The municipality of Caniles is located on one of the main access roads to the Sierra de Baza Natural Park, between two rivers that flow from the Sierra: The Gallego (called Bodurría in its higher reaches) and the Gudalopón, formed by the confluence of two mountain streams (the Ucli and the Moras) a few miles from the town. So important are these rivers for the residents of Caniles that they are shown on the historic Town Shield.
Caniles is an ancient settlement dating back to prehistoric times. Remnants of that past are so numerous in the region that it can be shown clearly how the land was intensively inhabited since the Paleolithic era. The sites of Cueva de la Pastora or El Poblado de los Montones de la Piedra are two sites which testify to these facts.
Among the archaeological remains discovered, the most important is called the “Vaso de Caniles” which is bell shaped and dates back to the Neolithic period. But this has not been the only remnant of primitive settlements found in the municipality, and countless Paleolithic tools, several beakers and a tulip shaped vessel from the Argaric period easily confirm the ancient origins of Caniles.
Remains from the Copper era were discovered mainly in Rejano and Carrizo and from the Bronze era mainly in the districts of San Sebastian and Fuente de la Salud. Many remnants of the Iberian culture have been discovered in the pago del Tortan, some burial grounds, and in the now disappeared area of el Fuerte, ceramics and votive religious artifacts.
During the period of Roman domination gold was mined in the region of Morax and it is very likely that the Romans built ‘acequias’ or canals to irrigate the area for agriculture. The very name of the town, Morax, tells of the undoubted Roman origins of the settlement.
It was in the period of Arab rule that Caniles (then called qanalis or qanilish) had its most splendid time. The Omeyas caliphs continued to exploit the gold resources, to refine and improve the old Roman irrigation systems and to construct new ones, most of which are still in use to this day.
In the works of Arab geographers and their chronicles Caniles was described as a well-fortified town, linked by dependence on the nearby Madinat Bastha (Baza). Ibn Al-Khatib, Vizier and writer, one of the most fascinating characters of Andalusian culture, speaking at one of its geographical works in1.347, tells the story of an inspection trip accompanying Yusuf I along the eastern borders of the kingdom, referred to Caniles as ‘the best of their daughters of Baza, similar to it in size, and for its orchards and gardens” and tells of an affluent population where “these cornfields look like the sea’.
Caniles, throughout the period of the Nazari kingdom, lay near the border and suffered many incursions by the of Castillians, but was mentioned in the chronicles as a secure fortress, and difficult to lay siege to, and became known as ‘Caniles the famous’,so much so that in the early fourteenth century, the Princes Don Pedro and Don Juan of Castile, having taken Orce, Benamaurel, Cúllar, Huéscar and Galera, were unable to take Baza , Zújar and Caniles . Caniles again came to be to be in line of fire after the middle of the fifteenth century, when the Governor of Murcia, Alonso Yáñez Fajardo “El Bravo” reconquered Cúllar, Galera, and Benamaurel which Ismail I had taken in the middle of the previous century. It is therefore not uncommon for archeologists investigating the entire network of castles and forts that defended all the central sector of the Nazari kingdom, to cite the strength of Caniles, along with those of Baza and Fiñana, as the most important defensive towns.
The uncertainty along the border lasted until 1488, when the Catholic Monarchs finally conquered Huéscar, Orce, Galera, Benamaurel Cullen and almost all the castles of the land of Vera, and, on 14 June 1489, Don Iñigo López de Mendoza, Count of Tendilla, occupied Caniles in no uncertain terms, on behalf of the Catholic Kings.
Hernandez del Pulgar say in his chronicle “It was seen by the Moors in the town of Caniles that Zújar and other fortified towns nearby, like Baza had surrendered to the king, and that the Earl of Tendilla in Caniles surrendered to the Count as any town as strong as Baza, nearby, had done so.
It is worth remembering, in order to understand why Abulcasin Haceni, mayor of the town at the time surrendered peacefully, along with other important Moorish towns like Baza, that the Christians held the town secure since 1488.
