Angel Galdo Guest writers

Pirates in La Herradura

Vissersboot in zwart wit
from La Herradura en blanco y negro.

The Bay of La Herradura has been a place of sailors and fishermen for centuries due to its shape and orientation, which protects waters from the pounding strong winds that can occur.

Overland communication has not always been as easy and fast as it is nowadays for motorized vehicles. As little as 50 years ago trying to reach La Herradura by road, coming from Granada or Madrid, was something for the very experienced drivers.

The old national road still gives us an idea of how it was that in the middle of the last century, starting from the entrance of the Cerro Gordo tunnel passing the viewpoint and entrance to the Cantarijan beach. Before the road existed people travelled on foot or horse riding. To get from Almuñécar to Nerja required motivation and courage.

Because of its protected waters and its relative isolation by land, the La Herradura bay was at times one of the best shelters on the South coast of Spain for Berber pirates, based in Oran and other ports in the current Algeria.

Apart from economic reasons, the motivation of the pirates was ideological, a religious confrontation, and especially in the Alboran Sea, that is the name of the part of the Mediterranean that we are part of. Pirate activities began immediately after the Christian conquest of the Kingdom of Granada, at the end of the 15th century.

Alborán is a small island, also known as the “navel”, which takes its name from the most successful Barber pirate, a Turkish nationalized Tunisian who attacked Adra and many other villages on our coast and who, even if it is pure speculation, surely has often used our Bay. We will never know if he personally was in fact was the captain of the vessel that  kidnapped 70 people from the town of Jate in 1526, only a few kilometres upstream from La Herradura.

The most intensive period of pirate activity occurred a century later, when political pressure on the moors and Spanish converts drove the community to rebellion and later to expulsion. Many expatriates entered the ranks of pirates to provide them with quality information about possible targets on land and the structure of the internal defence of the Spanish Empire.

naufragio de Juanfran
Naufragio en La Herradura / Juanfran Cabrera

The army of Philip II which was shipwrecked in La Herradura in 1562, with 5,000 people dead, was on a mission to bring military replacements to the Fort of La Goleta, near Oran, from where they attempted to put a stop to the pirates. The disaster was declared a State secret to avoid that the enemy knew that the Spanish coast had been conquered, and so the first literary mention of the event occurs almost 40 years later, to be precise … in Don Quixote.

The systematic pirate presence in our Bay, initiated after 1492, vanished almost three centuries later, when the castle of La Herradura he was built and provided with four bronze cannons. It seems that they were never fired in an act of war, but its deterrent effect was immediate. Shortly after France took Algeria and the problem was uprooted, and it is then when the modern town of La Herradura was born.

Angel Galdo jr.

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