Alcaracejos, a strategic enclave
One of the keys to Alcaracejos is the strategic nature of the location of this population in the center of Sierra Morena and in a place that has traditionally been a border, limit and transit area for some of the most outstanding ancient routes between the Guadalquivir Valley and the Plateau. From Roman times to the present day, Alcaracejos and its area have been the gateway to Los Pedroches. The proximity of the Calatraveño and its central location in the north of Córdoba have marked its history.
The settlement of the term of Alcaracejos and its surroundings is accredited by a multitude of archaeological remains from Prehistory. Luis Ramírez de las Casas Deza, in his Corografía de la Provincia y Obispado de Córdoba, dating from 1840, posits the existence in the surroundings of this town of “signs of antiquity, Roman silver and Arab gold coins, and in a occasion, a solid gold band with two holes at each end was found inside a clay pot.” This author, unaware by the time of his work to any systematization of the study of History, cites sites such as La Cumbre, a little less than a kilometer from the center of the current population, as a space for tillage and work with metals. And certainly mining is what marks the vestiges of the past of Alcaracejos: finds such as the Almadenes Treasure, a set of Iberian pieces from the 2nd century BC. d. C. composed of magnificently made goldsmith pieces and coins. The remains found in the area of the Germo and the Peñón del Lazarillo or in the Atalayuela attest to the existence of settlers since the Neolithic.
The study of the name of Alcaracejos has been much debated by historians: al-caria, for village; Alcazarejos, for alcazar; al-caraz, for the cherry tree or cerezuelo…, but there is no faithfully contrasted theory. The truth is that we have to travel to the end of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th to testify with solid foundations the existence of the population in the current location. However, to the south of the town are the remains of the so-called Castillo del Cuzna and the Guadalbarbo, river of the Berbers, which attests to the importance of the settlement that had to exist in this sector of Fash Al Ballut (Llano de las bellotas) , which is what the Muslims called the cora (province) that occupied the entire north of Córdoba, south of Badajoz and south of Ciudad Real. In the 11th century, Al Idrisi located the main route between Córdoba and Toledo along a route that coincided with Alcaracejos Mozárabe in the Guadalbarbo and Chimorra area, along the Musgaño stream, and after the Christian conquest of Córdoba and the establishment of Castile, the hills near Puerto Calatraveño become a royal hunting ground and are cited in Alfonso XI’s Libro de la Montería.
The creation of Alcaracejos at the end of the 14th century must have been due to the population movements that existed in Los Pedroches during this time. The growth of towns such as Torremilano (Dos Torres) and Pedroche and the different lawsuits that arose between the realengo areas (Torremilano) with the manor areas such as Santa Eufemia or with the city of Córdoba itself, as well as a possible demographic expansion led to residents of consolidated localities to settle in new spaces in search of fertile land and pasture for livestock. Thus arises Alcaracejos, as a village of Torremilano. After about a century, in 1488, Alcaracejos obtained the title of town and became part of the Seven Towns of Los Pedroches, which would maintain a common term until the 19th century. Pedroche, Torremilano, Torrecampo, Pozoblanco, Alcaracejos, Añora and Villanueva de Córdoba make up a community that remained until the beginning of the 20th century, when the disarming process of the 19th century ended completely, administering communal pastures such as La Jara or vacant lots such as that of La Concordia for centuries.
The growth of the population of Alcaracejos is progressive during these centuries. In the mid-nineteenth century, just before the demographic explosion that mining caused in the area, it had about 1,000 inhabitants. The exploitation of the mining veins of the terms of Alcaracejos and Villanueva del Duque and the arrival of the railway represented a time of splendor for both municipalities. Thus Alcaracejos had 4,599 inhabitants in 1910. These are the years in which important mining companies exploit the Guillermín, Rosalejo or Cantos Blancos mines. The town remained around 4,000 inhabitants until the Civil War, the cross of the history of splendor of mining. The war destroyed practically the entire population and some of its most emblematic buildings, such as the Church of San Andrés, from the 15th century, whose door with an ogee arch is the only thing that remains. Alcaracejos was at the front for many months and was the center of operations in the so-called Battle of Pozoblanco, which occurred in March 1937. After the war and the post-war period, the local economy suffered greatly and Alcaracejos suffered strong emigration in the 1960s. From then until today it has remained between 1,500 and 2,000 inhabitants.