Mijas - The Early Years

The early years of Mijas history shows that the first inhabitants were the Turtedani tribe, which belonged to the Tartessian group, with remains of the original fortification still being visible today. The area was home to mines of very valuable ores which would later be exploited by the the Phoenicians and the Greeks

The arrival of the Romans led to extensive trade with Mijas, the village they knew as Tamisa. This trade was of great benefit to the villagers of Tamisa, particularly when the Romans built the Via Apia joining Malaga with Cadiz, giving them opportunities to trade further afield.

Roman domination was later replaced with the Visigoth's rule until 714 when the Moors arrived and conquered the whole region. The Moors allowed the village inhabitants to preserve their property, religion, and customs in exchange for a third of their goods from agriculture, livestock, and farming. It was also the Moors who abbreviated the name of Tamisa to Mixa, which later became modern day Mijas.

Later Mijas history records that the village was conquered by Omar Ben Hafsun and became part of his independent kingdom which covered large areas of what we now call Andalucia. The village remained under the rule of Bobastro, who was defeated by Abd al-Rahman III in the late 9th century.

Mijas Withstands The Siege

In 1485 an important event took place in the early years of Mijas history when it came under siege by the Catholic monarchs. The residents were highly resilient and were able to withstand the siege.

However in complete contrast, the Catholic monarchs went on to conquer the city of Malaga in 1847 when the people of Malaga surrendered without resistance, and were allowed their freedom by the Catholic monarchs.

When the people of Mijas heard what had happened, they marched to Malaga and gave themselves up. However the Catholic monarchs did not forget their resistance two years earlier, and all were condemned to slavery.

During the Revolt of the Comuneros a few decades later, Mijas remained loyal to the Spanish crown, which granted it the title of Muy Leal ("Very Loyal"). Soon after, Joanna of Castile promoted it to the status of villa (town) and it was exempt from royal taxes.

The Pirates And The Towers

In these early years Mijas also suffered from intense pirate activity along it's coastline, lasting well into the 19th century.The fortified towers were a place of defence, with four towers along the regions Mediterranean coastline. Their function was to give notice of the presence of enemy ships to the garrisons of Fuengirola, Benalmádena and Marbella.

The watch towers that were built at that time can still be seen along the coast today with the tower in La Cala being home to a small museum which is open to the public.The towers along Mijas Coast are at the following locations

  • Torre de Calahonda (from the 16th century)
  • New Tower of La Cala del Moral (probably the most modern tower along the coast, 19th century)
  • Battery Torre La Cala del Moral (16th century)
  • Calaburras Tower (built around 1515 in the Punta de Calaburras)

Mijas suffered from intense pirate activity during this period and well into the 19th century along it's coastline. The watchtowers that were built at that time can still be seen along the coast. The tower in La Cala today houses a small museum and is open to the public.

The Changing Economy Of Mijas

During the 19th century, the economy of Mijas was mainly based on agriculture and fishing. Grape vines also added wealth to the Mijas economy but this came to an abrupt end when the vines were destroyed by the Philloxera plague. Paper production also played a very important part of the local economy, with mills in Osinillas dating back to 1744.

A road was opened between Mijas and Fuengirola in 1873, this ended the segregation that had existed between the two towns since 1841. However the village remained isolated until the arrival of "Second Republic", which was it's first newspaper.

The period following the war was one of poverty, hunger and unemployment and it wasn't until the 1950's that things really started to improve for the villagers. Up to this point the population of the town was scattered across the countryside living on small farms. The only work in the area was the collection of grass for the esparto, but even this was affected heavily during the droughts.

In the 1950s, an asbestos factory was built to reduce unemployment. In 1953 the village saw the installation of its first telephones but this was a tough era as Mijas was the scene of anti-Franco army operations because of the support and respect of the army in this area.

Tourism Was To Change Mijas History

This was also the start of tourism, and thus the early years of what is now known as the Costa del Sol started to grow in popularity, with the first small hotel being built.

Tourism was now the way forward and the towns of La Cala and Las Lagunas began constructing residential urban areas. Las Lagunas sprang out of nowhere from just a small farming community, and La Cala was a tiny rural village with just 19 farming families.

In the 1960s tourism was really taking off and the early years of Mijas, as we now know it today, began with people eager to leave the coast and take the excursion up the winding, narrow road to the pretty little white village in the mountains.

When the tourists first started coming up to this previously undiscovered village, they started taking lots of photographs of the donkeys and many asked to sit on them and have a short ride around, for which they paid a tip.

In many cases the tip was so large that it was more than their owners actual wages. Julian Nunez recognised a great opportunity when he saw one, and so began the Burros Taxis. Today there are around 60 donkeys, and Mijas is known worldwide for its burro taxi.

In the 1970s, Robert Redford and his family resided in Mijas for around a year. The pueblo has attracted many celebreties and artisits since, and even today is the home or holiday retreat for several.

The Early Years Of La Cala de Mijas

La Cala de Mijas was an agricultural and typically small Andalusian white-washed fishing village, until the beginning of the Spanish tourist boom in the 1960s. It was this tourism that would totally transform the area.

La Cala de Mijas was originally known as "La Cala del Moral" (English: the Bay of Mulberries) due to the mulberry trees growing in the area. This name was changed in the 1970s to La Cala de Mijas in order to avoid confusion with the similarly named Cala del Moral just outside Málaga.

In those early years of tourism, La Cala boasted some 30 fishermen's cottages, a couple of bars, an open-air summer cinema, a butcher's, grocer's, a small chapel, a school and little else. A far reach from what it is today!

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