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Location

La Vall de Gallinera is the natural corridor that connects the inland towns of the Alcoi and Comtat areas with the coast of the Marina Alta region.

Prehistory: The first settlements

The first signs of human presence in La Vall de Gallinera date back to the Upper Paleolithic period (25,000-8000 BC).

The valley’s Iberian period

From this period we can highlight the site of the Xarpolar settlement, which is still in use.

The Roman and late Roman period

The settlements in the valley belonging to the Roman and late Roman period (spanning from the 1st to the 7th century) seem to be scarce and not of great importance.

Gallinera during the Al-Andalus period

Archival documentation, pertaining to the period running from the 14th to the 16th century, has provided proof of the existence of up to twenty farmhouses over time.

The feudal estates of La Vall de Gallinera

At the time of the Christian conquest, La Vall de Gallinera was under the rule of the commander al-Azraq.

La Vall de Gallinera, land of Moors

Half a century after the official conversion, in La Vall de Gallinera Muslim names continued to be used unconcernedly,

The Mallorcan repopulation

These “land-hungry” settlers followed the road to L’Atzúbia and La Vall de Gallinera, to start over.

The 18th century

The 18th century began with the War of Succession, which had a great impact on La Vall de Gallinera

The 19th century

When men or women worked in the fields and were not able to return home for lunch —because they worked from sunrise to sunset— they took the recapte with them for the noon meal.

The 20th century

At the start of the 20th century, the population of La Vall de Gallinera grew considerably, and in 1910 it reached a maximum of 2,324 inhabitants.

Josep Antoni Cavanilles

” They are very dedicated to their work, they take advantage of everything, and they live happily in that delightful area. The most opportune place to see it all at once is the summit of the Peña Horadada [La Foradà].”

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Throughout the nineteenth century and until the 50s of the twentieth century, the valley was a fairly populated territory. Today, a century later, the official census shows that La Vall de Gallinera has only 582 registered inhabitants.

1900 - 2016

DEMOGRAPHIC EVOLUTION

1900 - 1,949 inhabitants
1920 - 2,082 inhabitants
1940 - 1,954 inhabitants
1960 - 1,350 inhabitants
1970 - 1,107 inhabitants
1981 - 900 inhabitants
1991 - 726 inhabitants
2000 - 578 inhabitants
2005 - 622 inhabitants
2007 - 672 inhabitants
2016 - 582 inhabitants
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Benirrama, Benialí, Benissivà, Benitaia, la Carroja, Alpatró, Llombai i Benissili

LOCATION

It is one of the inland valleys belonging to the Marina Alta region, elongated in the form of a corridor on a southwest to northeast axis where the Gallinera River, an intermittent watercourse, has its source and flows. The valley is delimited by two mountain ranges: to the north L’Albureca, La Safor and L’Almirant, and to the south the Sierra Foradada (or Foradà, as it is called in La Vall de Gallinera). The main peaks in the area are the summits of La Safor with the highest elevation (1013 m), the emblematic Penya Foradada (737.3 m), Penyal Gros (854.2 m), Tossal de la Creu (912 m) and Cim del Xarpolar (896 m).
La Vall de Gallinera is the natural corridor that connects the inland towns of the Alcoi and Comtat areas with the coast of the Marina Alta region. It has a special microclimate that ensures great bioclimatic diversity.
The two main accesses to the valley are from Pego (east) or from Planes (west) by way of the CV-700 road.

The origins of the Gallinera toponym have been investigated and explained by Roberto Fauré Sabater. The author maintains that the name gallinera, which the Arabs referred to as galinar, is a pre-Roman word formed by kal + inar, whereby kal means rock or crag, and inar means cut, opening, gap or hole. Therefore, we get the phrase “the rock with a hole in it”, that is, La Foradada, by means of which we obtain the meaning of La Vall de Gallinera as “the valley of the Foradada”.

During medieval times La Vall de Gallinera had twenty-one villages, of which there are still remains. Those that disappeared are: L’Alcúdia (the walls remain), Benibader, Benicalaf, Beniestop, Benifoto, Benihahia, Benimàmet, Benimahomet, Benimarsoc (there is a spring), Bolcàssim, Ràfol, Solana de Benissili (the walls are still there) and La Solana. Currently only seven villages remain, in order from east to west: Benirrama (also called Benirama, Benirahama or Benerahacma), Benialí (Bemcalill, Benihalill, Benihalil, Bonielill, Benielí), Benissivà (Beniçiba, Beniciba, Beniciva, Benicida and Beniceba), Benitaia (Benitahar, Benitaher, Benitaer, Benitalla and Benitaya), La Carroja (Rachalosa, Caroja, Queroja, Carrocha, Carosa), Alpatró (Petro, Patró, lo Patron, Potron, Alpatron, Potro), Benissili (Benicelim, Benicilim, Benixilim and Benijilim) and the village of Llombai (Lombayer, Lombart, Lombaer, Lombay, Llombay).

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The first settlements

PREHISTORY

The first signs of human presence in La Vall de Gallinera date back to the Upper Paleolithic period (25,000-8000 BC). Objects belonging to hunter-gatherers were found in Cova d’en Pardo, a cave near the border between La Vall de Gallinera and Planes. Materials from the Epipaleolithic (12,000-5000 BC), the Neolithic (5000-3000 BC) and the Chalcolithic (3000-1800 BC) periods were also discovered in the same cave. Neolithic materials have also been found in other parts of La Vall de Gallinera, such as the caves known as Cova de l’Àguila and Cova del Passet. This continued presence gave rise to cave paintings which have been found in seventeen different rock shelters, all located in the Sierra del Almirant.

In the village of La Foradada and in the Castellot d’Alpatró there is evidence that there were settlements in the area during the Bronze Age (2000-1000 BC).

Later, from the 6th century BC onwards, the Iberian culture appeared, as demonstrated by the archeological sites of the village of Xarpolar and the Castellot de Alpatró, and in the two caves called Cova del Esbarzer and Cova d’en Pardo.

