Benigembla

Benigembla

Introduction and History

Benigembla is a town in Valencian Community, located in the Pop Valley within the district of Marina Alta in eastern Spain. The town is 314 meters above sea level. It is only 50 km away from Benidorm, 88 km from Alicante, 105 km from Valencia, and 23 km from Dénia.The town is of morish origin, like most towns in the Pop Valley. In 1609 more than 10.000 moors of the Pop Valley resisted the decree of expulsion, and they gathered in the mountain of El Cavall Verd or el Pop. At the end, the moors gave up because they were running out of food, water, and basic supplies. After giving up, most of the moors were expelled after suffering high casualties. During this time there was an influx of peoples mainly from the Balearic Islands and Catalonia.

Demography

In 1615 the town had a population of only 99 inhabitants, and it reached its peak in 1860 with almost 900 inhabitants. From the 1900s to 1960 the town lost 34% of its population, since most of the locals migrated to the U.S., France, Germany, and Argelia. Today the village has 615 inhabitants, according to the latest census of the year 2007. About 34% percent of the population is foreign, mostly British, these newcomers started to come in the 1980s. But there is also a German and North American community in town. The district of Vernissa Park is largely English speaking, since most of the prople living there are British. It is a very flat town surrounded by mountains, which one can find very enjoyable and relaxing. The main language spoken by its local inhabitants is the catalan language, also known as valencian, which the majority of the population speaks and uses as their main language. After the decree of the expelling of the Moors in 1609, the town was populated mostly by inhabitants from Catalonia, and the Balearic Islands. Most of the traditions of these settlers are still carried out today, together with the catalan language that they brought with them.

Major Festivities and Traditions

There are two major festivities during the year. In January the town celebrates its festivities in honour of Sant Honorat and Sant Antoni. During the summer in August, the town celebrates its major festival from 12 August to 17 August. During the summer festival there are concerts, theatre, fireworks (correfocs), dancing, Valencian hand-ball, running with the bulls, and religious celebrations.

The Environment

The highest mountain peak of Benigembla is represented by "El Morro d'En Serra" with 1,001 m. One of the walking trails of interest in town is The Route of "El Mirabó". Other known mountains of Benigembla are: El Cavall Verd or el Pop (793 m), La Penya de L'Altar (949 m), La Solana (793 m), and also El Mirabó (691 m). The river Xaló-Gorgos passes next to Benigembla, which borders the town from its west side to its east side, and it was declared, as a site of special community interest by the European Commission in 2005. The river Xaló-Gorgos is 55 km long, and it ends finally in the sea in Xàbia.

Economy and Tourism

Farming and livestock were the pillars of the economy until the 1970s, but today most of the people work in the services sector, and farming it´s considered a complmentary actiivity that is done basically on weekends and holidays. Stiil the farmers of Benigembla make wine, olive oil, and they produce almonds, figues, olives, and grapes among others.

The town also has two restaurants, two rural houses, a recreational area in The Safareig, and a camping area. The camping area is located just 1 km from Benigembla, on the road that leads to Castell de Castells. There is a swimming pool, a tennis court, and other facilities. Another site of interest of Benigembla is The Ribàs Botanical Garden next to the main square, with trees that are more than 100 years old, and other species of special botanical interest, but it is in serious need of maintenance and renovation.

Part of the exteriors of the film "Her Majesty the Minor" was filmed in the olive fields of Benigembla, in October of 2006, a super European production of the French director Jean-Jacques Annaud, who also directed The films "Seven Years in Tibet" and "The Name of the Rose".

Politics

In the municipal elections of 2007 the PP party won 3 seats in the town council with 38% of the votes, the socialist party PSPV-PSOE 2 seats with 27% of the votes, and the nacionalist valencian party denominated Bloc Nacionalista Valencià 1 seat with 20% of the votes, and another local party also obtained 1 seat with 14% of the votes. In the year 2007, Fernando Mengual i Taverner of the PP was elected mayor with 3 votes out of the 7 councilmen, however his inability to work with other councilmen, the lack of democratic transparency in the decison making process, together with the lack of support of his own party, and after 3 major defeats to his controversial plans to build 3 more urbanisations, which started to provoke distrust and discontent. As a result. on the 23rd of August of 2008, a vote of no confidence was presented by the 3 opposition parties, which resulted in voting and proclaiming the councilman of the Bloc party, Joan Caselles i Mengual as mayor of Benigembla, with the support of the 2 socialist seats and the other seat from the other local party.

In the muncipal elections of 2003 the PP party obatained 4 seats, and the PSPV-PSOE 3 seats, but they were all pressured to resign from their seats, except 1 councilman, after the town council has signed in november of 2004 a secretely controversial plan with a known major developer, to build a massive urbanisation with 1500 new houses, and a golf course. The contract that was signed secretely would have been unsustainable for the municipal services of this town, and would have given the developer all the decision making regarding the future urban development of the town . In 2005, the major Aurelio Llinares i Mas of the PP party resigned, and Felipe Perez i Mengual took over as mayor until the year 2007.

The first mayor that was elected after the Franco´s regime was the socialist Antoni Caselles i Pérez, then the independent Francesc Mas i Sendra for 2 terms, the socialist Francesc Taverner i Taverner for 2 terms, and the socialist Rogelio Sendra i Taverner for 1 term, in that order.

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