Benarraba - History

Benarraba, nesteled in the Serrania de Ronda © Michelle Chaplow
Benarraba, nesteled in the Serrania de Ronda

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Benarraba - History

Like all villages where the past was destroyed at the time of the Christian conquest, the Roman period offers a fine opportunity to boast a long pedigree. However other than two Roman roads crossing the area, the only evidence of any Roman occupation can be found at Puerto de las Eras unlike Slatitre in nearby Algatocín. This was a rural villa excavated in the 18th century on the ancient pass that fed the Roman road from the coast up to Ronda. Running due south from this point, the old Cañada Real follows the Roman road for about 7 kilometres, though no paving has survived.

The village name, which is obviously Berber, loosely translated means the Son of Rabbah, whose family must have been prominent in the village’s early days. Certainly a large castle stood in the area and can be found nearby at Monte Poron, where a legend seems to cloud its history. Modern guide books inform us that the pueblo is laid out as a typical Moorish settlement. However, with only 35 people surviving after the conquest, this statement is not totally correct. In fact, much of what we see today is 17th and 18th century based around two plazas.

After the Christian conquest, the village passed into the hands of the Duke of Medina Sidonia. The census of 1492 recorded a population of 245, which had severely dropped to 35 by 1501. The pueblo was then organised into the Señorio de Gaucín in 1495 and it is from this point in time that the population fell. The village must have struggled as the visitations of the Inquisitions in 1560 gave the pueblo a miss. No victims were found and the next record occurred in 1787, when the local waters were tested for mineral content. It was the Baños del Duque just over the border in Casares ;that raised the most excitement in the area – thanks to their sulphur content. Named after the Duke of Medina, a special bathing complex was built, only to be destroyed by the retreating French in 1812.

Very near to Puerto del Espino on the northern edge of the district, a disturbing event happened in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The area remained fiercely loyal to the Republicans. Therefore, the Guardia Civil abducted the entire male population taking them to a Cortijo called Los Morenos de Cortes. The place name has disappeared from today’s maps and it can only be presumed that the place was soon abandoned after this abduction of the workforce, which normally meant summary execution.