Friday, 24 June 2011

Los Corrales – a rare find, by The Andalucían magazine

Los Corrales is one of Andalucia’s smaller, possibly unknown villages. Draped on the edge of the province of Seville, this township has been the source of many an ancient and important find. Remains have been located at two main points: Fuente del Esparto and the Cortijo de Rebola, where richer finds were unearthed.
A gentle spring flows near a cave at the latter site and it is here that the archaeological treasures of a Roman fortified village were brought to light along with numerous pieces of pottery and several silver coins called denarii currency — with which the Roman legionnaires of old were once paid. In the opinion of many archaeologists, this area – known as La Cabeza de Repla – may have once been a part of Ilípula Ilípia or Minor, a city mentioned in the itinerary of Antoninus in the 3rd Century AD.
During Spain’s Muslim rule, the area was completely deserted, partly due to Los Corrales and her surrounding areas being located on the old border between the domains of both the Arabs and Christians. As a site of many conflicts, this poignant district was considered a most risky place to be. The local villages remained untouched for many years, possibly the reason why no archaeological remains have been found before. However, many finds have been stumbled upon in the wild grasses (esparto) of the region. One such source is the plains of Las Alcaidías, where legend has it that a fortunate farmer found a hoard of silver coins, but being in ignorance of its worth, he traveled along the Camino de Repla to nearby Osuna and exchanged for a simple wristband
After the conquest and expulsion of Muslims, the people of Los Corrales became subject to constant checks by Osuna’s councillors. They in turn forbade any new settlements or animal grazing in the area. So, as the population grew it was soon deemed necessary to allocate new land to the people and their neighbouring villages to allow the local area to develop and grow. Around 1540, the council divided land from the village of Martin de la Jara and so the border of Los Corrales was changed forever
Many a historian has debated this movement of regional lines and even the origin of the naming of Los Corrales itself. Some link it to the well-stocked cattle pens of the farmers who worked for the powerful Dukes of Osuna, but others claim that the name has derived from the well-attended cattle fairs formerly held in the pastures which now surround the township of today. None of these theories seem very likely, though, as at the time of the dukedom, the majority of the area’s land remained vacant, and most certainly belonged to the Crown and not the dukes.
A few decades after the alleged re-assignment of land, the first new inhabitants to Los Corrales were finally permitted to settle. Having the pick of the land, they chose to make their homes on the right-hand side of the creek at La Fuente Mala. This was the most appropriate spot of the 278 acres of land to be distributed in the vicinity. A large amount of the grounds available to settlers was to be found on the less fertile left bank of the creek, but as this proved not very suitable for agriculture, it was used for grazing and pens instead.
The first houses were built facing the river, and in front of these humble dwellings, the residents built corrals for their livestock. These almost certainly became the first thing people saw upon visiting the village, and this view lent itself to the new name: La Pueblo de Los Corrales. Over time, the ‘La Pueblo’ was dropped to the village’s current name of Los Corrales.
At first, only a dozen or so families established themselves in Los Corrales due to poverty and land spread, and settlement growth in the coming years proved to be quite slow. The village’s history is similar to many smaller towns in Andalucía, with more pain than glory, but now, fortunately, thanks to the effort and work by all Corraleños, they do enjoy more glories than punishments in their lifestyles. Sadly, the traditional farming methods are being overlooked as a more industrial style of agriculture forces a change in the workplace for many locals. The riches of the land are not as bountiful as their forefathers once found. The population has decreased slowly over the years as many younger residents seek employment further afield.
Despite this, Los Corrales remains a friendly community with much to offer a visitor. With a relaxed atmosphere throughout its streets, you can feel the rich culture of the place. The casa de cultura, dedicated to the past, is definitely worth a visit. There is a wealth of bars and restaurants to choose from, from open terraces to the covered pavilion – there’s something for all tastes.
The calming rural tourism is something to savour, with local riding schools, walks and trails, and many monuments and relics to see. One of the most interesting is a shrine built for the Virgen of Buensuceso – often referred to as the Virgen de Mayo. Legend has us believe that she appeared in the home of a local man. A fiesta is held in her honour every year in May.
Strangely, there are two recognised municipalities in Los Corrales. The new - which is the actual town hall – of which there can be only one – and the old, which is where the powers-that-be deal with any official paperwork. Maybe an even stranger sight is the reformed pillar where locals used to wash their clothes. This is now preserved as a monument.
During your visit, do included a trip to las Ruinas de Repla, the ruins of the Roman fortified village, and take a trip to the upper part of the village, where you can see a series of stone blocks which are believed to have come from the remains of a fortified wall or tower that once would have defended any access to Los Corrales. Here, lying on the surface of the ground, there were many bricks, coarse pottery and many other bits of terra sigillata – astringent clay from Lemnos or Samos which was formerly used as a medicine by the Romans – in addition to remnants of ore or cast iron slag, believed to have been from early settlers.
For the more active, try the Camino de Repla, often referred to as the Camino Blanco thanks to the white stone from which it is constructed. This meandering stream of white leads from Los Corrales to Osuna and is a true paradise for any walkers, hikers or cyclists, thanks to it being virtually traffic-free.
As with all good Andalucían villages, the church is something of a landmark. The Iglesia Parroquial de Santiago el Mayor (Santiago Apóstol) is the church of St James, and dates from the 18th century. It boasts three naves with a transept, chancel, side chapels and a baptistery, and the font itself dates back to the 17th century. For a small population, the church is a very large building and is even included in the 18th century ‘Collection of temples of Andalucía.’
In this wonderful place of worship is a wall painting of very special interest – a modern piece of work by the artist Juan Montes (1962). This masterpiece covers the entire interior of the temple but standing out among from all the artwork is a true Montes trademark, the High Altar, representing the Holy Spirit visiting the Virgin Mary of the Apostles.
If buildings aren’t your thing, there’s a site of natural interest just two kilometres from the pueblo: La Fuente del Esparto. Here is where the relics and significant finds were discovered by the spring. They are quoted in the first chapter acts of the municipal archives of Osuna, and there is reason to believe that the spring would even have been used by Neolithic civilisations. It is here that fossilised remains of animals and oaks have been found, confirming that the entire area remained under the sea for thousands of years during the Middle Paleolithic Tertiary period, from125000 to 40000 BC.
As much as Los Corrales is a quiet and tranquil little place, it is by no means to be underestimated for the richness and wealth it can offer. If you fancy a weekend away exploring the historic modern-day settlement, or maybe a stroll along the Camino, why not stay at the local hostel, Villa Cabreros.
With her rolling landscapes unscathed by radical industry and unspoilt by raging tourism, Los Corrales remains a rare find: where Spain really is Spain and rural traditions have not been lost to the changing times.
Reproduced with the kind permission of The Andalucian© magazine June 2011. To read more about the villages of Andalucía visit

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