A brief history of Vejer
Vejer de la Frontera has been a popular destination since ancient times. Three great civilisations, the Pheonicians, the Carthaginians and the Romans, all paid the area a visit, and (who could blame them) decided to stay.
There are surviving traces of Roman occupation in the columns of the parish church, Santa Lucía Aqueduct, and the tuna factories recently discovered in Los Caños de Meca. Take a short drive to Bolonia, and marvel at the well-preserved Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia (seen above).
After the fall of Rome, it was the Visigoth’s turn to pay Vejer a visit. Their stay was cut short when the Moors won the Battle of La Janda and took control of the town. These latest visitors stayed for 539 years, leaving their mark on the town’s gastronomy, its narrow winding streets, and the design of its white houses with their bright inner courtyards. North African traditions could, until recently, be seen in the ‘cobijado’ or ‘blanket’, a traditional garment covering women’s faces. An example of this can be seen in the striking black sculpture (Estatua de la Cobijada) on the outlook outside the gates of the Moorish walls.
The garment is of Castilian origin of between the 16th and 17th centuries. How it was worn depended on the economic and social position of the wearer.
The garment was back in use in the last decade of the 1930's after the civil war, but there were hardly any women left who kept the complete garment, as the scarcity of the post-war period had forced women to dismantle their costumes for other purposes. Since 1976, it has only been used only in the patron saint festivities.
Vejer gained the honorific of ‘de la Frontera’ (‘of the frontier’) in 1250, when Ferdinand III, the Christian King of Castile, captured the town during the Reconquista.
In later centuries, Vejer de la Frontera became an important observation point, helping to defend the coast from Barbary pirates, who raided these coasts until the 19th Century. The network of coastal towers (still seen in Zahara and Palmar) were built to protect the area from these uninvited visitors. In 1805, a keen-sighted observer atop one of these towers might have watched in horror as the British fleet, commanded by Admiral Horatio Nelson, defeated a combined Franco-Spanish Fleet off the coast of Los Caños de Meca (also known as Cape Trafalgar).
In 1976 Vejer de la Frontera was declared a town of Historical and Artistic Importance, and a few years later in 1978, it was the winner of the first National Village Embellishment Prize. Vejer de la Frontera is not only beautiful, but it is one of the finest examples of Andalusian-Arabic architecture.
The view from Casa del Mayorazgo.