous with rejuvenation, rebirth, and hope. The symbol has now been adapted as not only representative for the Mojacar region but also for the whole province of Almeria which embraces it widely. It now adorns everything from t-shirts to key-chains, from pottery to jewellery. The Indalo has come a far way from its ancient origins on a dark cave wall.