Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Out With the Old

Mojácar was founded over seven thousand years ago as a Copper Age community. The exact site was around the foot of the hill known to us today as ‘Old Mojácar’. According to Juan Grima, a local historian who recently gave a talk on the history of the town at the ‘Castillo’, Mojácar changed its site over the aeons from the original location, to up the Sierra Cabrera (protection from pirates) and later to an area above La Paratá, then back to the ‘Old Mojácar’ mount where it was first named, by the Romans, as ‘Mons Sacra’. Later on the name and the location changed, to where it presently lies, with Mons Sacra moving via the Arab ‘Muxacra’ to the current version Mojácar. History, you might say, is embedded in every rock, every stone.
Actually, not so much as one would like. While the old ‘Sacred Mountain’ has never been properly excavated, most of the remains from prehistoric times, when uncovered, have been destroyed as fast as possible. The archaeologists, if alerted from Granada University, can take an agonizingly long time to perform a dig and so, my friends, it’s better to brush the dirt back over it with a large bulldozer.
In more modern times, there are equally few remains of the Moorish town which was sacked by the Christian forces in 1488 or, for that matter, of the town that followed. The sixteenth century castle, described as ‘inmutable’ or ‘unknockdownable’ in a 1928 Spanish encyclopaedia, had disappeared entirely by the late nineteen fifties. Other buildings were purposely dismantled by their owners to sell off the doors, rejas, wood beams and so on, before their departure in search of work and a better future during the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. Mojácar was a place of ruins by 1960.
As we know, tourism brought it back from the brink: residential tourism to begin with, later followed by what the mayoress unfortunately described enthusiastically on television last month as ‘cheap, cheap, cheap hotels’.

This is a photo from around 1950 taken from somewhere below the Castillo. In the foreground on the right you can see the 'Ermita' and, across the Plaza Nueva, Mojácar's first bar - later to become the Indalo Hotel (and then a bar again...). The large blank white wall in the centre of the picture is the side of the old theatre (entrance opposite the church out of picture on the left). the other large building, centre left, was known as the Casa del Cura.

However, the race to make money often means destroying the old to replace it with a modern tee-shirt shop or perhaps a humourous ashtray emporium. In Mojacar, the old Arco de Luciana was demolished about ten years ago (in actual fact, it was just a tunnel under a bedroom next to La Sartén where generations of customers emptied their bladders). We still use this destruction for political reasons. More importantly, the town’s fountain was ‘remodelled’ back in 1987 to general indignation; the ‘Castillo’ was turned into a bunker around the same time (and several thousand-year-old graves were quickly cemented over); the Plaza Parterre, a dull empty square behind the church, was re-vamped by the last town hall (using every form of architecture known to science in its outing); the Plaza Nueva was systematically knocked down in favour of un-typical architecture over the years since 1968; the beautiful theatre went in around 1975 in exchange for some serious tee-shirteries; and of the six ‘ermitas’ - small churches that were built in the fervent times of the seventeenth century – apart from one which is now incorporated into a private house – the final surviving one is, as I write, falling down in the main square.
The Ermita is in private hands and has no protection on it whatsoever. It will be gone by Christmas, I imagine, and the site will soon be taken by another bar, or a tattoo parlour or a pottery shop.

*The Mojácar town hall said on Wednesday October 31st that the owner has been told to repair the building by Christmas. One waits for events.

The Ermita today, October 31st. The façade has already fallen.

There is little remaining of Mojácar’s origins, beyond the narrow streets and the harsh sunlight. The ‘Moorish Gate’ down below the ‘El Torreón’, built in fact in the seventeen hundreds, also has no protection. It could be knocked down by the owner today if he wanted.
The Palacio de Chamberí on the beach is now remembered as an uneasy frontage to a large box-like hotel, while three arrestingly hideous versions of it languish nearby as apartment blocks. Then there is the grove of trees cut down by our ‘ecologist’ mayor three years ago. Other recent improvements include the giant electric pylons marching across the riverbed and the famous view from the Mojácar mirador. From the same viewpoint we can also observe the smudge of grimy smog from the giant power station in nearby Carboneras that hovers over the sea every afternoon: a cloud that, of course, hovers equally over the town. Then there is the neon, the noddy-homes, the scruffy and unnecessary beach-furnishings and the potholes.
Juan Grima, noting the destruction and the disinterest, said that the town church will be a supermarket in twenty years.
Curiously, as the town is killed, there is no concern: only complacency.


Lenox said...

The town hall says today, October 31st, that they have warned the owner of the 'ermita' that it must be fully repaired by Christmas. I took some pictures today of it - the façade has fallen off completely.

Michael said...

I very much hope as much of old Mojàcar as possible can be preserved. A curiosity: is there still an inscription in Arabic above the town gate? After I learned to read Arabic in the late '70s I remember going to have a look, but I cannot now remember what it said. It was easier to read than some of the Alhambra inscriptions, for which I had to have help from a Moroccan tourist. "La ghaliba la lillah" - God Is The Only Victor - is what it says all over the Alhambra.

Lenox said...

The gate says in Arabic and Spanish 'Pverto de la Civdad' (sic). It's a pretty arch that has a steep approach and has a storey above it. There is a small saints window in it with fresh flowers placed there regularly.
Apparently, the arch is not 'original' (i.e. pre XVI century), but it is the old route into the pueblo.

Lenox said...

On November 23rd, the town hall confirmed that the owners of the Ermita had agreed to repair the building, and had obtained a building licence. Perhaps the wind is changing direction at last. I'm printing a re-worked version of this article in The New Entertainer.