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Turismo de Alcalá de Guadaíra

Agricultural landscapes

COUNTRYSIDE, OLIVE GROVES AND PASTURES

Although Alcalá of Guadaíra is known because of its urban and industrial character, it still keeps preserving an important agricultural character, justified mainly by the wide extension of its municipal district. In fact, until mid-20th century Alcalá could be considered as an agro-town, very connected to the supply of agricultural products to the Sevillian market.

This agricultural wealth is translated not only in economic aspects, but also in a series of singular landscapes, as a result of the transformation of the rural space during the last centuries. At present, the main traditional agricultural spaces from Alcalá are the ones associated to the exploitation of cereals, olives and pastures. Nevertheless, these landscapes live together with new agricultural exploitations that give great diversity and new perspectives news when evaluated.

We can look for the origin of Alcalá's agricultural landscapes from the 15th century. After the Feudal Conquest of the 13th century the Castilian Crown failed on its first attempts of repopulation it carried out. This got worse due to the situation of Alcalá in the area of the "Moorish Belt", border region with the Kingdom of Granada. This is the reason why until the Conquest does not advance by the end of the Middle Ages, the wide countryside between Los Alcores and the foothills of Morón's Mountains remains like an only partially cultivated space. From this time on, on the contrary, a fast occupation of the agricultural space would take place, laying the foundations for the model of exploitation developed in the following centuries.

Another fundamental moment in the history of Alcalá's countryside takes place at the beginning of the 19th century, with the Ecclesiastical Properties Confiscation. This process favoured the buying and selling of good part of the agricultural plots of land of the zone, but also a concentration of them, favouring this way the creation of vast farms. From this time on the huge agricultural exploitations get consolidated: these are the haciendas, focused on olive groves, and the cortijos, dedicated to the cultivation of cereals. In both cases, rural economy was sustained on by means of the farm labourers' work, who more than offer were subject to very bad conditions of life. On the contrary, at the haciendas the presence of ample zones of señorío (lordship), where owners and their families exerted an absolute control on production and the labourers work was very frequent.

In the area of Alcalá, the farms of olive groves are concentrated in Los Alcores area and their escarpment, creating a characteristic landscape in which cultivated fields are mixed with zones where olive groves are grown wild, forming the typical groves of wild olive trees (acebuchales, in Spanish), like the one of Toruño, at the Mesa de Gandul. In a contrasting way, at the zone of the Guadaíra Countryside cereals are the predominant cultivations, with ample zones of wheat fields at ample plots of land of geometric shapes, combined during the last decades with new cultivations like sunflowers or the irrigated olive grove.

A third landscape of great ecological value is that one constituted by pastures, ample spaces where trees have become less, in order to favour the growth of grass and scrub. Pastures are cattle spaces par excellence, used like place of grazing and transit of cattle, mainly oxen and sheep and goats. Alcalá almost had forty pastures in the 18th century, although from this moment on they would go being ploughed to incorporate them into the cultivated space. Among the historic pastures we highlight the ones of Guadalperal, Chamorro, Piedra Hincada, Laguna Larga, Jadaín, etc. Nowadays there are few pasture spaces, standing out Gandul's Pasture, which until early 20th century spread out from the road Alcalá-Mairena, through the now known as Dehesa de Andrade (Andrade Pasture) or Dehesa de Las Canteras, at present an uncultivated space and partially reforested with eucalypts.

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