Almáchar is a town and municipality in the province of Málaga, part of the autonomous community of Andalusia in southern Spain. The municipality is situated approximately 35 kilometres from Málaga capital. It has a population of approximately 2,100 residents. It is the capital of the moscatel raisin area. Natives of the area are called Almachareños. Basic data
Size: 14.30 km²
Residents known as: Almachareños
Monuments: Church of San Mateo.
Tourist information: Town Hall, Plaza del Convento, 14. 29718. Phone: 952 512 002 Fax: 952 512 140.
Almáchar is situated in the heart of the Axarquía at 200 metres above sea level, 35 kilometres from Malaga city and 14 from Vélez-Málaga. It is built on a small hill between the El Borge and Almáchar rivers, close to the Mountains of Malaga and surrounded by vineyards, olive and cereal groves.
The municipality extends from the hill of the same name as the town (334 metres high) and the basin of the river Almáchar to the Vallejo peak, at 609 metres high. From the road one can see the typical country houses and areas where the grapes are hung out to dry (and thus become raisins), and the small terraced plots of land with orange and lemon trees growing. The first settlements in the area were made on the river bank, and were built in single or double storeys in rubble masonry, with roof tiles and an interior patio. The most interesting of the winding, narrow streets is calle Los Mártires, sights include the church that was built on the street itself, to maintain its level and a large restored 17th century door visible halfway down the street. The church rests on a barrel vault that unites the church with the house in front. There are many interesting nooks and crannies in the town, like the Jardines de El Forte, the Barrio de las Cabras and the Plaza del Santo Cristo, where the interesting Museo de la Pasa is situated.
The name of the town derives from the Arabic "Al Maysar", meaning "The Meadows" or "Land of the Meadows", and used to form part of what was known as the "Four Villas", along with Cútar, El Borge and Moclinejo. They were under the protection of Comares, and following the re-conquest in 1487, their dependence on this town continued. The first real historical data we have on the place is from the 16th century, when a number of families involved in herding occupied the town after the Moriscos, angry about an agreement by which they used to cultivate fine grapes, had abandoned it. In 1611, Almáchar features in the Malaga Ordinances as Macharalyate. The placing of a huge cross on a nearby hill by the townspeople resulted in many writers referring to the place as Almáchar de la Cruz, a symbol which is still incorporated into the town¹s coat-of-arms. An earthquake in 1755 forced the people to leave their homes and take refuge in the countryside. The excellent quality of manufactured cloths from the town at the end of the 19th century made it known far and wide, and at this time there were more than a hundred workshops involved in this industry. One of the saddest periods in the history of Almáchar was during the Civil War years, when families were divided and friends pitted against friends as a result of differing political beliefs.
Places to be visited
Arriving at the town itself, one should park at the entrance, since the narrow streets are not suited to cars.
Museo de la Pasa (Plaza del Santo Cristo, 5. Open every day from 9 to 1 and 6 to 8)
The La Pasa Museum is dedicated to the cultivation of raisins. It is situated in an old house of two storeys built onto the original structure, and shows how raisins were made here in the past. All manner of equipment is here, and there is ample graphic documentation on the industry itself. Tel: 952 512 002.
Church of San Mateo
The Church of San Mateo dates from the 16th century, built in the late Gothic and Renaissance style. It was built in three columned naves, with peaked arches. The ceiling structure is different on the central and outside naves, the central one hiding its structure beneath a panelled arch. The front section of this makes a vault in the shape of a cross. The two vesting rooms, built before the main structure, are in an obvious rococo style.
The most important festival in Almáchar takes place on September 2, with the Día del Ajoblanco, officially designated a Festival of Tourist Interest in Andalusia. In this festival, visitors can sample this wonderful local dish (cold garlic and almond soup) and other culinary delights of the area.
The festival of the town¹s patron saint, Nuestra Señora de Amparo, takes place from July 29 to 31, and here the people of the town and surrounding areas take to the streets by day and night to participate in and enjoy the full range of musical, dance and sporting activities. The festival in honour of Santo Cristo de la Banda Verde is on the first week-end in May. Its origins go back to 1754, when, according to local legend, the divine intervention of Christ prevented the destruction of the town by a series of earthquakes. Christ was then named the protector of the town. The most popular part of this religious festival is the mass on the Sunday and the procession through the streets of Almáchar with the statue of the Santo Cristo carried high. The Romería de San Isidro takes place on May 15, and this is one of the most exciting of all the festivals in the town. The townspeople gather in the square and have ribbon races and verdiales dancing.
The speciality of the area is ajoblanco, a type of cold garlic soup with almond that one of the town¹s festivals is named after. But there are other specialities in the town too, among them the yellow soup and a delicious cabbage dish. The story of ajoblanco goes back to the 19th century, when an engineer working in the area came down from the hills to ask a lady in a house for a glass of water. She gave him a large glass of ajoblanco, and he liked it so much he published the recipe in the Mercantile Circuit and spoke about it in glowing terms to influential friends. It is made of almond, garlic, bread, olive oil, salt, and vinegar.