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La Alpujarra

 
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La Alpujarra (sometimes Las Alpujarras) is a mountainous district in Southern Spain, which stretches south from the Sierra Nevada mountains near Granada in the autonomous region of Andalusia. The western part of the region lies in the province of Granada and the eastern part in the province of Almería. In older sources the name is sometimes spelled Alpuxarras.
 
 
 
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A typical Alpujarran village, Busquístar.
The region consists principally of valleys which descend at right angles from the crest of the Sierra Nevada on the north, to the Sierras Almijara, Contraviesa and Gádor, which separate it from the Mediterranean Sea, to the south.
The region is one of great natural beauty. Because of a warm southerly climate combined with a reliable supply of water for irrigation from the rivers running off the Sierra Nevada, the valleys of the western Alpujarras are among the most fertile in Spain, though the steepness of the terrain means that they can only be cultivated in small fields, so that many modern agricultural techniques are impractical. They contain a rich abundance of fruit trees, especially grape vines, oranges, lemons, persimmons, figs and almonds. The eastern Alpujarra, in the province of Almería, is more arid, but still highly attractive.
A street corner in Trevélez showing traditional architecture and door curtain
The largest villages in the district are Lanjarón, with its ruined castle and chalybeate baths, Órgiva, Ugíjar, Laujar, Berja. All are situated at a considerable elevation, and Trevélez, whose main church is at 1476 metres above sea level, is the highest recognised town in Spain. The three white villages in the gorge of the Rio Poqueira, Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira, have become recognised tourist destinations; however there are many other equally traditional villages of similar appearance, for example those in the La Taha municipality to the east of the Poqueira gorge. The steepness of the land means that the houses in the villages seem to be piled on top of another, and their characteristic flat roofs, distinctive roofed chimneys, and balconies (tináos) extending across the steep narrow streets give them a unique and picturesque appearance.
Among the agricultural specialities of the region is a variety of air-cured ham, especially associated with Trevélez. In general, however, the impossibility of mechanising agriculture in such a district means that it is not competitive under modern conditions, and the growth area of the economy is tourism. The district is served by bus services from Granada, and can be reached in a few hours from the international airport at Málaga. The GR 7 (E4) "Mediterranean Arc" European long-distance footpath passes through the region.
Chris Stewart's best seller Driving Over Lemons is set in La Alpujarra. Gerald Brenan described his seven year stay in the region in the 1920s in South From Granada.
History
La Alpujarra was successively settled by Ibero-Celtic peoples, by the Romans, and by Visigoths before the Moorish conquest of southern Spain in the eighth century. The region was the last refuge of the Moors, who were allowed to remain there for nearly 150 years after the fall of Granada in 1492. Following the Morisco Revolt of 1568, the Moorish population was forced from the region after the Moriscos used it as a military base. By order of the Spanish crown, two Moorish families were required to remain in each village in order to demonstrate to the new inhabitants, introduced from northern Spain, the workings of the terracing and irrigation systems on which the district's agriculture depends.
During the late fifteenth century, there were Islamic uprisings in the area since all Muslims in the area were forced to convert to Christianity after the completion of the Reconquest in 1492. One of Spanish expeditions against the Moriscos was led by Philip's illegitimate half-brother Don Juan de Austria. As a historical curiosity, the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, residing in Spain after the so-called Conquest of Peru, took part in that expedition. Thus, there was a peculiar twist, the Inca was a product of Spanish-Quechua ethnic comingling that accepted Spanish superiority and then he served in the Alpujarra campaign where there was a previous Spanish-Arab comingling that had not completely accepted Spanish dominance.
The influence of the Moorish population can be seen in the agriculture, the distinct cubic architecture (reminiscent of Berber architecture in Morocco's Atlas Mountains) the local cuisine, the local carpet weaving, and the numerous Arabic placenames.
[edit] Etymology
The name Alpujarras may derive from Arabic al Busherat meaning "the grass-land".
Pedro Antonio de Alarcón traveled through the Alpujarras in the second half of the nineteenth century publishing in 1874 a book about the experience titled La Alpujarra. In this book he gives four possible origins for the name, based on the classical writer Luis del Mármol:
From Arabic "abuxarra" ('turbulent') referring to the tendency of its inhabitants to rebel against authority.
From Arabic "abuxarra" ('the unvanquished') bsed on the work of the Arabist Miguel Lafuente Alcántara.
From Arabic "albordjela" ('fortified'), following opinion of the Arabists Romey and Silvestre de Sacy. They based their conclusions on the work of the Arab historian Suar el-Kaicí.
From Arabic "albuxarrat" ('white mountains' or 'snowy mountains'), following the view of French historian Simonet.


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