Villaluenga del Rosario History

by Florence Long

Typical of the Pueblos Blancos (white villages) of Andalucia, the town features whitewashed walls, brown-tiled rooves, narrow alleyways, steep inclines, and cobblestone roads. Although the exact date of the establishment of the settlement is unknown, remains from the Neolithic period have been found in local caves.

Evidence of both Moorish and Roman settlers has been found, most notably in the remnants of a Roman road and an aqueduct. The road, which runs close to the town, was built on an ancient cattle route, commandeered by Roman and Moorish settlers, and is still used to this day. Although the exact origin of the route is difficult to ascertain because of the many repairs, it probably dates back 2,000 years. The route runs from Benaocaz to Grazalema and is known as the Cañada La Manga or Campobuche.

Many Andalusian towns, including Villaluenga, were occupied by the Arabs from around the 7th to the 15th century. After the long and bloody Catholic reconquest, successive Catholic monarchs ruled over Spain. Notably, in 1605, Felipe IV of Spain came to the throne and invested in the town of Villaluenga, making it famous for textile production.

However, after this period of relative prosperity, the French occupation of Spain curtailed any stability within the region. From The Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, to the Peninsula War (1807-14), conflict devastated the region. The damage was especially acute when the French withdrew from Cadiz. Villaluenga was ransacked, and many of its structures burned. The area declined as a result, and bandits moved in, using local caves to shelter in. Amongst these outlaws were the infamous José María El Tempranillo and Pasos Largos.

At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War (1936-9), two Republican fighters fled from the Fascists through the valley in which Villaluenga del Rosario is situated, and a track was named after them. The route of Los Llanos del Republicano (The Republican’s Plains) can still be walked to this day.

By the 1960s, mass emigration had caused further economic deterioration, and the town did not experience an economic revival until the turn of the century. Even now the town is relatively small, with a population of around 440 (2017). Its present industry is based on agriculture and farming, specifically the Payoyo cheese. This artisanal cheese is unique to the area and is made using the milk of the Payoyo goat, an endangered species, native to the region.