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Grazalema, Cádiz

I move unseen over familiar steps

I move unseen and unheard over familiar steps carved from virgin rock over 1000 years ago, at least as seen from your perspective. Grazalema was not always as large and filled with horseless chariots and nameless visitors as it is today.

I knew it when both it and I were both young. I was part of the roman garrison stationed here in these blessed hills some three hundred years after the birth of your Christ. Having been a foot solider with Scipio during the Punic wars, and as a reward for being on the victorious side, I and several of my friends, all of whom had nothing to return to in Rome, were given some land to build a life for ourselves away from the squalor that was what we would have known if we had returned.

We came to the small village of Lacilbula, a fortified hilltop town and there we led a simple life clearing living spaces from the forest and building a small house in which I brought up my family.

I was one of the lucky ones. After my time, and when Rome fell, the barbarian Visigoths flooded into Iberia to fill the vacuum. Life as we knew it ended as their new customs and traditions took hold, a process that was repeated with the invasion of Iberia by the Arabs in 711.

The town was conquered for the last time on this mortal cycle in the 15th century after the birth of your Christ by the Rodrigo Ponce de León. But, even with the passing of many centuries and the pathway of many feet, the hills that I roamed over as a young man are still open and the air, washed by the frequent rains of this part of the world, is still clean.

I can vouch for the observation that Grazalema’s traditional economic activity was farming, firstly for survival and latterly for profit. Now, this activity that has been all but abandoned because of the low returns. However, a boom in tourism, related to the declaration of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park, has changed the fortunes of the current inhabitants.

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