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The first towns

THE VALLEY'S IBERIAN PERIOD

After the Bronze Age, from the 6th century BC onwards, the Iberian culture gradually appeared together with its own State, religion and culture. From this period we can highlight the site of the Xarpolar settlement and those at the Castellot de Alpatró, which is still in use. It seems that there are also remains of this culture in two caves, Cova del Esbarzer and Cova d’en Pardo.

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The settlements in the valley belonging to the Roman and late Roman period

THE ROMAN AND LATE ROMAN PERIOD

The settlements in the valley belonging to the Roman and late Roman period (spanning from the 1st to the 7th century) seem to be scarce and not of great importance. The main discoveries of ceramic fragments of terra sigillata have been found in caves, which were probably used as places for overnight stays or temporary shelter (Cova de l’Hedra and Cova de les Llànties). Perhaps a more systematic investigation could uncover places occupied during this period, similar to the “villas” discovered in La Vall d’Ebo. In the neighbouring town of Pego, on the other hand, the settlements from the Roman period are numerous and show a very dense occupation of the territory. Despite the scarcity of Roman finds, according to Carmen Barceló, Ph.D., the Gallinera toponym has a pre-Islamic Latin origin.

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The settlers in La Vall de Gallinera were, basically, Berber groups

LA VALL DE GALLINERA DURING THE AL-ANDALUS PERIOD

We do not know anything about the precaliphal period (711-929) in La Vall de Gallinera. However, there is an Islamic funerary inscription from the Caliphate era: the Alpatró stele from 942, preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Alcoi. There is evidence of another one, the Benirrama stele, which according to Carmen Barceló belongs to the 11th century. In the case of the Alpatró stele, it would vouch for the presence of a farmstead with a necropolis.

In 1009, the civil war or fitna began in al-Andalus, leading to the disintegration of the Caliphate of Córdoba into several taifa kingdoms. One of these kingdoms was the taifa of Dénia, which administrated these lands and its towns and villages until the Christian conquest of 1244-1245.

The settlers in La Vall de Gallinera were, basically, Berber groups. A prominent example is the Banû Marzûq clan, part of the Masmuda tribe, which organised the Benimarsoc farmhouse (currently in ruins) and created the irrigated area of the spring known as Font de la Mata, at the eastern end of the valley. However, there were also some very small Arab groups, such as the Banû Ru’ayn, originally from Yemen, which settled near Alpatró and disappeared before the Christian conquest. The indigenous people who may have existed in La Vall de Gallinera before the arrival of the Muslims were probably assimilated fairly quickly.

From the 10th century onwards there is evidence of the existence of networks of farmsteads associated with the cultivation of the bottom of the valley and of the lower slopes. Archival documentation, pertaining to the period running from the 14th to the 16th century, has provided proof of the existence of up to twenty farmhouses over time. The actual number that existed in any given moment probably ranged from thirteen to sixteen farmhouses. The farmsteads (called “alqueries” in Valencian and “alquerías” in Spanish, from the Arabic qarya) were the typical al-Andalus form of settlement and occupation of the available space in rural areas, being small and semi-dispersed villages inhabited by various family groups which were related to each other.

In La Vall de Gallinera there were probably no more than twenty small orchards scattered along the valley and, originally, none of them covered an area greater than two hectares. The relationship between the hydraulic systems and the presence of ceramic materials, allows us to observe that the orchards were distributed forming three groups defined by proximity: one in the upper part, another in the central area and a third group in the lower sector. The upper group (which included Llombai, Benicalaf, Benibeder and La Carroja; while Benissili belonged to another region) was the most spread out and had Alpatró as the main farmhouse. At the bottom, Benirrama was located in the middle (between L’Alcúdia and Benimarsoc). But the most important group was the central one, where the hydraulic spaces were larger and more concentrated, and where the farmsteads were more numerous: Bolcàsim, Benitaia, Benistrop, Benihahia, Benissivà, Beniali, Rafalet and Benifoto.

The core of the Islamic organisation was the aljama, consisting of respected heads of families or lineages who formed the council of elders (shaykh/s). This council was responsible for making decisions about important community affairs, as well as taking care of the administration of common goods (such as abandoned lands) and organising the collection and payment of manorial rents. An important aspect was the management of the possessions which provided yields destined to the maintenance of the mosques, the alms for the poor and the livelihood of the alfaquis who dedicated themselves to the education of the children and the application of the legal and religious norms of Islam.

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La Vall de Gallinera was under the rule of the commander al-Azraq,

THE FEUDAL ESTATES OF LA VALL DE GALLINERA

At the time of the Christian conquest, La Vall de Gallinera was under the rule of the commander al-Azraq, who in 1245 signed with King Jaume I the famous treaty called “Pacte del Pouet”, maintaining for three years his castles and properties, one being Alcalà and the other Gallinera, and the rest of the castles being those of Castell de Castells, Xeroles, Margarida and Perputxent.

The conquest resulted in the division of the lands into units of manorial domination that the King kept for himself or gave to various members of the aristocracy. The territory was divided into two military estates structured around a castle or hisn. The manor established in La Vall de Gallinera had as its centre the castle of the same name, near Benirrama, and included not only the valley itself but also La Vall d’Ebo. On the other hand, the western end, with its centre in Benissili, was located within the area under control of the Castle of Alcalà (also called Alcalà de Gallinera) together with the farmhouses of La Vall d’Alcalà, located on the other side of the mountain range.

Around November 1247, the armed uprising led by al-Azraq began and due to this the Muslim rule of the area lasted for another decade. The Muslim leader controlled all of the mountains. All the Saracens in the surrounding areas who had not yet taken up arms were expelled from the kingdom by Jaume I towards the lands of Murcia and Granada. In 1258, Jaume I ended the revolt in just eight days.

But al-Azraq returned from his probable exile in Granada in 1276 in order to start a second uprising. Even so, he never returned to La Vall de Gallinera because he died in a battle fought at the gates of Alcoi when he was on his way to La Vall de Gallinera to meet the rebels who were waiting for him there. A few months later, Jaume I also died. It was his son Pere III who ended the revolt in 1277-1278.

On November 14th, 1279, King Pere III confirmed, in a municipal charter, the presence of the Muslim population in the inland valleys of the Dénia area: the valleys of Sagra, Pop, Callosa, Algar, Guadalest, Confrides, Castell de Castells, Gallinera, Alcalà, Benamanecil and Ebo.

