Genalguacil - History

Genalguacil village  © Michelle Chaplow
The white village of Genalguacil


by Chris Wawn and Chris Chaplow

Genalguacil is the only village that takes its name from the River Genal, whose waters played such an important role in this valley's agricultural development under Moorish rule. The river's name originates from Guadigenal or "Waddi Genna", meaning the river of paradise. In turn, the village name is derived from Genat Al Wasir, which is understood to translate as the orchard of Vizier or Magistrate. 

The mountain slopes contain iron, silver, gold and lead, which were all initially mined by the Romans. The more precious metals are found on the higher peaks and the most prized Roman mine was recorded as being a place called Cueva del Baque. A Roman road ran down the highest ridge to Lacipo, near Casares, and on to the Guadiaro valley floor.

The Moors certainly developed agriculture on these mountainsides, and three other medieval settlements existed in the Genalguacil district. The largest in the region was Benestepar, which very nearly survived to this day. The other two, Almachar and Benihexin (also called Benaji and Benameji),were abandoned like most Moorish settlements between 1492 and 1570.

After the Reconquest by the Christians in 1485, the Moorish population seems to have initially survived fairly intact. The 1491 census records a population of 77 in Genalguacil. Together with Jubrique and its satellite settlements the communities were grouped under the Señorio (lordship) of Casares and its parish in 1505, which in turn came under the auspices of the Duque de Arcos.

The Moors who did not convert returned to northern Africa, while others established some form of bandit territory in the upper mountain region of Sierra Bermeja. There was a minor uprising in Genalguacil in 1500. As the Moriscos became more and more persecuted, so the number of rebels on the mountain swelled.

When open revolt first flared up in Las Alpujarras in 1568 this sent a signal throughout the whole of the area and the time was right to strike. The rebel community of probably no more than 200 swarmed down and descended upon the villages of Jubrique and Genalguacil and sacked them. Legend suggests that the loyal people of Genalguacil took refuge in the church, which was surrounded and set alight. As the uprising was not crushed until 1570, this suggests that the rebel Moriscos held the upper hand in the area for at least an 18-month period.

A brutal reprisal was planned, led by Pedro Bermudez. He made an attack upon the Morisco rebels. losing 40 men in the process. It took a further attempt to bring order to the lower reaches of the mountains. The higher slopes remained unstable for many years after 1570. Even today, the rural landscape is barely inhabited.

The military census of 1587 records five houses in Genalguacil, with a total population of 22. However, the village flourished and by 1730 it had grown to 225. The population peaked in 1887 at 1,611, which must have been as a the result of an influx of workers and families to the mines. However, the pull of the Costa del Sol has now reduced this to just over 500 today, living in 200 houses.


Genalguacil is one white Andalucian mountain village that art lovers will not want to miss. More >


La Posada del Recovero, plus a number of apartments to rent and casa rurales. More >


Genalguacil is the only village named after the River Genal, that played an important role in agricultural development. More >

Deserted Villages of Genalguacil

Benestepar, Almarchal, Benihexin are the names of deserted Moorish villages near Genalguacil. More >

River Genal

Where the road crosses the Genal River you can find a popular roadside restaurant called Venta de San Juan. More >

Camping Genal

Camping Genal is located right beside the Genal river in a woodland location. Swimming is popular in the river in the summer. More >

Sierra Bermeja

Only a few places in the world where a 1449m summit is so close to the sea. More >

Charco Azul

Charco Azul is a natural pool and waterfall in an isolated location on one of the small tributaries to the Rio Genal. More >

Encuentros de Arte

A bi-annual art festival the first two weeks in August called "Los Encuentros de Arte del Valle del Genal. More >

The village of Genalguacil © Michelle Chaplow
The village of Genalguacil.