Vejer de la Frontera tiene restos arqueológicos que muestran que estuvo habitada desde el Paleolítico. Fue un pueblo fortificado en la Edad del Bronce En época prerromana se denominó Besaro, en la árabe, Bashir y en la cristiana, Bejer, de donde procede su actual nombre. Tuvo un importante papel bajo el dominio de fenicios y cartagineses, como defensora de las factorías y almadrabas que ocupaban sus costas. Durante 539 años estuvo bajo el poder de los árabes, los cuales le dieron el nombre de Bekkeh. A tenor de la estampa que actualmente presenta, este pueblo se muestra como una de las piezas más queridas y mimadas del Islam andaluz. Luego pasó a llamarse Vejer de la Miel por la cantidad de colmenas que proliferan por sus campos. En 1250 fue conquistada por Fernando III y entregada a Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, primer duque de Medina Sidonia. Ciudad agrícola, durante siglos se dedicó a la explotación de tierras asignadas por sorteo entre los ciudadanos, llamadas hazas de suerte. Fue testigo de la Batalla de Trafalgar, en que la escuadra franco-española fue vencida por la inglesa.
This is an extract from 'Guide of the old town' © Isabel Stichel & Walter Seemann, Tel: 956 447202
The Phoenecians & Carthaginians
The city of Vejer is situated in the middle of one of the oldest cultural landscapes in Spain. It owes its early origin to its strong strategic position above the river Barbate and close to the sea. This location provided the town with natural good defences and easy access to the sea by river. We can trace its history back to the centuries BC and possibly even further to the time of the Phoenicians. Vejer most probably already existed during the rule of the Carthaginians (roughly 400 BC.). The name of the city presumably originates from that time. lt is likely that the Carthaginians called the river Barbate Wadi-Baka – after the city of Baka which dominated its delta. During the course of time the word Baka gradually seems to have been transformed into the name Vejer.
The Romans, Vandals & Visigoths
Visible relics from the time of the Roman rule (in 216 BC. Cornelius Scipio conquered Cádiz during the Punic wars) include the street at the northern slope of the hill on which Vejer is situated, the arch at the end of the Corredera and parts of the lglesia Parroquial (main church). The Teutonic migration of people into Spain finally ended the Roman rule here. During the short time the Vandals occupied the South of Spain and before moving on to North Africa they indirectly provided Andalucía with its present name. lt was the Arabs, who referred to the Southern part of Spain as al-Andalus meaning country of the Vandals.
The Islamic invasion
A part of the vault of the Iglesía Parroquial originates from the period of the Visigoths. They were later defeated in a decisive battle against the Arabs at the lagoon of the river Barbate («Laguna La Janda») close to Vejer. ln the following centuries the old town developed its essential characteristics (castle, fortification and layout of the streets and houses). During the Reconquista at the beginning of the 13th century the first Christian troops appeared in the area around of Vejer but it was not until 1250 that they finally conquered the town itself.
ln the following decades the occupation of the town changed hands several times between the Arabs and Christians. From that period stems the appendix de la Frontera pertaining to the frontier between Arab and Christian occupied Spain. Guzmán el Bueno defended Vejer against the last Arab attack in 1291. ln 1292 Guzmán set out to defend Tarifa. During these fights he sacrificed one of his sons who had been captured by the Arabs and held hostage in an attempt to force the city to surrender. In 1293 Guzmán became the first mayor of Vejer. Later on the whole town was given to him by Fernando IV as a reward for his merits.
The repercussions of the re-conquest
As a consequence Vejer lost its independence which later led to many conflicts between the local people and the Dukes of Medina Sidonia (the successors of Guzmán). ln 1535 Juan Relinque, a citizen of Vejer, began his courageous fight at the court of Granada in his endeavour to regain independence of his city from the Duke of Medina Sidonia. Although his arguments were supported by the written law he nevertheless lost the fight after a number of years.
It is an interesting aside that among the crew of Christopher Columbus' first expedition is a son of Vejer – Alfonso de Clavijo.
The Battle of Trafalgar
On the 2lth Oct. 1805 the British navy under the command of Admiral Nelson destroyed the unified French' Spanish armada at Cabo Trafalgar. The roar of cannon fire could be heard as far as Vejer. ln 1811 Napoleon' s troops occupied Vejer. Don José Miranda Cabezón, led a succesful campaign against the French occupation which resulted in the liberation of Andalucía.
The Civil War years
Violent incursions by anarchists at the beginning of the Spanish civil war in 1936 revived the demand for a land reform. As a result of these incidents two dozen Moroccan soldiers from General Francos' army occupied the city & 5 inhabitants lost their lives.
One of the great pleasures of Vejer is simply walking around the quiet backstreets along cobbled lanes sandwiched between tall white houses. In Vejer time escapes & it is easy to imagine oneself being drawn back into another distant part of history. The monuments are not grand & oppulent but all form an important part of the history of the town. Take your time to enjoy them as you wander around.
