Cartajima - History

History of Cartajima village

The community does have a long history but it was lost when the archives and church were torched during the early days of the Civil War in 1936. 


To have Roman origins gives a village some credentials and most local guidebooks dwell on this.  Trying to locate the findings from the tombs from the Phoenician period at Cortijo del Raton is difficult.  Therefore very little can be deduced from this discovery as well as the lost early Roman sites, when the foundations of Las Penuelas were laid.  All that was recorded on this occasion was that some coins were found by the head.  A further Roman site at Cañada de Harife is meant to be the location of a bath, which has warm waters.  Though not conclusive, this seems to be located near the road at a place called Pilar de la Higuera.


The village pueblo is certainly of Berber origin after the Moorish conquest of 711AD, though it may not have been established straight away, due to the high altitude.  The place name stems from the Arabic Aljaria al Jaima.  In Spanish, it means La Alquería de la Aljaima or the “Homestead of Aljaima”.  This supports the theory that this was only a large family settlement and its population did not grow until later.  Indeed, as the Christians moved on to Córdoba in the 1250s, so the refugee population grew in the Moorish territories.  Two other Moorish settlements were established in the immediate area, namely Benahayon and Benajeriz.  Local guidebooks refer to these lost medieval settlements as Cartamon and Casapalma, which have disappeared from maps.  Grain and the vine at this altitude would have been of poor quality, but sufficient to feed a small population.


The pueblo survived the Christian conquest in 1485 but due to its remoteness, the Moriscos almost certainly continued with their old Moslem ways.  Even the pueblos name hardly changed and was called Xaritalxime.  The 1492 census recorded 147 inhabitants but made no mention of the other medieval settlements.  The majority of the population was dispersed around Spain soon afterwards, as the 1501 census records only 63 inhabitants.  Cartajima became the seat of a parish in 1505, established with one benefactor and sacrament.  Though the medieval community of Benahayon came under the umbrella, no mention of Benajeriz was made, suggesting it had been abandoned by this time. 

The remaining population was forced into baptism in 1511 and on the whole were able to continue on with their life, as the land was sparsely populated by the invading Christians.  However, realising that the Moriscos were still practising their old ways the Inquisition made a visitation to the pueblo in 1560.  As a result, 11 Morisco members of the pueblo were fined for engaging in Moslem traditions, such as dress, eating habits and prayer.  As the Christians continued to dominate this remote region so deep resentment was born and this led to the uprisings of 1568 (see Juzcar). 

After the restoration of the church's authority, the remaining Moriscos were thrown off their lands.  A rebel contingent of 400 remained in the Sierra Bermeja Mountains behind Jubrique and legend has it that they finally escaped to the sea via Casares.  A guard was permanently stationed in the pueblo and the Inquisition returned on three further occasions, making this the most visited pueblo in this part of Spain.  In 1574, two members of the village were executed for activities that before 1568 only raised a fine.  The last victims were sent to Ronda in 1582, suggesting that the pueblo was still a hotbed for the non-conformists.

In 1609 under Royal degree, the remaining Moors were rounded up and expelled from Spain.  However, in such a remote place, the remaining people were different to their contemporaries in Ronda.  A local historian believes that many Morisco children and wives were left behind as slaves.  This has produced a people who are different in their ways and speech and are the survivors of this ethnic cleansing.  After the uprising and expulsion the Duke of Arcos left a small garrison in the village, probably to support the pueblo with its new Christian population.  In turn, the land holdings were awarded to the new settlers, who came with family names such as Corbacho, Benetiz and de Rio.

Legend claims that the departing Moors left some treasure in a local cave, which has brought the attention of many a modern day treasure hunter. The probability is that some thing was hidden but probably found some centuries later.

The pueblo’s population steadily grew thereafter and sparked an economic boom.  Other than the planting of new vineyards, the reddish mountains were a great source of iron.  Three mill sites still exist in the Genal valley as evidence of this trade.  There was an abundance of wood for smelting and the village built a cannon factory in association with armament factories near Jimena de la Frontera.  These weapons almost certainly made their way to the new defence lines of La Linea de Concepción where they were used in one of the sieges of Gibraltar.  In recognition of this area’s importance, Cartajima earned the nickname “Cádiz el Chico” (Little Cadiz).

The pueblo distinguished itself during the French occupation of 1810–1812, due mainly to local guerrilla fighter, Andres Garcia.  He led an assassination attack against the local governor at Ronda and dispatched his man by the Tajo gorge.  In recognition of the pueblo’s loyalty to King Fernando VII, the village received its own municipal charter in 1814.  Cartajima’s mineral wealth generated excellent tax revenues in this period. 

Its population peaked in 1854, when it had 1,800 inhabitants.  However, soon after this date, many immigrated to Argentina and by 1900 the population had more than halved.  The anarchy of the Civil War resulted in the gutting of the church and the loss of the village records.  The church was renovated in 1941; Franco used it to assert his power in these communities. 

By 1970 the population had fallen to 426 and this was to halve again by 2001.  In taking account of its population today, over 80 per cent of the inhabitants are over 65 and the school only has five pupils (2001).  Only 40 people are economically active and a further 16 are on unemployment benefit.  The village is dying and on an income of less than 250,000 euros per year, it is heavily subsidised.  Initiatives have been initiated, such as grants for restoring derelict properties and the attraction of the young into the village.  .