Village at night

A Village Called The Machines – A Very Brief History

Monte Lope Alvarez is a typical sleepy white washed Andalucían village in the province of Jaén, close to the border of Córdoba. But this rural location is where I decided to lay down my roots in 2012. I live here alone with my Andaluz patio, travel wall, roof terrace and a 360° view of olive groves.

In the 1940s the village was booming with a population of around 3,000 inhabitants and three decades later the two major olive mills were mechanised and the village became locally known as The Machines.

Today, although it still has olive mills, it is very tranquil, with a population of just 742, according to the latest census held at the Ayuntamiento in Martos. However, the populous manages to support three bars, a chemist, two bakers and a fishmonger as well as a couple of other stores. And in any of the bars the local or visitor can enjoy a bottle of beer or glass of wine including a not so small tapa for 1,50€.

Manuel Aranda Espejo

The village boasts a fabulous old church which is sadly behind closed gates these days and was replaced by a modern version in 1962 which now houses a memorial to the village’s martyr. Manuel Aranda Espejo was born in 1916 and was shot in a nearby olive grove on 8th August 1936, a victim of religious persecution during the Spanish civil war.

The day he died whilst on his way to work as a prisoner was described by some children who were taking water in the vicinity:
Manuel Aranda: But I say I will not say a word against God. For anything or anyone offend his name
Militants: blaspheme yes or no
Manuel Aranda: NO and NO
Militants: Well, we’ll kill you
Manuel Aranda: Come from there
“We felt three shots and the ‘militants’ killed him.”

There is also a memorial cross situated in the olive grove where he was brutally murdered.

Old church

The village acquired its name from the owner of the Monte (mount), named Fray Lope Alvarez according to data from 1382. In a narrative of 1588 a battle took place here on 23rd February 1408 between the Christian knights of Porcuna and the Moors who were in the area to pillage and plunder.

Then moving onto the eighteenth century the pastures of the area were planted with olive trees and over the coming decades the local economy expanded on the back of the liquid gold that the olives produced.

It is believed that 1923 saw the first procession of the Virgen del Carmen on the streets as recalled by Antonio González, a very old man who remembered “because that year he was a soldier.” And this procession is continued today as is the Romería de la Virgen del Carmen in May where virtually the whole village makes a pilgrimage to Mingo Yuste, a small hamlet complete with its own chapel, and copious amounts of alcohol and joviality is obligatory throughout the night and into daylight.

And one day soon I hope that my plunge pool will be finished and the whole village will celebrate my one year project.

Phil Morrison runs a cookery school from his home at Casa Adora in Monte Lope Alvarez and writes his blog at theflexiblechef.co.uk