La Taha – Pitres
Pitres, in the part of the Alpujarras known as La Taha, is situated on the Southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, in the province of Granada. The beautiful, historic city of Granada is only 80 kms away. La Taha is an area consisting of seven villages: Pitres, the main town, Capilerilla just above Pitres, Ferrirola, Atalbeitar, and Mecina Fondales which is actually three villages: – Mecina, Mecinilla, and Fondales, the lowest of the three.La Taha is in the heart of the High Alpujarra, where mountain and sky meet.
These towns have a history that goes back to Roman times and, even today, we can find archaeological remains that tell us the importance that these villages had during the Arab rule. During this time it was famous for the quality of the silk produced. In this area there were battles between the Christians and the Moors. According to legend, Pitres was so called because when Philip II visited the area, he was so taken with the village that he named it after his paramour.
There are well known sayings in Spain that originate from Pitres, for example, the legend of the “Barbarians of Pitres”, the “Seaport of Pitres” and the well-known expression of “Extinguish and lets go”. Hard to translate!
Today the traveller can enjoy the colourful scenery, natural springs, rivers, promontories and exceptional views of the Sierra Nevada natural park. This nest of towns is a place to rest in completely natural surroundings with all the services you need for a comfortable stay. There are daily buses to Granada and a minibus service from Pitres to the smaller villages, available on request.
One of the characteristics of La Taha is its cultural richness, due to a multi-national population of artists, musicians and writers who have settled here in order to escape from modern life and live in a place where they can find beauty and inspiration as well as the peace and tranquillity in which to work.
The local architecture hails from the Moors, the Arab rulers of Andalusia from the 12th to the 16th century, and the houses are built in harmony with the landscape, with chestnut beams and slate roofs covered by a type of local stone called Launa which is crumbly and forms an almost waterproof seal. The flat roofs are unique in Spain and are very similar to the houses in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
TAHA AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
Environmental management and work for sustainable development.
In 1998, initiatives from the Lider project proposed a pilot scheme to the council of La Taha from the Council of the Environment of Andalusia for the implementation of environmental standards that meet the requirements of the International Systems of Environmental Management (ISO 14.0001:96) in municipalities. The council accepted the challenge, being already committed to the protection of the environment. But in addition Norm ISO 14,001 defines a methodology with which to obtain a greater effectiveness and control of environmental management.
After a concerted effort, in the autumn of 1999, La Taha became the first municipality of the province of Granada to obtain international recognition for environmental management, one of only two similar examples in all of Europe.
The Certification System of Environmental Management (SGMA) necessitates continuous work as it is much more than just simple recognition. It is a declaration of intent and requires constant maintenance to be able to fulfil all of the requirements that the norm demands. In addition, it requires constant improvement of the environmental management issues.
The Sustainable Development agreement was signed in November of 2002, unanimously, in a plenary session of the Pitres council, thus becoming the first municipality that has a certification of Environmental Management according to norm ISO 14.0001:96.
Further to the obtaining of the AENOR certificate La Taha has become a unique municipality, and an exemplar for many municipalities that want to work towards a Sustainable Development.
The City Council of La Taha has recently obtained the “Citizen Prize” for the environment organised by the FAMP and in 2000 was a finalist at international level for the Mediterranean Prize for Landscape promoted by the Meeting of Andalusia, the Languedoc-Rousillon Region and the Region of Toscana.
The monuments of La Taha are not buildings you have to queue hours to see, nor do they have visiting hours. Here the monuments are of many types: ancient chestnut trees, wild paths, enchanted springs, old legends, rare flowers and iron-infused, orange streams.
The footpaths wind from town to town without the need to walk on tarmac. they follow the water channels and take you to forgotten times. These spectacular paths were built in ancient times. The most famous are: Busquístar, that leads to Cerro del Conjuro (the Hill of the Spell); the Panjuila, that takes you to spas in the area; the path to the Mosque, that comes out at Busquístar and, finally; the path from Fondales to Órgiva.
As you would expect in this landscape, bridges are numerous crossing over the many rivers and streams. Perhaps the most important is the Fondales bridge that is said to be Roman or, more likely, built during the Moorish period. If you walk on the footpath from Fondales and cross the Roman Bridge, you can reach the ancient rain storage tank of Campuzano, dated between 12th -14th century.