The Town walls
You can still trace the outline of these ancient monuments and in places they appear proud & defensive & in others disappear into homes & you'll see somebodys washing being hung on the ramparts. Heavily restored in places the walls were built in the 15th.C. as part of the defensive investment after the Christian reconquest of the region.
A notable feature are the various arches that lead into the old town through the walls. Unlike in many other towns all the original gateways still exist & form a feature of the everyday life of Vejer.
Arco Sancho IV – The oldest & best preserved gate to the old town.
Arco de la Villa – The main archway into Vejer in the Plaza de España. Originally this was the termination of the old Roman road up from La Barca.
Puerta de la Segur – The lowest and best fortified of the archways squeezed between the fortifications & the church.
Puerta Cerrada – Traditionally the 'closed gate' as it was supposedly most susceptible to attack form the south.
The old moorish built 'alcazaba' is tucked away down a narrow backstreet. Only one facade reveals this monuments history as the town has been built right around the edifice. A classic 11th.C. ogee arch leads into a jasmine scented courtyard. Beyond this there is not much to see as now much of the castle is residential. If you are lucky the local scouts who have their den here will show you around the ramparts.
Built on the site of the old mosque the minaret is still standing now crowned with bells. Under the church is the outstanding 'alminars' or water deposit built by the moors (not open to the public) so large that it can be navigated around in a small dinghy. The church itself has two contrasting styles. Towards the front of the main aisle is visigothic while the remainder is mudejar. The interior was completely bespoiled during the Civil War & little remains of the churches richs. Its simplicity however is most attractive. Take a close look at the niches along the outside north wall of the church.
The Plaza de España or 'Plaza de los Pescaitos'
A most attractive plaza this is a favourite spot for visitors & locals alike. Ringed with date palms with some immense bouganvilla bushes as a backdrop the Plaza de los Pescaitos (Plaza of the Little Fish), gets its name from the goldfish that swim around the fountain. The ornate fountain is not as old as it seems and dates back to the early 1900's. Decorated with bright ceramics & 4 spouting frogs you will find an almost replica fountain in the main plaza of Algeciras. The town hall ('Ayuntamiento') overlooks the square & a notable feature is the facade of the fabled Casa de la Inquisición (no. 12 & 13). A mirador overlooking the pines of the Marismas Natural Park is due to be opened shortly.
Vejer is situated at 200m. above sea level & just a few km. from the beaches at either El Palmar, Trafalgar Bay or Los Caños de Meca. Vejer itself is made up of 2 parts, the old medieval quarter & the newer part of town carefully designed in the style of the 'pueblos blancos' of the region. Vejer has many monuments to visit, flower filled courtyards to peer into & turreted walls to see views from. Vejer is surrounded on 2 sides by the 'Las Breñas' Natural Park a 5,000ha. forest of pine wood running down to the coast & the 'Marismas' Natural Park a smaller nature reserve through which the Barbate river runs through & home to an important collection of birdlife. Both parks have walking trails running through them & are perfect for day walks. Vejer has many view points overlooking both the coastline & the hills of the 'Alcornocales' Natural Park, the largest cork oak forest in Europe with an extension of over 175,000ha.
A short walk away is the recently restored roman acueduct of Santa Lucia, usually still working in the summer, with a water supply that feeds the small lush valley nearby where avocadoes, pomegranate & other semi-tropical fruits are grown. A visitors centre is due to open here shortly. The 7th.C. hermitage of San Ambrosio will shortly be reopened to the public incorporating part of the original mosque that stood on this site. A myriad of walking trails & wider cañadas (droving trails) run through the local countryside. All the trails are unmarked. The terrain is hilly although not steep, moderate fitness is required for cyclists wanting to ride to the beautiful town of Medina Sidonia or to visit the fishing port of Conil for example.
V = Variable date.
06 Jan – Reyes.
The three Kings arrive in Vejer & parade the streets distributing presents & sweets.
V Feb – Carnival.
Carnival parades & floats throught the old & new town. Fun for the kids.
V – Semana Santa.
Easter Week & charming parades through the old town on Thursday & Friday. Well worth a visit.
V -Toro Embolao.
Easter Sunday. Not to be missed. 2 x half ton fighting bulls are let loose in the streets of Vejer @ 1200 & 1600. Complete havoc & parties in the streets. Not for the squeamish.
V – Feria de Primavera.
The Spring Fair starts a week after Easter. Horse parades & traditional dancing during the day & lively 'casetas' at night. There is also an agricultural show of livestock & horses & of course a funfair. In S. Miguel (new town)
24 June – Candela de San Juan.
At midnight in the Plaza de España a dummy bull runs through the crowds with fireworks exploding off its back. Preceded by bonfires & the traditional burning of effigies in San Miguel (new town).
10–24 August – Velada de la Oliva.
Another religous festival & more excuses for drinking & dancing. This festival lasts 14 days. Every night in the Plaza de España there is either a concert, flamenco singing or a show. Very much a 'local' affair. Processions of the patron Virgin on the 10th. & 15th.