Villanueva de los Castillejos
by Saskia Mier
Villanueva de los Castillejos is situated in the heart of El Andevalo. Once a thriving centre of factories creating products such as flour, buttons and hats, today it is mainly a rich agricultural village, most famously known for its production of citrus and nectarines.
Villanueva de los Castillejos was first occupied by the Celtas Beturienses. During the Romanization of the area, which took place around the year 194 B.C, a territory was formed by small fortified houses,known as "castillejos" that served as an auxiliary to the main castle. These were military homes that were placed at certain distances where storehouse were set up to provide passing armies travelling from the mouth of the Guadiana to Merida.
During the Moorish era, the territory belonged to the Cora de Niebla that later became belonged to the Dukes of Béjar and later divided to the Marquis of Gibraleón. At that time, the territory was known as Lugar de los Castillejos.
On July 22, 1631 by Royal Charter, S.M. Felipe IV grants Lugar de los Castillejos a village title and with it a number of privileges.
During the nineteenth century, Villanueva de los Castillejos suffered invasion of Napoleon's troops with its devastating effects. The village was destroyed, houses and crops demolished as well as stolen livestock being taken away.
After the War of Independence, the villagere-emerged as gradually houses were re-built and the land prepared for crops.However, in the twentieth century, specifically the 1960s,it suffered a setback as inhabitants moved to the capital for better work.
THINGS TO SEE
Iglesia de la Purísima de la Concepción
The construction of the church began around 1870 on previous ruins from the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, and has undergone several modifications. Construction stopped and began again during 1928. The beautiful neoclassical altarpiece dates back to 1950, measuring 200 square metres and made of 23 carat gold. Locatedon Calle Mesones.
Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Piedras Albas
The chapel dates back to the fifteenth century. Notably, the chapel is surrounded by mountains, glens and the area of Cabeza del Buey, which once housed the first settlement in the area and belongs to both Villanueva de los Castillejos and El Almendro .Located in Prado de Osma, in El Almendro.
The Sierra Abuela is one of the highest peaks of El Andévalo, covered with dense pine forests. Equipped with a picnic area and barbecues to enjoy a picnic and on a clear day even views across to Portugal can be seen. From the highest point you can see how the landscape changes from orchards and coastal plains to the mountainous landscape and El Andévalo pastures. The fauna of the Sierra Abuela include birds of prey like the eagle, black kite, hawk etc. As for flora, there are oaks, rockrose, pine, orchard and eucalyptus. To get there you exit from the road between El Almendro and Villanueva de los Castillejos, east towards Camino de la Raya. At 1,500m into the route, there are several stables and cottages. Leaving the reservoir to the left, follow the path through a property called "El Hornillo" and 1km onwards, up a steep hill, is Sierra Abuela.
Edificio Antiguo Ayuntamiento
The previous town hall was constructed in the seventeenth century and has a square, which although small, is known as the town square or "Plazoleta" specific for its black iron and stone benches that have become the nerve centre of the village. The building once housed the municipal offices until 1991 and currently you will find the police station and Guadalinfo Centre. Located in Plaza Ayuntamiento.
The mill dates back to the eighteenth century representing the daily life of inhabitants in the region as well as in the Portuguese Algarve or Alentejo. The windmill was solely intended for milling grain into flour and the flour went directly to the village bakery. The roof is covered with straw and heather and its interior is divided into two floors. It is now fully restored and features a recreational area. Located on Calle el Santo.
The Corral Concejo also dates back to the eighteenth century and is a stone wall built in a circular shape. It was used to hold livestock that was found loose and returned to its rightful owner, upon payment of a fee. It was also used by blacksmiths to shoe horses. Located on Calle Sector Sr1 Cl B.
Monumento de la Danza de los Cirochos
A statue of a dancer performing the Danza de los Cirochos, being a ritual dance of Celtic origin in honour of the Virgen de Piedras Albas, patron saint of El Almendro and Villanueva de los Castillejos. Located on Calle Arco.
The principal ingredient in Villanueva de los Castillejos is meat. Starting with the Iberican pig, usually all parts of the animal are eaten in some way or form. Game meat is also very popular in the form of rabbit, partridge and hare stews. Other local dishes include caldereta de cordero (lamb stew), migas and gurumelos (wild cep). Sweetsinclude milhojas, merengues, bolachas, alfajores, tortas de chicharrones and pestiños.
San Matías Patrono y Alcalde perpetuo y honorario de Villanueva de los Castillejos
Celebrated the weekend before 24 February in honour of the patron and perpetual Mayor Matthias Apostle. Starts with a Mass and processions through the streets accompanied with dance and music.
Romeria de Piedras Alba
The pilgrimage in honour of Nuestra Señora la Virgen de Piedras Alba is held on Easter Sunday, extending to Monday and Tuesday. Held in Prado de Osma in the municipality of El Almendro, it is a joint celebration between Villanueva de los Castillejos and their neighbours El Almendro.
Feria y Velada
Celebrated the last weekend of July with diverse activities such as sports events, clay pigeon shooting, equestrian performances, ribbon racing etc. There are also attractions for youngsters, music tents, fireworks and dancing in the Municipal Caseta.
Feria Agroganadera del Cerdo Ibérico y su Industria
Villanueva de los Castillejos and the Mancomunidad de MunicipiosBeturiaorganize this fair celebrating the Iberican pig, its industry and promotes local produce in general.
Villanueva de los Castillejos is located 50km from Huelva. To get there, take the A-497 west leaving Huelva. Join the A-5077 and A-492 north, merging with the A-49 west. Take Exit 105 on the HU-3401 towards Tariquejo. Pass Tariquejo, join the A-490 west until you reach Villanueva de los Castillejos.