Beside the Fondales bridge lie the remains of one of the many flour mills that are scattered about. Most of the mills are beside the river Bermejo, such as the Sun Mill, Watercress Mill, The Molineta, Bridge Mill, Pórtugos Mill and the Centrón. There were olive oil mills in the area as well, one of which existed at the entrance of Mecina, where you can still see the remains, and, another called Foxhole Mill, in Ferreirola.
For those interested in archaeology there are two places of interest. First is the abandoned Moorish village of Aylacar, between Pitres and Capilerilla. Also very interesting is the old church of Capilerilla, next to the era (threshing platform).
Another historical monument is Poqueira Castle, located right under the viewpoint on the promontory above the town of Pampaneira. If you follow the footpath down you will discover the old castle parade ground and the base of the tower.
Other places that deserve a mention are the Ferruginous springs between Portugos and spring-waters, where you can sample the various spring-waters. The Aben Abó spring, the Paula spring, the Aguagria, or the Military prison spring. All the towns of La Taha have old Fuentes-Lavaderos (public laundries).
Each of the seven villages celebrates its own patron saint day as well as organising a fiesta during the summer. On the saint’s day, the religious ceremony is still celebrated but nowadays, the festivities have a modern flair, without forgetting the origin of the event.
The Chisco of San Antón: A fire festival around the 16th of January.
At dusk, each village makes a big bonfire to petition for the protection of San Antón, the patron saint of animals. The villagers all gather to roast meat and enjoy the fire. Singing, eating and dancing leads finally to the young men jumping through the fire to prove their courage.
Virgen de la Candelaria (Candlemas Virgin): Atalbéitar, February.
The image of the Virgin of the Candlemas is carried through the town with candles. In the village square a traditional soup is prepared on the fire for all to share.
San Francisco de Paula: Capilerilla: first weekend of April.
Homage to the patron saint San Francisco de Paula. Mass is celebrated outdoors, later a procession passes through the town finishing with a feast consisting of traditional desserts (doughnuts and twisted rolls) and local wine.
San Marcos: Mecina-Fondales: 25th of April.
The traditional celebration of San Marcos starts with a mass followed by a procession. The fiesta has been changed to August because it is the time when family members who have moved away return to their villages.
San Roque: Pitres: 15th, 16th and 17th of August.
This is the main celebration for the patron saint of Pitres. After the celebrations the environmental prizes are announced, called “the Port of Pitres”, for the hotels, bars and restaurants that have assisted in the care of the environment. On the last day, the brotherhood of fishermen, “La sardina resucitá”, celebrates with a traditional sardine feast in Capilerilla.
Cristo de la Expiración: Pitres, the Second Friday before Good Friday.
The day of the Expiration of Christ is the second most important local celebration. An exclusively religious Festival, the Statue of Christ is very popular and many people come from all corners of Spain for the procession. The statue is very costly and was made by the revered sculptor Domingo Sanchez-Mesa. It replaced a previous one that was destroyed during the Civil War.
San Marcos and San Cayetano: Mecina-Fondales, second weekend of August.
The co-patrons of Mecina-Fondales exert their influence on the three villages of Mecina, Mecinilla and Fondales. Apparently, San Cayetano was the old patron saint of Mecinilla where he had a hermitage. From the church a procession traverses the three villages and ends in Fondales with food and drink.
Virgen de Gracia (Virgin of Grace): Atalbéitar, second weekend of August.
The Statue of the Virgin of Grace is the same as the Virgin of the Candlemas, with a change of clothes. The statue is carried around the village. There are only 10 inhabitants normally but a lot of friends and relatives return for this fiesta. The celebrations also include cucañas – infantile games for all the children. In the evening there is barbecue and soup for all.
Santa Cruz: Ferreirola, fourth weekend of August.
Although the festival of Santa Cruz is in May, the lack of people in the village has made it necessary to move the celebration to August, when they organise a fancy dress party, and finish with the traditional “burial of the fox”.
Virgin of the Rosary: Fondales, first weekend of October.
The inhabitants of Fondales pay homage to their patron saint. From a small shrine a procession sets off around the town.
Mauraca, celebration of the chestnut: All of the villages, All Saints Day, 1st November.
This is the harvest festival of the area. The neighbours meet around the bonfires for roasted meat and “chapurrao” drinks. This last drink consists of wine must, that still is fermenting, mixed with brandy.