A brief history of Los Gallardos, Almeria
Los Gallardos, nestled between the Bedar mountain range and the valley down to the coast, is a pleasant small town, well communicated and an important nexus in the road transport system of the area.
It is a rich town, from which several of the local important Spanish dynasties have their homesteads, and it’s beginnings as a base for the mining experts and investors of the mines above it gave it a good start in life. Indeed, it is almost unique in the area as being one of the few towns that has never had a natural spring – the drinking water for the town was piped in from natural springs a couple of kilometers away.
Nobody seems sure as to why it is called “Los Gallardos”, the most common explanation being that it was the name given to the rich foreigners who settled there at the turn of the last century. A “Gallardo” in Spanish was a gentleman, and the name was given to mining engineers and investors who came to exploit the mines of Bedar. An alternate theory, expounded to me by a 90 year old man who heard it from his grandfather when he was small, was that it came from the man who built the first house where Los Gallardos now is – a rich sailor from Mojacar, who disliked Mojacar and brought a plot of land next to the old Almeria – Vera route. His surname was “Gallardo” and as his family settled there the hamlet that sprung up was known locally as “el pueblo de los Gallardos”, or the village of the Gallardos [family].
Since the original Almeria – Vera route ran past Los Gallardos (the actual CN340 that runs past the village), and a track split off to go Bedar and Lubrin, it was the logical place for the (mainly British) engineers and investors to settle for their base. Bedar was where the miners lived; Los Gallardos the owners. Ease of communication from that point to nearly all the mines in the area, plus Garrucha (the main port) meant that it was easier for them to build a new base there rather then flog up and down the track to Bedar, which in those days would have taken the better part of a day.
Los Gallardos was part of Bedar until 1924, when it was incorporated as a municipio, or a town hall. (Bedar has been mentioned in the records since before 1505, when the position of Bishop of Bedar was created in order to cement Christianity in the mountains). Until the latter part of the 1910s Bedar was a much larger community then Los Gallardos, being the main work base. As the mines close to Bedar started to close, the miners moved to new exploitations, causing a net loss of population and a small surge in the many (now often abandoned) villages in the mountains.
The truth of the matter was that the intense mining activity that took place at the end of the 19th century, and whose financial and technical centre was based in Los Gallardos, created and consolidated a large number of villages in the area, such as Bedar, Garrucha, Seron, El Pinar and others.
Upon the incorporation of Los Gallardos as an independent village, the new mayor was eager to get up and running with all the trappings of power. Since there was an economic downturn in the area, there were quite a few empty buildings lying around. The town hall was installed in a palm tree warehouse, which was rented from the owners until the late 80’s when money was made available to purchase it, knock it down and rebuild (preserving the original look of the building). The church was installed in another warehouse, which is currently being rebuilt and restored. Check out Sebastians bakery across the plaza from the Church, which has the oldest wood fired bakery in the area (well over a hundred years old, and in one of the original buildings). The square in front of the Church is the original square from the foundation of the village. Calle Seron was it’s first official street.
The tarmacking of the main road in 1927 was a pivotal event in the history of Los Gallardos, as it cemented it’s position as the “doorway to the Levante”. Older people in the village still reminisce about a story that shocked the area at the time:
The asphalt arrived in large cheaply made barrels of wood, metal lorries not existing at the time. The asphalt would then be mixed and poured onto the surface. The barrels were held together with simple hoops of metal. The children of Los Gallardos were envious of these hoops, and any discarded ones would be pounced upon and used as playthings, although almost all of them were taken away with the workmen. Over one weekend a group of older children hatched a cunning plan – gathering at dusk, they seized their opportunity and stole as many hoops off the barrels as possible. The scandal that erupted on the Monday was, by all accounts, enormous. The foreman of works was incandescent with rage, especially as without the hoops all the barrels had broken and the asphalt split out into the fields. The local judge arrived to investigate, accompanied by the dreaded Civil Guard, famed even before Francos day. After his investigation, he passed a number of fines, ranging from 5 to 20 pesetas, on the parents of the children, but stated that the onus on punishment for the children should be on the local headmaster of the school. The headmaster, as grandfathers still remember, enthusiastically doled out some quite heavy punishments upon the culprits!
However, the asphalting of the road lead to the consolidation of Los Gallardos as a transport nexus for the area. A large number of taxi, transport and bus services sprang up over the next few years, although almost all vehicles were confiscated for the war effort during the civil war. Los Gallardos has always been known as “the taxi village”, and several large transport companies were born out of these humbles beginnings.
The transport industry in Los Gallardos did not start to reestablish itself until the late 1950’s. The father of the current main taxi driver in Los Gallardos recounts a tale in which he was lucky enough to have a cousin working in SEAT in Barcelona, who was able to help him obtain a coveted car during this austere period. Other marques seem in the area were Peugots and Citroens, usually brought from France, and quite a few Fords. Apparently, although I can’t confirm this, there was for many years a Ford garage in the village.
Large companies such as Jerasa, Rodriguez buses, Nilasa and others were all founded in or by Los Gallardos families, and most came out of those early years experimenting with early transport industries.
Telephones arrived in the area in 1957, and the switchboard operator (on duty 24/7, 365 days a week) was paid 150 pesetas a month, a lot in 1957 but not so much 10 years later when she was still on the same pay level! She was on duty all day, but since there were only 10 phones in the village, any important calls were usually arranged the day before.
Water problems throughout the area were endemic from the turn of the century until the creation of the Almanzora dam, caused by a lowering of the water level as population and agriculture increased, and a corresponding drying up of natural springs. Despite constant promises throughout these decades, no major investment in water infrastructure were made until the 80’s. This lead to the infamous protests by the side of the road as the Caudillo (old Franco himself) drove by on his way to Almeria in the mid 60’s. The old railway bridge by La Perulaca still has graffiti on it saying such things as “Franco mas agua!”. There is no indication that Franco noticed the demonstrations. No doubt he would have had them all shot.
Currently Los Gallardos is in a strong expansionist phase. From 1996 to 2006 it was the 4 fastest growing town in Almeria, going from 1761 inhabitants to 3126.
Last updated 18th July 2008.