by Saskia Mier
María forms part of the Parque Natural Sierra de María-Los Vélez and is one of the area’s greatest attractions. It has an interesting archaeological heritage, especially present in the cave paintings in Cueva de Haza and the Iberian population at El Pasico. It has about 1200 inhabitants.
The town originated as a small Arab hamlet of shepherds and woodcutters who gathered in the settlement of Cerrico. The first settlements of this municipal area have been strengthened with the creation of the Sierra de María-Los Velez Natural Park, generating investment and increasing the number of visitors, which has given rise to great hopes for the future of this village.
Traces have been found dating back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic times, through different periods and cultures. It was not until the beginning of the seventeenth century that it was constituted as an independent municipality. The mouth of the Caramel O del Alcaide River was the site of the first settlements. Within the urban area, the Muslim neighbourhood centred on the Santa Quiteria hill, later expanding the town around two nuclei.
THINGS TO SEE
Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación
According to an inscription, the church was finished on February 20, 1557, under the reign of Felipe II and the second Marquis de los Vélez, Luis Fajardo. It is of Mudejar style, and consists of the eighteenth-century Rosario chapel, a sundial and pine wood doors with forged rivets and knockers. The quadrangular tower has four bells and a weather vane that reaches 19m in height. Located in Plaza de la Encarnación.(Location)
The Convent was built in 1920 and was inhabited successively by nuns of the Claridad (Corneta) and Clausura (Madres Mercedarias). It was abandoned in the early 1960s. In 1988, it was bought and restored by the Town Hall, and today it is used for socio-cultural purposes. Located on Calle Hornos.(Location)
Museo de la Almendra y El Cereal
Visitors to the Almond and Cereal Museum can learn about the varieties of almonds and a selection of the sweet dishes and breads made from them. The Museum also explains the different methods of sowing cereal grain, as well as the tools used for harvesting, warehousing and the wheat mill. Located in Calle Cerrico.(Location)
Ermita de la Soledad
The chapel was built in the Las Cruces neighborhood in the second half of the sixteenth century to venerate the Virgen de la Soledad. The adjacent monument of the cross was built later to celebrate the Viacrucis.(Location)
THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE
Santuario de la Virgen de la Cabeza
The Sanctuary was built at the end of the sixteenth century at the foot of the Sierra de María in honor of the Virgen de la Cabez who, according to tradition, appeared to shepherds in this exact spot. Since 1813, on the last Sunday in April, festivals have been held in honor of this Virgin, and her icon remains in the town throughout May. Located south west of María, off the A-317.(Location)
When visiting María, try traditional dishes such as olla de matanza (pork stew), gurullos con liebre (pasta stew with hare), gachas (savoury porridge), remojón (orange and cod salad), migas (fried breadcrumbs with pork) and ajo bacalao y crespillos de garbanzos (cod hummus with chickpea bread). Sweet treats include mantecados de almendra (almond lard cakes), tortas fritas (fried pastries) and rollos de Pascua (aniseed biscuits usually made for Easter).
Popular festivals in María are Fiesta de Primavera, Fiestas de Moros y Cristianos, Olimpiadas de Verano and Fiestas de Santa Quiteria. More>
The tourist office is located in the town hall of María. More>