This article is an extract from "In Search of Andalucia. A Historical Geographical Observation: The Malaga Seaboard"
Campanillas is an industrial dormitory town. It used to be an industrial dormitory village, but it has inevitably spread like the waistline of a middle aged man who loves food and hates exercise. Though a distinct entity in its own right, it is administered as a submunicipality by the city hall in Mölaga. This may not always be the case, and a future edition of this book may have to give it a chapter of its own, but for the time being it remains merely a footnote to the great city.
Four other rapidly expanding communities form part of this sub-district. The only true rural life still to be found is in the northern area of Cerro de las Viejas, based around two 19th century lagar farmsteads. Its anachronistic lifestyle, in sharp contrast to the fast-lane activity all around it, lends a sad irony in the fact that Cerro de las Viejas means ¥hill of the old women.
Drive off the new highway into Campanillas, and the first feature which will attract attention is a large complex with a tower and a barn. There is an unmistakable ghostly air about it which recalls shivery moments from late night films. One can easily imagine Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing lurking in its darkened corners. In the 19th century the buildings housed a religious community, but within the last decade it has been abandoned and is now falling rapidly into decay, taking who knows how many secrets with it.
As you drive towards the town centre, turn right at the church, which also dates from the 19th century.
Campanillas (Little Bells) is not a pretty place. In essence, it is like a grime-covered urchin scuffing his shoes on the pavement, but look above and you will see a very odd rock formation brooding over the area. It is the dominant feature of a hill appropriately called Torre (tower). The hilltop, standing 209 metres above the Guadalhorce flood plain, is difficult to visit, since there is no pathway to the summit. The best way to make your approach is to park your car beside the quarry on the minor road and make your way up on foot as best you can.
The outcrop was certainly used as a look-out post by the Moors, who took advantage of its position in line of sight with Cörtama, Puerto de la Torre and Mölaga itself. Today a flag flies proudly above it, though whether this was raised to celebrate a successful but arduous climb is hard to tell. Despite its undoubted use by the Moors, no substantial fort seems to have been built on the hill.
The same cannot be said of nearby Cerro del Conde. Here a definite hill fort existed. Follow the track road to Puerto de la Torre until you reach the crossroads a little to the north of the hamlet of La Esperanza. During the rainy season you will have to ford the river, but once spring is past and the land is dry, you can, with a suitable vehicle, drive along the parched riverbed itself. Look for a flat-topped hill buttressed by sandstone cliffs. The 193 metre-high Cerro del Conde was once the site of an Iberian hill fort which traded very successfully with the PhÒnicians, whose nearest colony was 6 kilometres away, close to Los Chopos, the site of the old Puente del Rey. ¥Chopo, incidentally, is the name given by the Spanish to the black poplar tree, but it is also a slang term for a rifle. Driving through the rather seedy area today, the two meanings mingle strangely. The village may have been named for the trees, but now its mean streets definitely whisper ¥rifle.
The Iberians of Cerro del Conde were not restricted in their dealings to the PhÒnicians of the Los Chopos area, since there was at least one other similar colony across the rio Guadalhorce at Zapata.
Churriana is a good example of how the swamping tide of progress and urbanisation need not necessarily eat away at the rural heart of a community. Forty years ago, in common with both Alhaurêns, Churriana was an isolated, self-contained village of agricultural workers, lost, and happy to be so, in the Mölaga hills. Today its neat little mirador (viewing balcony), where both young and old come to meet, looks down on the busy runways of Mölaga airport. Day after day, dozens of planes carry thousands of tourists in and out of Spain. Most of them are blissfully unaware of Churrianas existence. They come to swim, play golf and soak up the sun in Torremolinos, Marbella and Fuengirola. It is understandable, since Churriana has little of interest to offer them.
Yet whereas Alhaurên el Grande is now a fair-sized town and Alhaurên de la Torre has become a sprawling urban mass which shows no sign of slowing the speed of its unruly expansion, Churriana has miraculously retained the sleepy, timeless air of a true village. The mountain railway used to pass through here, but that has now gone, leaving only the station house to mark its passing. There is a wry irony in the fact that since the disappearance of the trains, the building has become the headquarters of the local cycling club.
There are no grand ruins to see. The sub-municipal district of Churriana never rated a castle, and most tourist guides ignore it. But it is worth visiting if only to stand for a while on the mirador and watch the aeroplanes come and go, and wonder at the resilience of its tranquillity when all around is bustle and noise and life in the fast lane. But the fast lane hates a slowcoach. In 1998, Churriana was chosen as the first place in Spain to experiment with the looming pan European currency, the Euro.
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