Thursday, 23 October 2014

New Horizons...

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while might recall my mentioning my work and domestic situation was in a state of flux. For those of you who don't know, I teach English to non-native speakers (ESOL or TEFL as it is usually abbreviated to). Until the last year I had been able to do this in the UK, but with recent changes in student finance and the provision of services, work was hard to come by unless I was willing to relocate/commute to one of the big cities.

Rather than swap one grey northern town for an equally grey northern city, or even London, I decided to go for a complete change of scenery and sought work in Spain. My mother already lives here and as a result I have a passing familiarity with the language and culture. I moved out to Estepona in Andalucia a mere two weeks ago and plan to make it my home.  I am currently estranged from my library of books, but hopefully by the new year we will be reunited once more.

Estepona is a small seaside town and falls at the end of the chain of former sleepy villages that were turned into holiday resorts back in the 1970s. As the local rail line ends at Fuengirola, Estepona attracts far fewer tourists than its more infamous neighbours on the Costa del Sol. Unlike its neighbours the new town surrounds the old, rather than being built beside it and closer to the sea. Estepona is surrounded by the Sierra Bermeja and the sea, which produces a micro-climate that almost guarantees 325 days of sun per year.

Given my predominate interest in Spanish History (The Reconquista, The Rif War, The Civil War etc.), Estepona is well-placed for these interests. The town was originally a Roman settlement, of which few traces remain. The Moors settled here, calling the town Astabbuna or Al-extebunna. For much of the 15th Century it was a frontier town on the border between Christian and Moslem Spain and was captured in 1457 by Enrique IV of Castille. Still a frontier town, the fort of San Luis was built to protect the town and its harbour from raiding Moorish War-Parties. Although only a small part of the fort remains, it is a prime example of a pre-Renaissance/post-Medieval permanent fortification. The remains of a number of Moorish watchtowers (subsequently taken over by the Christianos) stud the nearby hills and coast.

The one remaining tower, behind which is a section of the curtain wall of the Castillo de San Luis
Like much of the neighbouring coastline, Estepona was in the zone which was routinely raided by Barbary Pirates in subsequent centuries. Estepona's fort gave some security to the town's inhabitants, but the outlying villages were abandoned as the coastal dwellers moved further inland to avoid the raids. 
The Spanish Civil War came to Estepona in 1936, with brief fighting over control of the town, which was eventually held by the Republicans. Estepona was one of a series of towns which formed the Westernmost defensive positions of the Republican Sector in Andalucia and after fierce fighting in February 1937, which heavily damaged the Church of Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, the highest building in the town and on the highest area of ground, the town fell to the Nationalists. Perhaps to prevent reprisals against left-wing supporters, the town's records disappeared during the action, robbing future generations of almost all historical details about Estepona's past.

So that's a short potted history of my new home for the present. Salud!