The walk back to Alpandeire from the fields.
After three weeks in Spain’s Celtic northwest, Vanessa and I are now in the arid southern mountains of Andalucia. We have only one week here, which we will spend on a farm in an ancient chalk-white town named Alpandeire, two hours from the city of Malaga and twenty minutes from the beautiful city of Ronda. The farm’s owners are Alonso, his mother Isabel, and 87-year old grandfather Cristobol. They live in the town and have fields and orchards in the surrounding area: almonds, figs, oranges, pomegranates, cork, and prickly pear are the main crops, along with tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables and fruits for the family’s use. They are the only residents in the town who still keep horses in the stalls on the ground level of the house, which they use to carry equipment and harvested crops to and from the fields.
The town Alpandeire was founded early in the 8th century AD by the invading Arab forces that ruled much of Spain for the next eight hundred years. As is true in most of southern Spain, the signs of Christianity in Alpandeire, such as its impressive cathedral built in 1505, do little to hide the ages of Arab influence. The Spanish language is infused with words of Arabic origin, from place names like Alpandeire to everyday words such as ojalá (“God be willing”) and olé (from wa-Allah, “By Allah”). Many fruits and other foods grown in the region were also introduced by the Moors, including almonds, citrus, and pomegranates, and the result is a centuries-old fusion of Arab and European cooking.
Alonso works construction in the town to make his living, and Vanessa and I spend most of our time in the fields with Cristobol, Alonso’s grandfather. We care for Alonso’s horses and harvest fruits and almonds, with some additional work in the fruit and vegetable garden with Alonso when he isn’t working construction.
Chumbos: Prickly Pear Cactus in the Arid Climate of Andalucia, Spain.