Throughout the 13th century, La Vall d’Ebo and La Vall de Gallinera were the boundary between the Christian and Muslim worlds, a border that was constantly advancing and moving, changing just like the feudal lords changed. La Vall de Gallinera and La Vall d’Ebo were inserted in estates created in favour of members of the royal family (Admiral Bernat d’en Sarrià, Prince Pere de Ribagorça, the royal dukes of Gandia), while La Vall d’Alcalà and Benissili were granted to Bernat Guillem from Vilafranca del Conflent (1288), and were later bought by Jaspert de Valleriola (1404).

Halfway through the 14th century, La Vall de Gallinera and La Vall d’Ebo were granted to Guillem de Vich, who was Alfonso the Magnanimous’ mestre racional, and his heirs sold these manors to the Borja lineage (1487-1491). Meanwhile, at the start of the 16th century, the Alcalà-Benissili manor was inserted into a new lineage, the Català de Valleriola family. The manors remained under these families until the end of the Old Regime. Therefore, Benissili remained officially separated from the rest of La Vall de Gallinera until around 1837-38, when the first constitutional town councils were formed.

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Half a century after the official conversion, in La Vall de Gallinera Muslim names continued to be used unconcernedly.

LA VALL DE GALLINERA, LAND OF MOORS

Between 1519 and 1526, by order of King Carlos I of Spain, all the Moors in the Kingdom of Valencia were forced to convert to Christianity. The conversion decree placed, for the first time, under the control of the Church the Muslim residents of the Kingdom of Valencia. This control was applied, fundamentally, at two levels. One level was repressive and corresponded to the Inquisition; the other, in the hands of the parish network established by the diocese, was related to daily vigilance and, at the same time, to the propagation of Christian ritual, symbolic and matrimonial practices.

The action of the Inquisition had little impact not only due to the agreement that limited inquisitorial persecution during forty years after the declared apostasy, but also because of the protection offered by the lords to their Moorish vassals.

In any case, the parochial coercion of the Moors was a slow and deficient process. At the time of the conversion there was only one parish for the valleys of Alcalà, Ebo and Gallinera, a parish with hardly any faithful or a even a real church. There was only a chapel in Gallinera Castle and a congregation made up of the governor and his family, two or three soldiers, a bailiff and little else.

It was only starting in the period of 1534-35 that the diocese of Valencia decided to build a parish network, by founding one hundred and twenty new Moor rectories. With regards to our valleys, this action meant the dismemberment of the old Gallinera parish into four separate rectories: Jovada, Ebo, Benirrama and Alpatró, with Benissili being considered a part of the parish of Alpatró. Four poorly endowed and poorly assisted rectories, with rectors who often did not even reside there.

Half a century after the official conversion, in La Vall de Gallinera Muslim names continued to be used unconcernedly, the mosques preserved their lands and the alfaquis continued to take care of religious education.

With the disarmament of 1563, the end of the forty-year term and the arrival of Juan de Ribera to the Archbishopric of Valencia (1569), who was planning on reducing the Moors to Catholic obedience, there was a clear turning point in ecclesiastical activity in areas inhabited by Christian converts. To this end, the number of Moorish parishes was increased to reach the parishioners effectively and, at the same time, to improve the economic resources of these parishes so as to guarantee the stable presence of committed priests. A direct consequence of these actions was the creation of a new parish in the centre of La Vall de Gallinera, the parish of Benissivà (1575), formed with the annexes of La Solana, Bolcàsim, Benistrop, Benitaia, Benialí and Ràfol. Once the parish network was created, the diocesan agents began to intensify their periodic inspections, in the form of pastoral visits to each parish, with the aim of ensuring the means of upkeep for the aforementioned parishes, preparing a list of the assets of the old mosques assigned to the parishes after the conversion —of which there had been little or no control— and starting the pressure on the Moors to adopt the uses and customs of the Christians in matters regarding rituals and obedience to Catholic precepts.

This pastoral pressure in La Vall de Gallinera, during the period 1578-1597, consisted of an effort to replace the presence of Muslim physical signs with Christian ones. The order was given to demolish mosques that could not be converted into churches, such as the one which stood between Benialí and L’Alcúdia (at the Benifoto farmhouse), the one situated in the middle of Benimarsoc, a third one between the upper and lower farmhouses (Benimoamet and Benimamit, east of Benirrama), or the one next to Benistrop. The old Muslim cemeteries were forcefully transformed into fields for the cultivation of trees, to be leased for the benefit of the churches, and there seemed to exist at that time around 36 burial areas scattered across the entire valley, with anywhere between two and seven related to each farmhouse. The Christianisation of the area had to be completed with the installation of large wooden crosses at the main crossroads and the controlled distribution of images of saints for domestic interiors.

Another line of action was the indoctrination of the Moors, with measures taken so that the rectors could teach Christian doctrine to the children and, in turn, try to use them to transmit it to others. The re-education of all the parishioners was ordered, under the threat of not allowing them to marry if they could not demonstrate knowledge of prayers, commandments, sacraments, etc. Everyone had to go to mass and to the sermons, and so that no one could slip away, the rectors had to make lists of attendees older than seven and do a roll call every Sunday.

Rituals re-creating Muslim identity were suppressed. For example, the sacrifice of animals in the Islamic way were not permitted, both for human consumption and for the performance of ritual sacrifices.

The Church authorities also attempted to substitute and sacramentalise the rites related to the cycle of life. At birth, the old Christian midwives had to be present, helping to reduce the period between the birth and the baptism of the baby and to avoid the use of Muslim names in the baptism. In the case of marriage, the priest had to be notified, being responsible for ensuring that they did not do “Moorish ceremonies” before the wedding, and a bailiff usually attended as witness. With regards to death, any imminent death had to be reported to the rector, who would then appear at the homes of the dying with the intention of hearing their confessions and pressuring them to leave enough money for three masses. The same old Christian midwives had to shroud the deceased and avoid any kind of Islamic ritual.

