Conil photos/fotos de Conil
For more than a decade I have lived in the Andalusian pueblo Conil de la Frontera and its surrounds. Inevitably, things have changed over that time and I have recorded some of those changes.
Tuna fishing has played an important part in the local economy since time immemorial. Using a technique that goes back millennia, a maze made of nets is employed. Known as almadraba – originally derived from the Arabic meaning ‘place of killing’ – the technique involves enticing the tuna along a complicated series of net passageways leading to a holding net. Confused, and unable to negotiate an escape route, they are slaughtered in a bloody mayhem over the early summer months.
Though many strongly disagree with the method, far fewer are killed than by more modern techniques. Quotas have been strictly adhered to over recent years, bringing a welcome surge in numbers that has saved the tuna from the brink of extinction. Tuna from Conil fetch a premium price, and are highly rated in the sushi bars of Japan.
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The Chanca before
Throughout its history, and up until comparatively recently, the walled collection of buildings arranged around a central plaza, known as the Chanca, was a centre for the wholesale selling of fish and processed fish products.During the Franco dictatorship the Chanca was used by the Guardia Civil to imprison, torture, and execute by firing squad, those accused of being Republicans. Over the following decades it gradually fell into such disrepair it was in danger of tumbling down.
Restoration began in 2009. Now fully restored, the buildings have been transformed into a cultural centre housing the pueblos’s library and an exhibition hall. Over the summer season, a large section of the central plaza plays host to open-air concerts of music and dancing.
Back in Roman times, Conil was a thriving centre for the production of Garum, a popular fish sauce throughout the empire. The fish were processed on the other side of the River Salado on the south side of the town. Further down the coast at Bolonia, evidence of a factory used to ferment fish in the production of Garum, and also for the salting of fish, can still be seen among the impressive Roman ruins.
Five large supermarkets have opened during my time here, leading to the closure of many small neighbourhood grocery stores. With tourism taking over as the town’s main source of income, this trend is certain to increase. In the rush to cash in on property prices – unlike much of the rest of Spain they haven’t fallen quite so much – not enough care has been taken to preserve the historical value of the old town, which dates back to Phoenician times.
The building explosion has seen ancient properties demolished without much thought to the pueblo’s valuable heritage. Many houses that haven’t been demolished might just as well have been, as they have been over-restored so as to remove, or disguise, any discernable traces of their former character. This trend is something the town may have future cause to regret.
A few of the photos in this gallery of from the nearby cities and pueblos of Cádiz, El Colorado, Vejer de la Frontera and Cáceres in the autonomous community of Extramadura.
Click here for more photos of Conil.
Copyright © 2010 Bryan Hemming
Photos of Conil