By Saskia Mier
Valenzuela is renowned for its idiosyncratic Día del Corpus (Corpus Christi) celebrations; the streets are carpeted with colored sawdust creating varied designs for more than 2kms. The town has around 1200 inhabitants.
During the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras, a great deal of activity took place in this territory, as shown by the tools and other remains unearthed locally. The archaeological site of Cerro Boyero was significant during the Chalcolithic era, and the remains of fortifications are said to be from the Iberian period.
The first documentation of Valenzuela, by Tello Alfonso, dates from the late Middle Ages, detailing its reconquest by Christian troops during the thirteenth century. However, historian Ramírez de las Casas-Deza suggests that the first record in the town's history concerns Lope Sánchez León, who repaired his fortress and received the Lordship of the town in 1235 from Fernando III. In 1296, the Lord of Valenzuela lead his troops to defend Baena, besieged by the King of Granada.
At the beginning of the fourteenth century, Urraca Sánchez de Valenzuela married Martín Sánchez de Castro, Lord of Castro el Viejo and second son of Pay Arias de Castro, Señor de Espejo. His great-grandson, Alfonso Sánchez de Valenzuela, defended the town from the attack and siege of the Moors during the reign of Enrique II. His brother, VI Lord of Valenzuela, Martín Sánchez de Valenzuela, lost the title of Lordship of Castro Viejo for fighting on the side of Pedro I against Enrique II.
In 1382, Nasrid forces destroyed Valenzuela's defensive tower and in 1483, the Lord of Valenzuela helped the Knights from the southern region of the Kingdom of Córdoba during the Battle of Lucena. After the vicissitudes at the end of the Middle Ages, Valenzuela was erected in Marquesado by Felipe IV in 1625, being granted to Don Antonio Domingo Fernández de Córdoba.
THINGS TO SEE
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
This church was built in 1977 over a former church that once stood on this site. However, the construction deteriorated until the ceiling collapsed in 2004. In May 2005, a project was launched to remodel the church, led by the current parish priest Don Vicente Castander. The whole town collaborated for two years of work until March 2007, when it was finally able to inaugurate the newly transformed church, which is located on Calle Ancha.
Antiguo Hospital de Jesús y María
The Hospital was founded by Don Rodrigo Luis de Arroyo in 1784. Its principal objective was to assist the sick and needy, as well as to educate girls abandoned in the town. In 1877 it stopped being able to fulfil these functions due to a lack of funding. The building still conserves its tower, since it was subject to a complete restoration in 2006, and the hospital now acts as a Cultural Center equipped with training rooms and a municipal library and exhibition hall. It can be found on Calle Monte Calvario.
Centro Cultural Juan el Impresor
This cultural center was built around the beginning of the 21st century but was left unfinished. In 2010, a local project was initiated to complete various unfinished building works around the town; the center was equipped with a large theatre stage, a cinema screen and projector and many rows of seats for the public. The center is located on Carretera de Baena.
THINGS TO SEE OUTSIDE THE VILLAGE
This is a fortified enclosure of Iberian origin, and has been speculatively identified as the site where the town originally stood due on the number of remains found - although this theory has not been verified. At present there are very few remains of the fortification, but those that are still visible can be found south east of Valenzuela.
Ermita del Calvario
The chapel contains an octagonal iron temple that formerly sat within the bell tower of the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. It is worth a visit on Good Friday, when the icons of Jesus and the Virgin rise and the meeting between them is represented at the door of the chapel surrounded by a crowd of followers. Also worth a mention is the incredible panoramic view of the town which the site of the chapel affords. The chapel can be accessed south east of Valenzuela, on Cerro Boyero.
Laguna de la Quinta
The lagoon is an important wetland for the breeding, resting and feeding of waterfowl. It provides ideal water and vegetation conditions for breeding populations of threatened species, such as storks. Other species commonly seen here are the common flamingo and gray and imperial herons. The lagoon is located about 10km south west of Valenzuela, on private property and surrounded by agricultural crops, predominantly olive groves and some cereal crops.
Laguna del Rincón del Muerto
This lagoon falls within the municipality of Baena, with which it shares the lithological characteristics of the basin, consisting of sandy limestones, sandstones, variegated marls and plasters. It collects about 70% of rainfall during the autumn-winter rains and usually dries up in the summer months. It is also an important wetland for the breeding, resting and feeding of waterfowl. It is situated in the vicinity of Laguna de la Quinta, about 10km south west of Valenzuela.
Local crafts still produced in Valenzuela consist of esparto (grass weaving) and olive wood carving.
When visiting Valenzuela, you will notice that pulses and oils are the most significant food products in the town, forming dishes such as habas frescas revueltas con jamón (broad beans with jamón), cocido con carne (chickpea stew with meat), relleno (stuffing) and salmorejo (cold tomato and garlic soup). Sweet treats include fruta jeringa (similar to churros served with a sugar or honey topping), magdalenas (muffins) and tortas de Manteca (lard cakes).
Cabalgata Reyes Magos
Three Kings procession celebrated on the evening of 5 January.
Celebrated the 2 February.
Celebrated in February.
Día de Andalucía
Celebrated the 28 February.
Holy Week (dates vary each year).
Virgen de la Cabeza
Celebrated the Thursday before the last Sunday of April.
Romería de San Isidro
Celebrated the 15 May.
Día del Corpus
Celebrated 60 days after Resurrection Sunday.
Fiestas de San Roque
Celebrated the 14-17 August.
The neighbouring villages to Valenzuela are Higuera de Calatrava, Santiago de Calatrava, Porcuna and Baena.