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Taking a retrospective look at the Sierra de las Nieves we can see that this area, that is uniform both from a physical and cultural aspect, has been capriciously taken apart in the past, preventing the territory from being structured in accordance with the homogeneity of the environment and culture existing in the Sierra.

However, the uniqueness of the land and its people has in the past been one of the cohesive elements that not even the passing of time has been able to erase, or even weaken.

This area was characterised, amongst many other elements, by sharing a common gastronomy, consisting of a series of simply prepared dishes. For example the existence of soups based on bread, common to all the villages of the Sierra, but with a local touch to each of them, creating dishes that are similar to each other but at the same time so authentic, like the sopa de siete ramales of El Burgo, the sopa hervía of Alozaina or the tomato soup of Monda.

The uniformity of the cooking and a countless list of folk wisdom, activities and sayings were transmitted from village to village along the innumerable trails, tracks and animal paths that led from one locality to the next. These paths that were apparently just simple, rudimentary lines of communication, in fact formed a web of information woven on the vast and unorganized Sierra. Because the shepherds, goatherds, egg and chicken sellers, muleteers, farmhands, charcoal makers and thousands of other men and women took something more than just their animals and the merchandise from place to place.

These animal trails were therefore real highways of information, which enabled travellers to share their sorrows and their joys, forms of expression and day to day living, or even, and why not, just have a little nap.

With the above, what we are trying to demonstrate is that the Sierra de las Nieves has its own culture, which is preserved thanks to being passed orally from one generation to the next, and is anchored in the memory and recollections of its inhabitants. But it is not possible to understand the vision that the Sierra people have of the world without considering their natural surroundings. What we are talking about is a relationship between environment and culture.

A human being has to be understood within his physical environment, as another part of the whole, which he transforms and makes the most of, but with criteria of sustainability that are present now but rooted in the past. The incredible thing about this situation is that is that they existed long before there was any question as to the rationality of the models for development….they are sustainable and rational because that is how they are, and have always been. That is to say, a farmer from Yunquera cultivates his land in patches or on terraces for the same reason that a farmer from Istán strips the cork from his cork trees, or the farmer from Monda grafts a wild olive tree onto a cultivated one, because that is how it has been done “forever”, and not because he is responding to any current terms of sustainability, even if they are rather clever.

But this is the image that, if we recall the Sierra de las Nieves of YESTERDAY, is what we have TODAY, although there is a twist to the reality because the situation tends to change at a dizzy speed.

The geographical situation of the Sierra de las Nieves, mid-way between the Sierra of Ronda and the Western Cost, and its latent proximity to the capital of the province of Malaga, at barely 35-40 minutes distance, raises its position as one of the most privileged ecological environments in the province and therefore, an attractive destination for holidays and business within the tourism and real estate sectors. Ethnographically there is evidence of the beginning of a diversion from the model of economic growth that, having proven to be unsustainable, unsuccessful, finished and out-of-place, is trying to instill the same globality and economic uniformity in the Sierra de las Nieves. New vital growth-rates, new models for development that ignore the sentiments of territorial belonging that these people have for their land. Apart from casting aside those ways of life that have always enabled them to raise their spirits in the face of the many difficulties suffered during the course of their lives, and that have provided them with a high level of ethical and moral dignity.

According to Dr. Mandly, Head of the Department of Social Anthropology of the University of Seville, who has been working for years on researching ecological-cultural development, a territory subjected to a process of development for the use of the land will only be able to assume it as its own if that process keeps alive the historical and cultural memory that qualifies it and is adopted by it. Current development does not take into account that society is a production of time and culture is a process of development, and that they are altering the course of cultural continuity.

The Sierra de las Nieves is close to culture in its purest state, seeking significance, actions with the intention to communicate and putting the finger on the sore spot of feelings and memories. In Istán, right in the middle of the Christmas celebrations, one of the residents tried to remember the Christmas carol that was being sung at that moment in the streets, saying:

-Right now I can’t remember it, but when it comes back to me, I’ll remember!

Our objective is this. To wait for the memories to come out, the activation of a memory that cannot be controlled, that is remembered when it comes back!!

The current models for financial growth, that are already outdated and unsustainable, end up showing us how many witty sayings and expressions, even today, are still applicable in referring to the relationship of man with his natural environment, his memories and the past, and that, represented as such, are capable of stimulating a feeling of belonging in the inhabitants of this sierra, a sense of social and cultural identity.

Culture in the Sierra de las Nieves must be considered TODAY as being the best heritage, without forgetting that it should be incorporated into the Information and Communication Society, because the New Technologies have to be subject to our model of development, spreading to the four winds that our culture is the example to follow….so many centuries of history cannot be mistaken.

 

 

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

Email: agdr@sierranieves.com