Most of them reluctantly put up with this forced condition of being new Christians and this is what eventually made them rebel and continuously wait for new invasions from North Africa that would free them from both religious oppression and feudal burdens. For this reason, these new Christians continued to live, in the privacy of their homes, according to the Muslim legal, religious and cultural customs.

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These “land-hungry” settlers followed the road to L’Atzúbia and La Vall de Gallinera, to start over

THE MALLORCAN REPOPULATION

The so-called “Route of the Mallorcans” has existed in the collective imagination of the towns located around La Vall de Gallinera (L’Atzúbia or Planes, for example) as the path taken by the Mallorcans who arrived at the port of Dénia to seek a new beginning, a new life, taking advantage of the fact that the inland valleys of the Marina region had been depopulated after the expulsion of the Moors. These “land-hungry” settlers followed the road to L’Atzúbia and La Vall de Gallinera, to start over.

Therefore, it seems that a river of people passed through La Vall de Gallinera during the first half of the 17th century. Entire families arrived from the same place in Mallorca. There is evidence of around 257 Mallorcan families, but not all of them settled down and some sought better conditions in the neighbouring valleys and regions (Alcalà, L’Orxa, Vilallonga, Fageca, Famorca, Salem, and so on). Only about a hundred families, or fewer, actually settled in La Vall de Gallinera, many coming from the Tramuntana area (Andratx, Calvià, Estellencs, Fornalutx, Pollença, Puigpunyent), others from Pla de Mallorca (Algaida, Montuïri, Muro, Sant Joan, Sineu), in lesser numbers from Raiguer (Alaró, Campanet), Migjorn (Llucmajor), Llevant (Artà and Capdepera), and some from Menorca (els Camps).

Proof of this repopulation instability was that seventy-eight settlers signed the Gallinera charter in the village square of Benialí, but later the properties were signed for by eighty-seven settlers and in the 1646 census there were only seventy-three houses. Meanwhile, Benissili underwent three repopulation attempts: the first failed (1610), during the second attempt the majority left, and then a third phase came towards the decade starting in 1630, with Valencian and Mallorcan people. In the 1646 census, Benissili had nine settled families.

In short, a reorganisation of human settlement in the valley took place. Of the approximately eighteen farmsteads that existed before the expulsion, only about eleven farmsteads remained (Benimarsoc, Benirrama, L’Alcúdia, Benialí, La Solana, Benitaia, La Carroja, Alpatró, Llombai and Benissili), taking into account that Benissivà was not settled again until the end of the 17th century, its repopulation spurred by the Puig family (Bernat Josep). There was definitely a selection process when deciding where to settle, choosing the places that had the best conditions.

Extensive peasant families predominated, the typical situation being that all the members settled together in a specific place. This resulted in the constant repetition of names and surnames, that is to say, they had come from the same village and all lived together in the same place of arrival. They tended to marry each other, showing strong group solidarity which permitted them to create very culturally cohesive communities of homogeneous origin, a fact that helped the newcomers settle in, especially in isolated territories such as La Vall de Gallinera. This group cohesion and their endogamous practices provoked suspicion on behalf of the neighbouring Valencians, who called them garruts. They even mixed their original devotions (Virgen del Lluch, Virgen de Montserrat) with other local ones (Virgen de Agres, San Francisco, Virgen del Rosario, etc).

Despite the youth of the newcomers (and their demographic dynamism), the first signs of recovery did not appear until half way through the 17th century. The sudden increase in the first decades of repopulation was very evident, with a large number of reported births. Even so, the stability of the repopulation process was achieved from the middle of the century onwards, and fairly gradually at that, seeing that by the end of the last third of the 17th century there was still a trickle of new settlers, although as a much weaker flow than the one that took place during the first half of the century.

In parallel with the evolution of the repopulation process, symptoms of dissatisfaction began to appear more and more as the century progressed, and not in vain Benissili was one of the epicentres of an organised movement in 1693, the anti-seigniorial revolt which revealed the dissatisfaction of the peasants with regards to the feudal conditions, later resurfacing in the Kingdom of Valencia during the War of Succession.

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THE 18th CENTURY

The 18th century began with the War of Succession, which had a great impact on La Vall de Gallinera. In fact, there is evidence of the presence of Joan Baptiste Basset in La Vall de Gallinera and of his stay in the convent of Sant Andreu, as well as of the presence of Maur Ríos, Basset’s nephew, at the convent of Benitaia (1705), according to Carme Pérez Aparicio.

Thanks to the letters written by Luis Geronimo de Pastor, official of the ducal curia of Gandia, we know that La Vall de Gallinera joined the Austracist movement:

The mountains of these places have filled up with Miquelets [irregular light troops], and at all times they commit iniquities […] that you cannot travel the places without finding lots of people, because of Villalonga, Gallinera, Ebo, Laguar, and in general all the open places in the mountains, they are the owners, without any contrast now […]. And the inhabitants of the valleys did not get good press before the manor: I already have in my possession the list of all the inhabitants of Ebo and Gallinera, but no certainty as to who have been good, something which I will examine shortly, and it seems to me according to what you have heard said, that in Gallinera there are many good people, but in Ebo few or, better said, none.

In fact, there is documentary evidence that the people of our valleys refused to satisfy the manorial rights, claiming that they had been passed onto the royal jurisdiction (Archduke Carles III). Due to all this, they suffered severe destruction in November 1707:

On Tuesday, the first of the current month, the troops entered La Vall de Gallinera, and because all the natives, both men and women, had fled to the mountains and cleared their houses, they set fire to all the places in the valley, and although the first news, given by some soldiers and peasants of this land, was that the entire valley had been burned, on Friday however a monk came from the Gallinera convent […] and told me that the fire had only destroyed about forty houses […] and that then the troops left the valley, and the natives returned and repaired many houses…

They also either did not want to or could not fulfil the mandatory contributions to maintain the troops in 1708:

Tell Your Excellency […] how burdened the county of Oliva and the valleys of Gallinera and Ebo and Pego were, since it is impossible to meet seventy-four pounds, fifteen salaries and eight monies each day, which is the expense of the officers and soldiers. […] Given that they cannot bring it, they have resolved to be sacked, put in prison, and they are not given any sentences because it is impractical that they will be able to comply with them.

