Mojácar used to be a town of around 6,000 people in as far back as 1870. It maintained this number of inhabitants until round about 1900 when, slowly, numbers began to fall, speeding its descent in the 1930s. Through the various local vicissitudes of the drop in the local water-table, the end of the de-forestation, a peculiar plague of locusts in 1901, the end of the mines in the 1920s and the troubled times of the Civil War, the area in general eventually became depopulated with mass emigrations to Barcelona, Algeria, Germany and even Argentina, and Mojácar itself began its long descent into what was, by 1960, a moribund village of just 600 souls.
The late XIX Century had seen lead and iron mines in the Sierra Almagrera and the Sierra de Bédar bringing wealth into the area, served principally by the port of Garrucha. By 1911, Mojácar had 4,979 people on the padrón, and the town had just installed public lighting (run on acetylene). There was a café, a ‘cantina’, two butchers, a carpenter’s, three food shops, a pharmacy, a post office and a bookshop.
Mojácar’s politics were divided into two rival families, the Carillos and the Flores. In 1881, the mayor Francisco Flores Grima signed a contract with the British vice-consul, based in Garrucha, George Clifton to deed part of Mojácar’s fresh water to Garrucha. As the tubes were being laid to channel the water to the port town, Mojácar erupted in a ‘mutiny’ and the leader of which, a certain ‘Blás’ took the staff of office from the mayor Francisco and ‘broke it over his knee’.
But let’s meet another mayor, Nicolás Carillo Murcia, whose ‘reign’ lasted for just one year, 1900, when he was 28. Nicolás is perhaps better remembered as Mojácar’s first hobby artist and this picture – possibly the oldest extant portrait of the village – would have been painted somewhere in the first decade of the XX Century. The scene shows the ‘Espiritu Santo’ on the right, Mojácar in the centre and Garrucha in the distance on the left. Nicolás was also known as a sculptor, although most of his wooden figures, including two Christs for the churches of Mojácar and Turre, were destroyed in the first weeks of the Civil War in 1936. Better known to Mojácar residents, the terrace windows and the wooden porch of the Torreón were designed by Nicolás. He also helped build and decorate the famous Aquelarre theatre opposite the church in Mojácar in 1925 (torn down in the frenzy of easy money in the 1990s).
Nicolás Carillo Murcia left Mojácar for good in 1930, migrating to Barcelona, where he died in 1955.