About El Fargue

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About El Fargue

El Fargue, or Alquería del Fargue to give it its offical name, is a barrio (neighbourhood) of Granada, belonging to the municipal district of el Albaicín, situated to the northwest of the city centre. It is just beyond and above the cave-dweller barrio of Sacromonte.

It is 4 km by road from the Hospital Real/Jardines del Triunfo and arriving here you get more the feeling of being in a village than a barrio. You leave the built-up area behind and come to this peaceful agglomeration of terraced houses with this extraordinarily breath-taking view up to the Sierra Nevada on the right. But it is not a village. It has no village square, no village bars, and no village shops. This is because the centre of the barrio is occupied by a large closed-off area belonging to an armaments factory, by which El Fargue's special character has been defined.

The picture on the right shows mainly the armaments factory in the centre of the barrio. Those chimneys indicate underground chambers where weapons are tested. Above and beyond El Fargue is the village of Víznar, situated at the foot of the Sierra de Huétor, the mountain mass that overshadows it. To the left of Víznar (west) lies Alfacár.

El Fargue owes its existence originally to the Acequia de Aynadamar, a man-made canal which takes water from the spring at Fuente Grande, Alfacár and carries it to the Albaicín, a distance of 13km. Until the middle of the twentieth century it still provided drinking water for the Albacín, but today its water is only used for non-potable purposes.

ABOVE we see the Fuente Grande at Alfacár: Aynadamar - 'the Fountain of Tears/The Eye of Tears', from where water is taken via the acequia. BELOW we see the acequia where it runs alongside and just below the Alfacár-Víznar road.

The factory reached its peak of economic and military importance at the time of the nationalist uprising on the 20 de julio 1936. For the rebels, the taking of Granada had two principal goals: taking control of the military airport in Las Gabias and taking oer the munitions factory here in El Fargue. (For more, local historian Francisco González Arroyo[1].)

Whereas in July 1936 there were 510 workers at the factory, by March 1938 this figure had risen to 1,676. At the time of the uprising, between 200,000 y 300,000 kilos of gunpowder and 50,000 of explosives were being produced. By September 1936, barely two months later, this production had increased five-fold. This was only possible as the resultof a viscious purge of the work force.

[1] https://www.comares.com/autor/francisco-gonzalez-arroyo/

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The construction of the acequia dates from the Zirid era, around 1075 - 1090. The alquería (a settlement made up of cármenes - more or less self-sufficent households with their own garden-orchard and water supply) starts to take shape with the building of water-driven mills along the acequia. The abundance of water combined with the mild climate and the spectacular and relaxing views of the Sierra Nevada attracted the more well-to-do so that by the middle of the XII century, the settlement was already ‘on the map’.

The existence of a munitions factory in El Fargue has its origins in the establishment around 1235 of two gunpowder mills. From very early on, the abundant waters descending from the Sierra de Huétor was exploited to drive the mills to grind the corn for flour,and to this day the bread of Alfacár is hugely popular in Granada. The story I heard was that a couple of enterprising individuals arrived late on the scene and found the bread market saturated, so they turned their minds to what else they could grind to make a decent living, apart from corn.

In 1908 the Fábrica Nacional de Pólvora y Explosivos was established in the place where the two original gunpowder mills had been.

While the early urban settlement of the alquería consisted mainly of free-standing cármenes for the leisure and enjoyment of the well-off, with the growing importance of the weapons factory, workers’ accommodation was needed, and thus it came to the creation of the two “barrios” Barrio Alto and Barrio Bajo, High and Low, one on each side of the factory.

After the victory of the nationalists and the establishment of Franco’ dictatorship, two new housing estates were built in the Low Neighbourhood to provide accommodation for the growing number of factory workers. They were the barriada (subordinate neighbourhood) del Pílar and the other was the barriada de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, visited in 1947, before its inauguration in 1950 , with much pomp and circumstance and great propogandistic effect by no-one less than Evita (no llores por mí) Perón. How well Franco’s regime rewarded its key workers can be seen here in this neat residential area with its privileged location and its spacious houses looking directly towards the Sierra, and each with its own garden at the back. Compared to other contemporary working class barrios in Granada, this is luxury, indeed.

The barriada de Nuestra Señora del Carmen: a luxury housing estate for Franco's key workers. A sensational view of the sierra Nevada in front; a garden-huerta behind.

In 2001, its days of glory now long past, the factory was bought up by Santa Barbara Sistemas, which belonged to the American company General Dynamics. Twenty years ago, when I first moved to El Fargue, it was not unusual for my summer siesta to be interrupted by the sound of underground explosions as some nasty weapon of destruction was tested. However, such activity soon dwindled and the economic situation of the factory showed no sign of improving. In 2019 a Slovak company, MSM group, took it over with the commitment to maintaining the work force at current levels.

On the left:

The Low Neighbourhood, built to house factory workers. Among them my house.

On the right:

close up of the view on the left. You see my house, with the French window open. My summer siesta no ,onger disturbed by disturbing explosions. (I still have the cracks in the ceiling as a reminder.)

PAGE UPDATED 19/07/2020

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Today the work force consists of no more than 70 permanent staff, and along with a similar number of occasional employees and others who work for service-providers, it is reckoned that between 200 and 250 workers depend on the factory for their livelihood. The population of El Fargue was just under 500 in 2009 (latest figures).

Oh, and although El Fargue does not have village shops, what it does have is vans: the bread van, the fruit and veg van, a miscellaneous items van, etcetera. And, instead of village bars, it has two major restaurants, which both do menús del día, a fixed-price daily menu. El Caldero is at the south end of the barrio and caters mainly for a youngish crowd who come up especially at lunchtime to enjoy its outdoor dining space and a small but varied selection of dishes withg vegetarian options. El Padillo, at the entrance to the munitions factory, used to do a lively business in catering for coaches that passed this way before the main thoroughfare from Murcia was re-directed to Granada via the Vega. For such purposes it has to huge dining halls, one upstairs, one down. It specialises in carne a la brasa (meat done over an open charcoal-fired flame) and it serves coffee during the morning. [http://www.restaurantepadilla.es/]