Reservoir History Negratin

Before the construction of the reservoir of El Negratín, the locals used to farm the lands around the banks of the river. A network of ditches made with stone, logs and undergrowth irrigated the lands driving the water from the town of Zujar and extending it from there to as far as where the dam is today.

These fertile fields were covered with cereals, vegetables, olive trees and other fruit trees like quince, apricot, peach and pears. There were also patches of poplars near the shore of the river, which signposted the down stream path of the river. From these groves the locals used to harvest poplar mushrooms, which are a delicacy in the area.

Fishing was a common practice in the river, and the fish was plentiful. The locals used to fish by diving in wells called pielagos, which is a Spanish word to define something that, because of its abundance, is impossible to count. This is why fishermen were able to grab the fish with their own hands without any kind of fishing devices. The deepest one of these wells was called the Pielago de la Gata and it was the town’s favourite because it was the deepest one of all.  Poachers would fish big quantities of fish in short time by throwing dynamite in the wells. Another practice for fishing consisted in setting up nets across the river and then driving the fish towards them by hitting the water and the bed of the river with sticks.

At the end of the summer, as a result of the severe storms and rain in the area, the raging river used to flow at three to four times its regular capacity, dragging mud, rocks, logs and other debris, which would flood the irrigation ditches living them unusable. After the bad weather, the locals would clean the ditches with shovels and hoes in order to repair the irrigation system. This was, along with esparto harvesting, the hardest of all the jobs that locals had to perform. The river flood would also leave stranded fish on the riverbank, being the biggest reward for the cleaning crew.

On their way back to town from the river, the residents of Freila would explore the grounds of the adjacent olive groves in search of wild caper bushes. Capers and caper berries were also a source of income and were paid for by weight in the local market.

Before the creation of the reservoir, there was a barge to ferry passengers and cargo across the river when it flooded. The barge was so big that it could allocate up to 6 beasts loaded with esparto, their respective owners and the ferryman.  Anyone who wanted to cross the river had to pay one peseta per person and two per animal. The barge was held on to a cable that crossed the river; the ferryman had to pull it in order to carry the passengers to the other side. In summer time the barge was barely used because tide was so low that the river could be crossed on foot in some places. Some of the progeny of the ferryman still live in Freila.

In the 1960’s, with the shortage of logs for the fire, one could request a document that granted permission to dig out the stumps that were left after the logging of the poplar trees along the riverbanks. The stumps were dug out with a hoe, cut in two or four pieces and transported to the town to power boilers and fires.

Eighty per cent of the olive groves in the area were located in the lands next to the river. The olives were pressed and transformed into olive oil in Freila. As a result of the construction of the dam and its raising waters, the trees had to be cut and the logs were used to power chimneys and ovens for many winters.

Several small villages were also flooded by the rising water, like Cortijo Seco, Las cuevas del Rollo and Casa Blanca. A few farmhouses also disappeared like Bunena Vista, Cortijo Cantario, La Gata, Maruq, La Cueva del Torivio and La Cabañuela. The residents of these places had to leave behind their homes when the government expropriated the lands for the construction of the dam.

Old times were good especially because of the overwhelming sense of community that locals had.  Friendships were close and every one helped each other to overcome the hard daily tasks that were demanded by the arduous work on the land: Making shelters out of branches and logs to take cover from the heat, planting acres of wheat, corn or barley, people happily irrigated when the river guard announced their turn. Collaboration was a key factor that the locals understood very well, helping make hard work more bearable.

The times in which the lands around the riverbanks were cultivated, harvested and populated were the most captivating. The landscape was an extraordinary and beautiful picture of the conventional life of ordinary people in what used to be the greatest source of wealth for Freila.


Arucema  |   Camino Cortijo del Cura s/n  |   Freila, Granada 18812  |   660735928 - 639690613  |

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