Enchanted? Bewitched? Mystical? No one has yet been able to explain the hypnotic and magical sensation that one experiences visiting Mojacar. The “spell” is attested by residents and tourists alike.
Everywhere one goes in the town you see replicas of the local totem: the INDALO. This man-image symbol has survived from prehistoric times.
Found only 100 years ago in a cave of northern Almeria the Indalo was adopted by the village of Mojacar as its talisman for good fortune. Initially worn by only the women of the town to ward off the evil eye of the passing infidel tourist, Indalos have become such a popular charm that it is now painted on almost every local building. One usually never leaves Mojacar without purchasing at least one as a gift--for Indalo's are special, they can only be given.
BEWITCHED: Mojacar as a village, has been "here" for a long time. The first metal arrowheads found in civilized Europe came from Mojacar, and one of Europe's oldest civilizations, the Argars, known for their beer and symmetrically designed ceramics, were in Mojacar some 4500 years ago. Gerald Brenen, the English author of SOUTH FROM GRANADA claims that the people that built Stonehenge on the English Salisbury plain were migrants from the original Almerian culture.
Modern day interest in the village stems from the many recent articles and a book published by a Frenchman in 1994 that unequivocally states that Mojacar was the birthplace of a fantasy maker: the legendary: Walt Disney. The Town Hall agrees. Mojacar's claim is simple: born Jose Guirao in 1901, the fatherless son of a local villager escaped poverty and sailed from Garrucha on an iron-ore ship to the dream land of California where his mother worked as a domestic and eventually married her rancher employer who then adopted the lad and changed his name to Disney.
The Disney people haven't come up yet with a birth certificate to authenticate his supposed birth in Chicago but to Mojacar´s favor, witnesses abound who say he personally returned here many years ago.
In the nearby harbor village of Garrucha, some 5 kms. from Mojacar, one can rent a boat and view the "pock marked hills" of further neighboring Villaricos. There, more Phoenician slaves labored digging silver ore than those that built the great pyramid of Cheops, in Egypt.
It was in fact, these rich mineral deposits that first attracted the Phoenician, then followed by the Moors from Africa in mid 750’s AD.
Their religious center being our regional capital - Almeria: "mirror of the sea". Still today on the fortress walls of the "Alcazaba" is enscrolled the history of that forgotten era: "when Almeria was Almeria ... Granada was its garden".
When the "Catholic kings" initiated the reconquest of Spain from Islam they could not bring Mojacar into their religious subjugation. The village, perched high a top a hill with its own interior water supply proved unconquerable. Therefore the "Reyes Catolicos" very cleverly signed a truce allowing the "ANCIENT AND NOBLE PEOPLE of Mojacar to keep their Moorish customs in return for their strict allegiance to the Spanish crown." This inscription can still be seen today at the local fountain in Mojacar, dated 1488.
Then came 1492 and the world changed forever. Jan 2nd the Moors surrendered and abandoned their beloved Alhambra in Granada. Bobabdil halted some 15 kms outside of town reighned his horst up a hill and looked back. He sighed! His mother rode up quickly and slapped him in disgust. “You cry like a woman what you did not defend like a man!” Every school child knows the story and the adage.
That enchanted lure of gold sought by so many conquistadors in far off lands was already here in the radiant embrace of the our Iberian sun that blesses this region of Andalucian 323 days per year!
Lots of name changes for the town. What the Greek-Phonencian called “Murgis-Akra” was Latinized to “Musacra” when the Roman legions marched in. The Arbs changed it to Moxacar which evolved into today’s Mojacar (Mo-haw-car).
Life in Mojacar evolved very slowly. Years of desitution and droughts forced people from the land and either into big cities like Barcelona or Madrid or they simply migrated many as far away as South America. Lots went to Germany to the factories and England to the restuarants. The village became derilict.
In a corner of our Province lies the only desert in all of Europe. It was this notoriety that enticed the making of such legendary films as Anthony and Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, Pattton and Orson Wells' TREASURE ISLAND . And of course those many "Paella Westerns" that brought Clint Eastwood instant fame.
Modern day Mojacar was "almost” put on the map 50 years ago thanks to one Don Enrique Arias, a Columbian concert pianist of international repute. He convinced the mayor, Don Jacinto Alarcon to GIVE AWAY FREE LAND AND HOUSES if the people would re-populate them within two years! Changes started. Enrique paid for advertisements in well known newspapers and famous well-read people came from afar. Important celebrities, bankers, ambassadors, film stars and poets-- all looking for a secret “hide-away”.
Then the crisis came: in a poor village unaccustomed to the benefits of tourism many of the locals refused to give up their cherished pigs which they kept by custom in their cellars.
The new resident-foreigners objected to the pigs on hygienic grounds and "the very idea of keeping pigs next to our house!" Finally, in his infinite wisdom and contrary to those Franconian times, he opted for a democratic vote-- AND the pigs won!
THAT same week in 1964, another “Extanjero” (foreigner) arrived buzzing in on a 9 year old scooter completing an 18 hour drive from Madrid. In a ZEN moment he instantly recognizing the untapped natural development potential and started it all off. There where many others here before him, good, gracious, gilted and great lingering about… but it was one Paul J. Polansky (my brother) that put Mojacar on the map.
Lots of changes have happened as many of these old photographs will atest.
Copyright © Ric Polansky Spanish version