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richard davies

The mountain range of Sierra Cabrera is mainly in the municipalities of Turre and Mojácar and stretches between the hamlet of Sopalmo, near Mojácar, and the village of Gafarillos, near Sorbas - heading towards Almería on the E-15.

This relatively small range of mountains is home to a magnificent array of flora and forna, thanks to it´s own micro-climate which brings more significant rain than it´s immediate surroundings - in the winter, snow is a common sight on the Cabrera peaks.

It seems apparent from traces in surrounding areas that humans have been present in this part of Spain since our species first entered into Europe thousands of years ago. The earliest concrete evidence in Cabrera itself is the finding some years ago of a small carved stone figure which was found within one kilometre of the Cabrera arch. The figure is dated from the neolithic period, and therefore at least four thousand years old. There are also several caves near Cabrera that have have yielded indications of neolithic occupation.

Apart from this, there is little evidence to indicate any form of settlement in the immediate area of Cabrera prior to the arrival of the Arab invaders; albeit there are obvious signs of Phoenician and Roman occupation a short distance away.

Successive Arab invasions from the eighth century onwards meant that this part of Spain came under Islamic domination until the end of the 1400s. It was during the early part of this period that evidence of human activity began to manifest itself again. Islamic Spain consisted of a number of Arab kingdoms who regularly waged war on one another and, during the early part of the occupation, threats also came from much further afield: the Vikings, who did not restrict their their ransacking and plundering activities to northern Europe. All in all, life became very difficult for the people occupying the valley floors, some of whom (for safety reasons, it is believed) moved to higher and more secure ground like Cabrera and Teresa (another Moorish site of historic interest a few kilometres away). As the population grew (at the time of the the re-conquest those of Cabrera and Teresa were estimated at in excess of 700 people, as opposed to fewer than 300 in Turre), small fortresses were built for protection. Remains of the one protecting Cabrera can still be seen and explored on the hill known as La Pilica, right alongside the current village centre of Cabrera.

Remains of a small fortress on the edge of the current mountain settlement of Cabrera

There appears to have been a period of relative prosperity in the area during the latter part of the moslem occupation. In addition to the cultivation of fruit and olives, the region was well known for its silk. This industry was introduced by the Arab inhabitants and required the careful rearing of silkworms, which fed on local mulberry trees. However, all this was to end during the 1300s as the armies of catholic Spain drew ever nearer. For a time the border between the two warring factions ran between Lorca and Vera; near enough for raiding parties to attack the local residents, sacking their properties and carrying off their possessions. If they had the misfortune to be captured, depending on their wealth, they were either sold as slaves or ransomed.

Cabrera itself finally became part of christian Spain when soldiers of Ferdinand and Isabella entered the gates of the fortress. A small carving of the event, with the walls clearly marked "Cabrera", can be seen in the cathedral in Toledo.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the hills and mountains around Cabrera had quite a large population, a farming community who struggled more and more to eke out a living. Gradually therefore, the cortijos were abandoned and the children of the families either emigrated or moved away to the cities. Their legacy is the huge number of ruined houses and the vast areas of terraced hillside that contribute to the character of the landscape today. At least one tiny farm at the bottom of Cabrera remained occupied by an elderly couple up until about 1990: present residents of the village remember seeing the old man turning out the animals to graze and the old lady spreading her washing over the prickly pear bushes to dry.

Remains of settlements can be found scattered around the landscape. There is evidence that water flowed here in huge amounts leaving dried river beds and waterfalls. There is still water flowing underground which can be heard through wells in the ground 

So what remains of the old Cabrera? In the part named La Fortaleza (now La Pilica) several foundations of houses, one water deposit and many pieces of the old wall have been discovered. On the lower slopes one can still see a water deposit called El Palomar over which a house was built towards the end of the last century.

In the lower area 'El Alcaná' (the area around and behind Los Pastores), three walls of the old mosque (mezquita) have been preserved. Subsequently the mosque became a church, dedicated to the Virgen de Rosario. It was abandoned once in 1569, then later again became the parish church for the people of Sierra Cabrera. The last time a Bishop visited Cabrera and its Church was in 1877. What Bishop Orberá saw was a church in very bad condition.

Soon after, the bell from the church and the image of the Virgin were transferred to Turre, and the church became a house. After further abandonment, it returned to life as a part of a restaurant.

The tower next to the restaurant is a minaret from the 11th century. This is one of only two such towers preserved in the whole of Andalusia, the other being in Malaga.

Behind the restaurant is the ruin (with a few interesting architectural features still remaining) of the house of the main landowner who presided in an almost feudal way over the little farms that dotted the hillsides. The house remained occupied up to about the 1970s.

The bowling greens in Cabrera were built on what was once a very old burial ground of the Muslem Cabrera. El Dondo up above Cabrera also had a Moslem cemetery.
What can be seen over at Teresa is mainly the ruins of a church constructed in 1505 on the remains of a Muslem Mezquita which of course is much older.

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