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Since ancient times, the inhabitants of the Sierra de las Nieves have made the most of the materials available in the Sierra. Their rough hands have shaped, transformed and worked those materials, as a result obtaining something more than mere objects of daily life.

For example, the esparto grass that grows on the mountain slopes of our region is the main source of income for many families of the Sierra. The esparto was one of many plants for which the work and transformation meant a whole way of life.

Nowadays, many of these manual occupations and former trades continue to exist in the present consumer society as handicraft trades, related more to souvenirs and gift articles than to manual work that at some time provided the livelihood of the village.

In each of the nine villages, there are still today some exceptional examples of the work of those craftsmen of former times. The visitor can find these articles that have come straight from the rough but skilful hands of our craftsmen in the Tourist Information Offices of the area. The most usual is to find it in the workshops and peoples homes.

To stroll through the narrow, whitewashed streets of our villages and to come across someone working at his craft right on the street is, without doubt something worth watching. Such a typical picture, of craftsmen working on the doorstep of their houses, are gifts that are brought to us by the historical reminiscences of the Sierra de las Nieves.

And if you do not find it in any corner of the villages, ask, because by word of mouth they will lead you some craftsman who does not work out of economic necessity but for the love of a whole life spent working at his honourable task.

However, below you will find a list of some of the trades and craft work that can be found in each of our villages.

Pack-saddle making: The work of the pack-saddle maker consists of making pieces of the saddlebags and harnessing used by pack-animals, such as pack-saddles, saddles, pads for the pack-saddles, saddle straps, cruppers, etc. An example of this traditional work can be seen at the packsaddle makers of Casarabonela.

Chairmaking: The marshlands and riverbanks have always been the source of supply of the bulrushes with which the chairmakers put the seats on the chairs. There are some exceptional examples of this age-old trade in the villages of Alozaina y Yunquera.

Basketmaking: Although in Sierra de las Nieves there is no mention of baskets, but rather of large baskets and hampers, which are containers woven from wicker, rushes, reeds, willow branches or other flexible wooden materials. This is why a distinction must be made between basket-weavers and basket-makers because, here in the Sierra, the basket-weaver makes small baskets and panniers from esparto grass. Basket-makers can be found in Yunquera and basket-weavers and people working with esparto grass can be found in all of the nine villages of the areas, although Istán, Monda and Tolox are where the trade is more deep-rooted.

But esparto grass weavers made a countless number of other items and recipients, made from this natural fibre. Esparto rope, halters, straps, mats, carrycots, cradles and woven strips for hats and bags all have esparto grass (stipa tenacísima) as their basic raw material.

Pottery: there were many potters and weavers in this area, but nowadays they are only to be found in Alozaina and now, known as ceramic-workers, inEl Burgo and Casarabonela. A difference must be made between potters, who make pots and items from baked clay for every-day use, and ceramic-workers who make articles with artistic and decorative touches, using clay, enamel or engobe and particularly with materials such as porcelain, china or earthenware.

Blacksmith and forged iron: The forge, the bellows, the anvil and the hammer, items that together with the rhythmic banging of the hammer accompany the blacksmith during his hard working day. Blow by blow he shapes railings, ploughing utensils, and other iron tools that refuse to disappear in the face of the advance of modern metal-work, cast-iron, turned iron and galvanized iron plate, which were born from this noble trade. Blacksmith and forge can be found in Guaro, Alozaina and Yunquera.


Association for the Rural Development of Sierra de las Nieves

Edificio Sierra de las Nieves, Paraje de Río Grande-Las Millanas, s/n - 29109- Tolox (Málaga) - Phone: 952 48 28 21 - Fax: 952 48 29 44