The century had begun with a war and distress over feudal conditions, which was aggravated by the negative result of the lawsuit regarding incorporation into the Crown, in 1762.

In the same year of 1762, the rector of Benissivà, Josep Guillem, left for us an invaluable story about La Vall de Gallinera and the parish of Benissivà, the Báculo pastoral de la parroquia de Benisiva (1762). He designed it as a manual:

…because each country has its own particular customs, and special abuses, which it is convenient the priest should know, so as not to be deceived nor work in vain or without effect in many matters […] I compose this book, which although much has been determined in pectore, and bought the volume beforehand; having to tend to the land and tree businesses of the manufacture of this Parish […]

Even so, at the end of the 18th century, a considerable increase in the population had clearly occurred, which Josep Antoni Cavanilles already mentioned when he visited La Vall de Gallinera in 1792 and which can be deduced from the remains of terraces going all the way up to the summits on the shaded slopes of the valley. Cavanilles, in addition to praising the beauty of the territory, talked about the numerous settlements:

Its soil is uneven and gullied, but so populated with small settlements, so well planted with trees and made the most of that observing it is delightful, whether bit by bit or looking on from the heights.

And also about the care taken by its inhabitants and their agricultural work:

They are very dedicated to their work, they take advantage of everything, and they live happily in that delightful area. The most opportune place to see it all at once is the summit of the Peña Horadada [La Foradà].

He highlighted the diversity of the products that existed in La Vall de Gallinera, cherries (of which ninety arrobas were produced) being just one of many, and also the fact that they were cultivated at a time when there was no production in other villages.

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THE 19th CENTURY

On a local scale, the 19th century was marked by the Peninsular War and the dissolution of the manors, which had as immediate consequences the liberation of La Vall de Gallinera from the aristocratic yoke, the secularisation and sale of the Benitaia convent, the incorporation of Benissili into the constitutional local government of La Vall de Gallinera and the cholera epidemic of 1885. Due to the lack of studies concentrating on local history, we can only guess from indirect information how the life of the people of La Vall de Gallinera evolved during this period.

We are not able to provide any data regarding the Peninsular War (1808-1814), even though it must have seriously affected the people of our lands, and so we hope that future research will be able to shed light on the period in question.

We do not know how many members the convent had, but surely some continued to serve as vicars in the area and we know that the convent, with an area of about 2 hectares, was sold to Manuel Franco who paid a price of 51,581 reales. Nor do we know the details of the incorporation of Benissili into the council of La Vall de Gallinera, only that it happened in 1838.

On the other hand, we do know the consequences of the cholera epidemic that affected La Vall de Gallinera in 1885: 112 people died of the 1,969 registered inhabitants. These 1,969 inhabitants were distributed across the eight villages that still exist today: Benirrama (366), Benialí (446), Benissivà (192), Benitaia (166), La Carroja (183), Alpatró (387), Llombai (63) and Benissili (106), while La Solana and L’Alcúdia had already disappeared. In the study of the epidemic published by Emilio Aragón Mengual, it is worth mentioning the description of the distribution of the houses of the time, which will probably not surprise the older people as much as the young.

As far as we know and according to the structures and some descriptions which survived, the houses were small, usually with two floors —those of the richest villagers had three, with a hay loft at the top— and with a calcareous stone structure made of rocks taken from the surrounding mountains, bonded together with a mortar made of lime and sand, without whitewashing the walls. As the houses used to be narrow, they were distributed linearly inwards in naves of about four metres in length.

The houses of the poorer people were, generally, poorly ventilated and the floor of the ground floor was made of packed earth and was watered daily to keep it firm; the youngest children played on it or crawled around and then put their fingers in their mouths, making the floor of the house an ideal source of infections.

The ground floor was where the family’s daily activities took place and was distributed as follows: the first space consisted of an entrance large enough for a donkey and cart to pass through and communicated with the second space, only separated by an arch; this main space was where the people cooked, ate and socialised in winter, around the fire. This is where the fireplace was located, being the place to cook and to warm up during the colder months, as well as there being a table and some low chairs made of wood and rope, the canterer where people placed the jugs containing water for drinking or for doing the last rinse of plates or pots, a wall cabinet that was used to store salt and other condiments, and also the family crockery, which was rather meagre. On the other side of the space was the start of the staircase that led to the upper floor.

In the third area on the ground floor there was usually a tile where the basins for washing the dishes were put, as well as the tripod with the tub full of water, and it was also the place where the staircase (used to go up to the rooms above) was located. Under the arch of the stairs was the cellar, a small and cool room where the people kept the jars of oil with which they had fried seasonal vegetables, the brine, etc. Here they also kept the fruit and vegetables for daily use, the baskets with the grass for the animals in the pens and, if there was enough space, some tools for working in the fields.

The ground floor was rounded off with the livestock pen (the fourth space) and the patio, called ras. In the corral there was a manger where food was given to the donkeys, the pigsty, a compartment for the goat, which provided milk for the children, and the rabbit hutch; the chickens, and possibly turkeys, went around freely amongst the manure. The pen was also the place where the families kept the cavalry equipment and other tools used to work in the fields (pack, harrow, plow, hoes, hooks, etc.) and where all the members of the household relieved themselves. The ras was an open patio that provided light to the rear chambers and to the pen, and served to deposit the firewood and the jars of lime or sand, that were used to whitewash the interior walls whenever it happened to be necessary.

In some houses, especially on the outskirts of the villages, the patio or corral communicated through a small door with a piece of terraced land, or there was a fig tree or any other type of fruit tree and a small orchard where they grew seasonal vegetables (cabbages, spinach, chard, onions, garlic, turnips, etc.) that covered the needs of the family and were watered with water from the well.

On the second floor were the bedrooms and the hay loft (in houses with three floors, the hay loft was located on the third floor). The rooms on the second floor were where the family slept and they used to be small and to get to each one the people had to pass through the other bedrooms because the houses used to be narrow. There were no doors —in some cases a curtain used to separate the rooms— and so privacy was not at all an option. As the families were quite large, the beds were shared by the children and this favoured the transmission of diseases. The furniture was scarce and, besides the bed, there was only a chair or two and a wall cabinet with shelves to store things.

