It was the height of mango season when we visited Benamargosa in October, and despite the inclement weather, it felt as though the whole village was centred round one of its most valued crops. Benamargosa, which lies on the banks of the river of the same name, is proudly agricultural and thanks to the river it boasts rich, fertile land which permits the cultivation of mangoes, lemons and particularly avocados.
An agricultural history
After a series of plagues which all but wiped out the vinyards during 1878 and forced farmers out of the area, those who stayed turned to citrus fruit and sugar cane. While the production of sugar cane has died out across the province and grapes have seen a resurgence in recent years, mangoes, lemons and avocados are the most important local produce. So much so that the ‘Batycate’ (Batido de avocado, or avocado shake) is said to be the village’s local dish. Made with avocado, cinnamon, milk and sugar, this sweet treat is one not to be missed on a visit.
Records show that Benamargosa was used by Phoenicians and later Romans as a route between Antequera, Vélez-Málaga and Comares and the oldest remains in the village are those of an inn used by travellers and traders going between the three towns, which can be seen in what is today the main square in the village. Some of the arches from what would have been the stables are still visible.
Places not to be missed on a visit to Benamargosa are; the banks of the river, where in summer locals enjoy the outdoor swimming pool, a modern children’s play area, covered outdoor bar and small kiosk with a covered area for events and celebrations. The La Solana and Los Pechuelos neighbourhoods are the oldest parts of the village and a stroll through the meandering, narrow steep streets will transport you back to the end of the 15th Century when the village began to develop, following the Spanish Reconquista.
Also at the river, the Puente de los Diez Ojos (10 eyes) joins Benamargosa and was built to provide access to the fertile land on the other side of the river. Another reminder of the importance of agriculture to Benamargosa is the Arcos de la Huerta; a series of arches built to carry water for irrigation purposes whose date of construction is not recorded.
The pretty Iglesia de la Encarnación is located in the lower part of the town, near to the river and numerous bars and like many churches in the Axarquía, was built on a former mosque in the late 16th Century. There are two hermitages in the village; Ermita del Cementario, which is the chapel at the village cemetery and commissioned in 1840 by Doña María de Santiago as a burial place for her husband and eventually herself. Who Doña María de Santiago was remains a mystery, at least to me. A Google search brought up no further information than that of the chapel commission. The other Ermita is San Sebastián, is a relatively modern chapel and built in honour of one of the village’s patron saints who is celebrated on 20th January (or the nearest Saturday after) every year.
La Vaqueria is owned by English resident of Benamargosa, Su Derrick, who bought the old dairy 12 years ago and over the years has converted it into an intriguing and homely café-cum-art space and organic vegetable garden. Find homemade food including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free as well as handcraft and clothes for sale and regular events. Visit the website www.la-vaqueria.com or Facebook: La Vaqueria for more information.
Another great find in Benamargosa is the Plaza Lounge Bar, run by Richard and Audrey. The bar is situated on the historic Plaza de Benamargosa and offers a fantastic range of homemade food and a well-stocked bar. Friday and Saturday nights are ‘medley of Mediterranean and Asian food. Enjoy a “Country Carvery” eat as much as you like choice of meats and vegetables for Sunday lunch. It is advisable to book ahead.
Fiesta de San Sebastían – 20th January or nearest Saturday. Fiesta del Campo – celebrating the reason for Benamargosa’s existence and a word that all foreigners understand, regardless of their level of Spanish: ‘el campo’. This year it celebrated its 15th anniversary on 21st April and included awards, music, dancing and of course exhibitions and tastings of the village’s produce. Feria de Agosto – first weekend in August. Noche de las Candelas – September.
There are plenty of opportunities to walk in and around Benamargosa and the town hall has a leaflet with suggested routes, which include between 3.5 and 9 kilometres and a range of levels of difficulty.
How to get there
By car take the A 356 from Vélez-Málaga and just north of the town there is a signpost directing you to turn left into the MA 3113 which leads directly to Benamargosa.
There are buses that leave from Malaga, Vélez-Málaga and Torre del Mar. Check www.autocaresvalleniza.es for timetable information.