In September of the year 1,489, Don Alvaro de Luna, grandson of the Commander of Castile, was named mayor of the fortified town of Caniles and later in the bequests that the Catholic Monarchs made some years after the conquest, for those who had contributed to and helped in the war, he ceded to Don Diego Fernándezde Córdoba, Count of Cabra, the town of Caniles and Alquerías. These privileges and royal grants were not perpetual grants of crown property, but only for the lifetime of the holder of the grant.
In 1501, shortly after the Moorish uprisings of Granada, the crown decided that the towns of Caniles, Benamaurel, Cullar, Macael and Laroya should pass to the jurisdiction of the city of Baza, possibly as punishment for the helping the Moors in the uprising. This historical period lasted until independence from Baza in l.679, the year that marks the culmination of the joining of these towns which really started in 1648.
The population in these early years of the sixteenth century was almost entirely Moorish. So in a census of 760 areas (about 4,000 inhabitants) only 30 were Christian (150 inhabitants). Caniles, in the hands of the Moors of Granada, was a thriving town that produced silk, and grew mostly wheat and grapevines. The production of wine was always one of the greatest riches of the town, as can be seen by the fact that in mid-sixteenth century, in the fields over 700,000 strains were being cultivated.
But this apparent wealth and peace suffered a severe blow in 1568, the year of the rebellion of the Moors. With the expulsion of the Moors, the population declined rapidly. So in 1752 there were only 636 inhabitants, for nearly 2 centuries the population did not increase, and had decreased by more than 120 inhabitants compared to 1,501, and what confirms this regression is that in 1752 the population was still low, due to inefficient and overquick relocation.
From the second half of the 18th century Caniles began to see some economic recovery, partly as a result of the convent of the Franciscan Alcántara, Order of San Diego being constructed in the town. Of the Convent there are only a few remnants, as it was dismantled in the last century. Events in later centuries have not led to much good news, although it can be assumed that the historical development of Caniles, during the late eighteenth century and the nineteenth century, would be similar to other towns in the region.
We come now to the twentieth century and a new era of economic boom, due to the construction of the railway and the introduction of a sugar industry in the town. Throughout the first half and part of the second half of the twentieth century, population growth remained stable, even in the 50’s and 60’s with the phenomenon of migration to Catalonia. Caniles has been an exception in the region, as its population did not suffer strong fluctuations during those years, unlike many towns and villages in the area and other parts of Andalusia.
The cause of population stability and, in a sense of prosperity, is to be found in the sugar industry. The fact that its activity is reduced to the time of harvesting of beet gave a special character to emigration here. Unlike other places, where it was short-lived, in Caniles it became a seasonal migration. These ‘seasonal migrants’, went mainly to France, where they performed various farming tasks during the spring and summer.
The last years of the twentieth century saw the closure of the railway line and the cessation of the sugar industry, and a change to the chemical industry. The entry of Spain into the European Community in 1986 also marked the start of a new period in which the future of the town will be linked inexorably to the Europe-wide EU policy, especially in land and agriculture.
Iglesia de Santa Maria y San Pedro. (Church)
Casas Solarieagas de los’Fernandez’ and ‘Mancebo’ 18th -19th century. (Stately homes)
Ermita de San Sebastián. 18th century (convent)
The cuisine is typical of the Mediterranean region, even though it has some oddities like casserole with anchovies and mushrooms from the Sierra, fried rabbit with locally grown tomatoes, ‘gurullos’ with hare, Matanzas stew with turnip, white gazpacho, or delicious desserts such as greaves cakes, anise cakes, ‘tortas de matalauva’ or ‘roscon de las viejas’.
The main and best access is from Baza via the autovia A-92, taking the exit Caniles, Huercal-Overa
Distances from Caniles
Gor 35 km
Zújar 20 km
Baza 8.5 km
Granada 118 km
Hernán Valle 65 km
Benalúa de Guadix 58 km