All the houses had a well on the ground floor, generally in one of the first three spaces. Usually it was just for one house, but sometimes it was a “half well” shared with the house next door, either because it was dug by mutual agreement between neighbours when the well was made, or due to family partitions of a larger house that had been built but was later inherited by two sons who would then have divided it down the middle. The water from the well was not used by the family for drinking or cooking but rather for washing, for the cattle to drink, for giving the pots and dishes a first rinse, and for cooling the water, wine, vegetables, fruit or meat.

The hay loft was on the last floor and consisted of an open space, without any compartments, that was intended for the storage of crops (winter pears, melons, carob beans, corn, barley, wheat, olives, etc.) until they were consumed, taken to the mill or, if necessary and possible, sold. As it was essential to preserve the harvested crops, if the hay loft was full when they were brought to the house, some of the harvest was kept in the rooms where the inhabitants slept.

There was no bathroom and bodily functions were taken care of in the pens, next to the donkey or in the pigpen, or among the chickens: a small hoe was taken, a hole was dug into which the person relieved himself or herself and afterwards it was covered up again. Later on, all this mixture of animal and human manure was used to give fertility to the vegetable garden.

There was also no running water in the houses and not even any nearby fountains with the minimum hygiene that we are used to today. The women or girls would go with the pitchers to get water from the village spring, and this was the water that the people used for drinking or cooking, washing their hands and the cooking utensils, cooling the bottles of wine or the earthenware jugs of water. Meanwhile, rainwater gathered in the well of the houses was used for washing or giving water to the cattle. Clothes were washed at home but the larger pieces of cloth (sheets, bedspreads, etc.) were taken to the village washing place, usually located on the outskirts where a spring or fountain provided water all year round. This habit must be taken into consideration when studying cases in La Vall de Gallinera of diseases such as cholera which could be transmitted if clothes contaminated with faecal matter were washed in a place shared by other users.

What were the villages like? Seeing that the growth of these villages was a bit erratic —due to the Moorish heritage—, the streets were narrow and with little direct sunlight and, on the outskirts or inside the villages there were patios or livestock pens where people kept their herds of goats, sheep or cows, and where the vegetables used for daily consumption were grown. The streets were made of dirt and stone, and if there were sidewalks it meant that they were river channels, so that when it rained a sticky mud formed, that mixed with the waste and dirty water that people threw out into the middle of the street or with the manure that the animals left behind when roaming around.

The diet in these mountain villages was based on a subsistence economy and self-sufficiency until well into the 20th century: people ate what they produced and, seeing that most of them lived on the edge of sheer poverty, surpluses were scarce. This is another important factor to take into account because a poor diet weakens the immune system and creates a predisposition to suffer from diseases. Their nutrition basically consisted of a diet in which legumes and garden products predominated, while proteins (meat, eggs, etc.) were scarce because, although they were also consumed, the villagers used to sell these products or use them to feed the weakest or the sick.

The typical breakfast at home consisted of a big cup of bread soup with malt, sweetened with honey. The malt was made by roasting barley, which was then pulverised with a manual grinder and cooked with water in a coffee pot. In some houses they had one or more goats that provided milk for their own consumption. At noon they used to eat a big meal because they would then go to the fields and so they kept the “hot” food for the night, when they returned from work.

When men or women worked in the fields and were not able to return home for lunch —because they worked from sunrise to sunset— they took the recapte with them for the noon meal. This consisted of a piece of bread —made of corn flour when the wheat harvest had been scarce— with cod or frigate mackerel or salted sardines or, for those that weren’t so poor, a piece of bacon or a blood sausage, with meat or eggs being almost impossible ingredients. This was accompanied by boiled beans, stalks, turnips and so on, which they chose from the pot that was prepared for that day, before putting the rice which was marinated with some olive oil. They also used to take some vegetables in brine.

To try to keep hunger at bay in between such poor meals, they used to take with them to the fields a handful of dried figs or acorns whenever they had any.

The most nutritious meal was reserved for the night, which consisted of a hot dish: rice with beans and stalks, lentil stew, mackerel borreta, paella with cod and spinach, etc.

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THE 20th CENTURY

At the start of the 20th century, the population of La Vall de Gallinera grew considerably, and in 1910 it reached a maximum of 2,324 inhabitants. From this moment on, the population hasn’t stopped decreasing. Given this situation and due to the fact that the territory, with its social context, could not generate sufficient wealth for the entire population, the trend of emigrating abroad that began halfway through the 19th century continued. We know of many emigrations around the year 1917, to the Americas (the United States, Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina, among other destinations). This transoceanic emigration, and its costs, meant that in many cases villagers were able to rebuild their lives in a new country and never returned, or it meant that they were forced to stay there for a period of at least two or three years. In the New York area there was an incipient “colony” of Valencians that helped newcomers in their search for work and opportunities.

Another more “familiar” emigration route, with lower risks involved, was the option of moving to North Africa, and specifically to the French colony of Algeria. The presence there of a significant number of Valencian emigrants attracted by the standard of living and the possibility of obtaining savings “quickly”  —due to the difference in salaries with respect to Spain— eventually made this route a short-term solution (one or two years, for example). The Valencian population used this route during situations of economic crisis, whenever there was the need to save up in order to be able to get married or simply whenever it was necessary to balance a declining family economy. People emigrated to a territory where there were already other Valencians, including neighbours and relatives from L’Orxa and other villages close to La Vall de Gallinera.

There were numerous types of job opportunities but for a woman the most common job was as a domestic servant in French homes, while a man was able to find work in the port, in agriculture, in construction and in various other fields. The progress made by some emigrants even allowed them to open their own businesses in the main urban areas.

Sometimes only one member of the family emigrated to Algeria, and if it was a woman then the man remained in the village and took care of the house, the children and the fields. In the case of emigration towards the Americas, it seems that it was a journey mainly undertaken by male members of the family, certainly due to the greater distance and danger.

This emigration only stopped or changed its purpose during the Spanish Civil War. After the conflict, the emigration continued to be spurred by the political situation in Spain or by the economic precariousness of the post-war years and, later, by the reconstruction needs in a Europe devastated by the Second World War. The main destinations after the Spanish Civil War were France, Germany and, to a lesser extent, England and Switzerland.

