When living in Nerja some 10 years back, we used to play golf at the Añoreta course near Rincón de la Victoria. At a signpost I often noticed the name of Macharaviaya. I used to think: What a funny name for a place.
It was not until recently that my husband Karl and I actually visited this village, about which we had heard a lot of tales, some of which seemed too fantastic to be true. Three weeks ago we made our first visit to the village, the name of which comes from the Arab Machar Ibn Yahha (court of the son of Yahha).
We marked the destination on our TomTom navigator, which asked us whether we absolutely wanted to avoid dirt roads. Unfortunately, we said no, and were taken to a narrow dirt road from Torre del Mar to the North-eastern side of Macharaviaya, through hamlets where the only creatures we met were skeletal stray dogs and cats. We parked the car below the village and went up a steep hill to have a look.
Today, Macharaviaya is a small village with about 500 inhabitants, no shops to talk about and only one restaurant. The village enjoyed the height of its fortune from the 18th until the beginning of the 19th century, thanks to the Gálvez family having their roots in the village. At that time, it was called ‘little Madrid’. The village church was rebuilt in 1783, and has a mausoleum crypt with statues of some family members.
A museum describing the lives of the Gálvez family is situated near the restaurant. The museum was closed during our visit, but we saw the former Royal Playing Card factory established in 1776 by José de Gálvez. It was put down in 1791 and is now a private home.
The founders of this former splendour were the Gálvez brothers, descending from a noble family of ancient lineage, los Gálvez y Gallardo. The family came to Macharaviaya from Cordoba in the 15th century, and lived there as farmers. The father, Don Antonio de Gálvez y García, farmer and alderman, died in 1728 at only 36 years of age. The second son José was only 8 years old at the time. Due to the poverty of the family, the children had to work hard on the farm, herding cattle while still attending primary school.
One day, the Bishop of Malaga visited Macharaviaya and took an interest in José ‘s intelligence and nice manners, and granted him a scholarship to the seminary in Malaga. This was the start of the success of the brothers. José soon gave up the priestly calling and enrolled at the Faculty of Law at the University of Salamanca.
He became a successful lawyer in Madrid, then private secretary of the Prime Minister of Carlos III, member of the council of the Indies, and Visitor General to New Spain. After his return to Spain in 1772 he was appointed Minister of the Indies by King Carlos III. In 1779 he founded a colony in the valley of Sonora, Mexico, and was awarded with the title of Marqués of Sonora.
His influence advanced the fortunes of his brother Matias and his nephew Bernardo, both of whom became viceroys of New Spain during the 1780’s. Josés brother Miguel, a lawyer, became Minister of Prussia and Russia, and the youngest brother, Antonio, was General Commander of the port of Cádiz.
The nephew Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Viscount of Galveston and Count of Gálvez led the Spanish armies against Britain in the Revolutionary War, defeating the British at Pensacola and re-conquering Florida for Spain. The Mayor of Macharaviaya, Antonio Campos, recently received the keys to Pensacola at a ceremony in Florida to twin the two towns.
Our second visit to Macharaviaya, a week ago, we found a good road from Rincon de la Victoria. This time we were able to visit the Gálvez museum. We were impressed. No wonder the people of Macharaviaya are proud of their history. It still seems like a fairytale and as we see it today, an
outstanding example of nepotism.