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History of Igualeja

History of Igualeja

This village like the other Alto Genal communities came into its own during the Moorish period. The church’s partial minaret is an indication of the pueblo’s Moorish origins. Much of the municipal district is a limestone mountain, which today forms a large slice of the natural Park of the Sierra de las Nieves. Very little is cultivated, hence the lack of Moorish satellite settlements within Igualeja’s boundaries. During the Christian conquest of the area Fuenfria became a forward base by the King for the conquest of the Ronda region (see Fuenfria for the full story). On the completion of the enslavement of the former Moorish lands, the municipal territory became part of the Crown and passed under the control of Ronda, before being gifted as a lordship.

At the time of the first military census soon after the conquest in 1492, the pueblo had a population of 280. By 1501, after many of the Moors were redistributed throughout southern Spain, the pueblo’s inhabitants fell to just 38. Such a small community did not warrant its own parish church and it was serviced by Cenay (see Pujerra), which today is in itself one of the many deserted villages in the Alto region.

During the Morisco uprising of 1568-70, the village’s development was heavily disrupted. Once again Fuenfria was used as an assembly area, but on this occasion by the Duke of Arcos, who commenced his campaign to subdue the Alto Genal. Igualeja was probably the first pueblo on his list, as a walkway exists today, linking the two sites. An interesting fall-out from this period is that the pueblo today has a lot of surnames with Portuguese origin. This is a strong indication that when this area was restocked with a more reliable population, the inhabitants were sourced from central Portugal. When the inquisition came by this way in 1582, it was only able to find one victim who was a labourer and his only crime was blasphemy.

The village was certainly thriving by the 18 th century, as new barriers within the pueblo were built, adapting to the steep slopes. The church was enlarged and a hermitage church built to service the expansion. As with all the local pueblos, disturbance returned to these barren mountains in 1810-12, when the French occupied Ronda. Rumour has it that the pueblo played its part in giving the French a hard time and in recognition it was granted independence from Ronda soon after.