The great drama of the 20th century in La Vall de Gallinera was the Civil War, due to the fact that it was a huge disaster for the entire area. Although there are still not many studies regarding the subject, research in certain directions has been started in recent years (Teresa Ballester, Vicent Gavarda, Francisco Moreno Sáez, Miguel Ors Montenegro). For our synthesis of the period in question, we will be guided by Teresa Ballester Artigues, who has studied the subject in her doctoral thesis (1995) and has published several relevant articles.

The repression during the war period in 1936 happened within the first few months after the start of the conflict, between August and November, against people considered to be enemies of the government of the Republic. The Marina Alta region was immersed in this wave of unusual violence like the rest of the country. Even so, a distinction should be made between two types of repression: the uncontrolled repression undertaken by outlaw elements who murdered opponents along the roads and highways, and the type that followed the legal path of arrests of religious authorities and prominent people pertaining to the ranks of right-wing parties, who were then imprisoned and tried by a popular court due to the fact that they were considered a dangerous “fifth column” collaborating with the insurgent military.

In La Vall de Gallinera, violent events were scarce and occurred within the framework of uncontrolled repression. The system of “walks” was used, with the car called La Pepa: the chosen person or people were driven to a certain place and later their corpses would appear along a road or highway, or would simply disappear.

It must be borne in mind that the extreme violence which appeared with the beginning of the Civil War was manifested in the physical elimination —the murder— of all the individuals who represented age-old domination in terms of both economic and social power, as well as of those who traditionally had been their strongest allies. Above all, once the 18th of July coup d’état had not succeeded, but had started a war, the first objective of the fascist insurgents was the elimination of political adversaries, and so the repression in each area was directed at eliminating the “fifth column” elements.

On the 19th of August, 1936, two people were killed in La Vall de Gallinera: the landowner Agustí Cebrià Camps —“a right-winger who had been mayor”— and the “right-wing farmer” Pascual Sapena Alemany. Both were found dead in the Sierra de L’Ombria. According to Francoist documentation “the two murders are attributed to a group of red militiamen from neighbouring areas who had raided the villages”. Two arrests of residents of Oliva also occurred in La Vall de Gallinera, ending in deaths. On the 20th of August, 1936, Joaquin Alemany Alemany, who was by chance residing in La Vall de Gallinera, was arrested by

 

a group of red militiamen from La Vall de Gallinera who seriously wounded him, arresting him together with his two sons Joaquin and Francisco Alemany Navarro, all of whom were taken to Alicante, where the first died in hospital, and the two sons were later transferred to a prison in Valencia where they were murdered.

 

It also seems that, as a result of a denouncement, the doctor Jaime Sirera Català, part of the Agrarian Regional Right (DRA), was assassinated on the 25th of August, 1936, in the El Llombo area; Fernando Sivera Senda and Tadeo Briones Moll were suspected of committing the act. José Gerardo Sendra Server, a 52-year-old landowner from Pego and an employee of Pego’s Town Hall, was also assassinated. He was found in the Sierra de L’Ombria, in the pen known as Corral del Morell, on the 19th of August, 1936. On the 9th of September, 1936, Blas Navarro Sendra from Oliva was denounced and suffered the same fate. He was taken to Oliva “where he was barbarically martyred a few hours later, until he was killed”.

It must be taken into account, at all times, that the documentation that has been used is that of the Causa General (a huge investigation carried out by the Francoist regime after the Civil War, against any perceived opposition), and therefore the language and the facts are treated from the point of view of the fascist authorities, which were the ones that filled out the forms that generated this documentation.

Another aspect of the fight against the enemies of the Republic was when in October of 1936 various residents of this area with a well-known right-wing ideology were forced to deliver amounts of cash and agricultural products from their harvests, especially oil, and some were stripped of their properties, which were seized.

These owners were Joaquin Alemany Alemany de Silvestre, Desamparados Domenech Alemany, José Domènech Alemany, Bernardino Feliu Tarrasó, Eduardo Mengual Sendra, Amparo Navarro Alemany, Maria Sastre Noguera and José Ferrandiz Seguí.

Regarding the post-war repression, it is necessary to point out some general considerations (following what Francisco Moreno Sáez has said), and that is that the documentation and information collected comes exclusively from the Causa General, and are therefore Francoist sources which represent that specific ideological vision. The information gathered by the fascist regime was obtained using violence, with torture and abuse taking place in makeshift prisons and barracks of the Guardia Civil or Falange. This was how they obtained numerous “confessions” and accusations that later the defendants, once brought before the judges, tried to dismantle, almost always unsuccessfully. When a person was prosecuted, he or she was called before an examining magistrate who either released the prisoner or started a procedure that would take him or her before a court martial. Meanwhile, the suspect could be released or kept in prison pending the conclusion of the investigation. The use of new witnesses (individuals or institutions) could make the accused have to go back to prison. When freedom was decreed, those men who were of military age had to repeat their military service, but this time in the Francoist army.

When the procedure was finalised, the case passed to the Plenary and the court martial was held. The court —including the prosecutors and the defence attorney— was made up of graduating military officers who did not require any legal training, except for the prosecutor. At least until 1940, the amount of time the defence attorney disposed of for studying the case was ridiculous and did not exceed a day, and often the case affected several defendants. The documents concerning the case and the statements of the prisoners and witnesses had to be analysed in this short period of time. If the accused agreed with the sentence requested by the prosecutor, it was final and therefore it was not necessary for the prisoner to attend the court martial. From 1940 onwards, the court martial proceedings were centralised in the city of Alacant and so, in order to assist, the prisoners were taken to the reformatory of Alacant.

During the oral hearing, the summary of each defendant was synthesised, condensing the actions carried out and the accusations, and then the prosecutor requested the penalty he considered appropriate and the defence attorney limited himself, in general, to requesting clemency or a penalty slightly lower than the one proposed by the prosecutor. The study of these court cases, whose documents have only recently become accessible, shows the lack of rigour in the investigation of the facts and the contradictions between the witnesses: in reality, the oral hearing was a mere procedure to justify the punishment and revenge against the defenders of the Republic.

