Border of Granada
The Granadian border (Frontera de Granada in Spanish) was a border region situated between the Nasri kingdom of Granada and the last integrated lands in the Crown of Castile, which were the Christian kingdoms of Murcia, Jaén, Córdoba and Seville. The first region underwent several changes, but upon the death of Alfonso XI in 1350, the Granadian border was geographically established in general lines until the beginning of the Granada War by the end of the 15th century. Usually this territory is also known under the historical name of Banda Morisca (Moorish Strip).
Several names exist that make references to the border of Granada with Andalusia of the Guadalquivir, and that corresponds with the places that are nestled on the Castillian side of this border. Thus, in the province of Cadiz there exist the municipalities of Arcos de la Frontera, Castellar de la Frontera, Chiclana de la Frontera, Conil de la Frontera, Jerez de la Frontera, Jimena de la Frontera and Vejer de la Frontera; in the province of Malaga, Cortes de la Frontera; in the province of Cordoba, Aguilar de la Frontera and in the province of Sevilla, Morón de la Frontera.
There are other municipalities in the Huelva province, which include "de la Frontera" in its name. However, they don't refer to the Granadian border, but to the border with Portugal. This is the case with Rosal de la Frontera and Palos de la Frontera.
The first border of Granada was demarcated by the Pact of Jaén in 1246 between King Alhamar of Granada and King Fernando III the Saint of Castille, after extensive conquests by the latter in the whole valley of Guadalquivir. The border was changed during the reigns of Sancho IV, Fernando IV and Alfonso XI. However, at the latter's death in 1350, the border of Granada met with certain channels of stabilization and geographic fixation, which generally lasted until the beginning of the Granada War at the end of the 15th century. The geographic border started in proximity to the Straight of Gibraltar, between the mouths of the Palmones River and the Guadarranque River. It rose through the Montecoche mountains until it arrived at the Guadalete River. At this altitude, it leaves the north orientation and takes eastern direction, parallel to the northern foothills of the Ronda Mountain Range. From the Guadalteba and Yeguas rivers, the border used to take a north-west direction, except for some rare exceptions, running through he mountain ranges south of Benameji, Rute, Priego de Cordoba and Alcala la Real. It went on by the valley of the Guadalbullon River up to the heights of Sierra Magina. More to the north, it ran south of the foothils of the ranges of Cazorla and Segura, penetrating in Murcian territory, where, in the territories of Lorca and Caravaca, a thick forest acted as a buffer zone . All the land of Alicante and Orihuela, including the southern zone of the Kingdom of Valencia, from Alcoy and Cocentaina to the sea, was also a borderland.
During its existence, the border had a great territorial, political, economical, religious and cultural importance. Beyond being a border like so many others, it was for more than two centuries the European boundary between Christianity and Islam. It was, therefore, a place of strong exchange that allowed for legal and illegal economic activities, like trade with Oriental products or military raids aimed at the mere pursuit of plunder, and taking of hostages to support the slave trade, or simply to negotiate the release of the captives. In this respect, religious orders took sides.
The characteristics of this area caused kings to grant many rights and privileges to border towns in order to improve the attractiveness of life in those places, for even in times of peace there was a permanent risk of being caught or dying due to Grenadines frequent raids. The society of the frontier populations was characterized by isolation from other regions, derived from a position adjacent to the enemy and therefore by fundamental characteristics based on military activity, which explained the concerns of councils counting on those with the economic capacity to maintain horses and weapons, in addition the infantry formed the majority of the army, and also opportunists who arrived to smuggle goods across the other side of the border, and even those convicted of violent crimes who sought to redeem themselves and avoid punishment by serving the mighty. The settlements were established through a number of fortified cores, close together, with limited extension and a scarce density of population, and with only military functions that were above all else defensive.
The primary economic activity was ranching, due to the lack of population and, therefore, a scarcity of farmhands, in addition to the insecurity of the entire terrain. Therefore the basic economic wealth of the frontier populations was through the activity of ranching, as livestock, especially sheep and goats that could be transported and secured behind the walls of fortresses and cities in case of a Moorish attack.
Among the main involvements, the creaton of the military charge of Adelantado Mayor de la Frontera (Major Governor of the Border) stands out, which kept the spirit of Christian crusades and Islamic Jihad alive in both territories, as well as the chivalrous ideal, already anachronistic in other European territories, with a true irredentism growing from the 15th century which had as its final objective, the finalisation of the Reconquista and the recuperation of the territory which used to constitute the Wisigoth Kingdom of Toledo.
In the artistic and cultural field, the border romances, moniker from Ramón Menéndez Pidal, may be one of the most brilliant aspects produced by this contact between civilizations. Those ballads poeticize some historical events, like the capture of significant cities of the kingdom (Antequera, Álora, Alhama, etc.) which constitute the prelude to the Capture of Granada. At the same time, the frontier ballads tell of other armed events that produced the frontier, like the flight and sorrows of the knights. Its origin seems to be found in the medieval chanson de geste, popularized since the 14th century by minstrels, who helped its spreading in the cities and villages of Spain. That way, the frontier was a key element in the formation of the vision of Islam in all of Spain.
The border after the Reconquista
After its conquest, the Kingdom of Granada kept its specificity, even in financial matters. For instance, the customs of the tax and partial tax on the old frontier with Andalucia and with Murcia were maintained, at least in that they took the Granadan silk.
- García Fernández: op.ref., p.70
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