The court martial procedures implemented reverse justice. In other words, the soldiers who rebelled against the legitimate government of the Republic accused those who had defended it of carrying out a rebellion. The sentences classified the events into three categories: adherence to the rebellion, which was punishable by death or between thirty years and twenty years and one day of longer imprisonment; helping the rebellion, punished with a penalty of imprisonment of between twenty years and a day and one year; incitement to rebellion, with a maximum penalty of twelve years in prison, which also implied minimum penalties of up to six months or one year in prison.

Next up, the aggravating circumstances were mentioned (perversity and significance of the actions) or the mitigating circumstances, such as being underage, and then the punishment was specified. In addition, and in a general way, the convicted person was considered civilly liable in accordance with the current legislation, especially the Law of Political Responsibilities which was passed in February of 1939.

Under certain conditions and as a step previous to parole, inmates were granted an attenuated prison sentence, to be served at home, which they could not leave “except due to needs related to their job, profession or trade, or due to the fulfilment of their religious duties and orders of the Authorities”.

Parole was granted in two cases: having served three-quarters of the sentence received or having had good behaviour. In this case, three reports were requested from the local authorities: the mayor’s office, the local National Movement headquarters and the Guardia Civil or police, who gave their opinion on whether or not freedom could be granted, if they could return to the town of origin or if they had to go into exile, where they obviously would have great difficulties to subsist in many cases, due to a lack of work. On a monthly basis, a report was sent to the Civil Government with regards to the prisoners who were on probation or under surveillance in each village or town, and, also on a monthly basis, the person who had been released had to send the director of the prison —who had to authorise any change of residence— a letter in which he informed the director about his work, leisure and relationship with neighbours and local authorities. The Guardia Civil was informed of the granting of probation, in order to monitor their conduct and political-social activities. Any violation of the rules regarding probation entailed loss of freedom and a return to prison.

The Law of Political Responsibilities was another instrument of Franco’s repressive policy. It applied to those members of the parties that had made up the Popular Front and members of the trade unions, who had faced a court martial or had been denounced. Once a file was opened, it could not be closed, “neither due to death, nor absence, nor failure to appear before the court”. The penalties foreseen by the law were of three types:

  1. a) Restricting activity, such as being disqualified from working in the civil service.
  2. b) Limiting freedom of residence, such as exile or confinement in the African colonies.
  3. c) Economic, with sentences that could lead to the total loss of all of the convicted person’s assets.

A third instrument of Franco’s repression was the Law for the Repression of Freemasonry and Communism, which was applied above all to the Freemasons, since the Communists had already been exhaustively persecuted by the military jurisdiction.

Other aspects of the repression were the confiscation by the Francoist state of all the property of the Popular Front parties and trade unions and even some of the personal property belonging to the leaders, through various procedures regarding which it is difficult to find documentary evidence. The Catholic Church collaborated intimately with the insurgent military in July of 1936 and its hierarchy was, for many years, one of the pillars of the Francoist regime.

Also, as had already happened in the Republican zones in July of 1936, there were purges among the public officials, within the State, provincial and local administrations, and those considered indifferent or hostile were punished with various penalties, which could include losing the job. In addition, and in collaboration with the respective professional associations, there were also purges among doctors, journalists, lawyers, etc. Special attention was given to the purges within the teaching sector, since the male and female teachers had had a great role in the political and trade union activity in many parts of the country.

Repression against women is a question which still has not been studied properly. Women were subjected to a double-layered repression: political repression and also repression regarding their gender. Not only did they lose the political rights that they had obtained a few years earlier, but they were also excluded from civil and social life, confined once again within the domestic sphere and subjected to male guardianship. They were punished not only for their actions, but also for abandoning their traditional role of submissive wives and mothers. A strong daily repression was exerted against them —humiliations, marginalisation, insults, haircuts— of which few documentary traces have remained, but oral statements by witnesses abound. In La Vall de Gallinera, it would seem that the actions of the first mayors under Franco’s regime avoided this type of humiliation for the wives of convicted men.

Another consequence of Francoist repression was the exile of thousands and thousands of people who took refuge in North Africa and in France, in the USSR, in several South American countries and in Mexico. Many of them continued to fight against fascism within the ranks of the French Maquis, in the regular French army —the role of “La Nueve” in the liberation of Paris is an example— or in the Soviet army during the Second World War. And more than 6,000 Spanish Republicans ended up in Nazi death camps, where most lost their lives.

The Spanish Civil War in La Vall de Gallinera ended with a meeting that took place in the town hall, on the 30th of March, between the mayor Francisco Alemany Vaquer and the representatives of the Spanish Falange and the JONS —José Alemany Alemany de Cecilia, Julio Parets Alemany and Joaquin Gasó Mengual—, after which a Provisional Administrative Board took office. Later, during the session of the same day, Joaquin Seguí Seguí, Celestino Seguí Molines and José Maria Alemany Marzà were appointed Public Order delegates.

The new municipal government took office at 4:00 p.m. on the 4th of April, 1939, with Joaquin Seguí Seguí as mayor, Miguel Canet Alemany as first deputy mayor, Alfredo Domènech Camps as second deputy mayor, Evaristo Alemany Gascó as councillor-trustee, and the councillors Enrique Alemany Alemany, Francisco Boronat Camps and José Masanet Ferrandiz.

Although attenuated, Francoist repression lasted until the end of the dictatorship. The sentences “for events after April of 1939” were especially severe and prevented the reconstruction of the trade unions and political organisations of the Popular Front.

Below is a list of 95 people who received punishments under Franco’s regime just after the Civil War. The following considerations must be kept in mind:

1.The report is taken from Francoist documentation, written with the purpose of incriminating the defeated, and therefore the accusations that appear are not proven facts, but rather systematic and repetitive crimes that were written down without any evidence and that should be considered with great caution.

  1. Despite the great volume of people included in the report, it may be incomplete and further research is required in order to make a full list of people.
  2. The names and surnames of the people accused may have errors. The information is taken from documents written by people who did not know the surnames and therefore wrote them as they saw fit, and an additional problem derives from the lack of knowledge of the Valencian language and the tendency to Castilianise the surnames.

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