ÓRGIVA – They lay as beautiful as white patches against the southern flanks of the Sierra Nevada: the villages of Pampaneira, Bubión, Caipleira, and Trevélez. They’re still there but in a completely different guise after the brown rain that fell the last week.
Since then, it’s like looking through a sepia filter at the normally picturesque ‘pueblos blancos’. The storm Célia, which blew the first cloud of Saharan dust to Spain a week and a half ago, is the instigator of the misery. The mass of dust from the desert, after hitting an Atlantic front, resulted in two episodes of mud rain. Rivers and drainages took on the colour of milk chocolate, slippery mounds of mud lay everywhere, and everything that was once white turned grubby.
Dirty sights can scare off tourists
Pampaneira, Bubión, Capileira, and Trevélez are the most touristic villages in La Alpujarra because of their picturesque appearance and beautiful location. Residents now fear that the dirty sight will deter tourists. After two years of the corona pandemic crisis and the current energy price crisis, entrepreneurs in the sector cannot handle any more setbacks. Furthermore, there is certainly no room for additional investments.
Vigorous cleaning has so far been of no avail. “Looks like we’ll have to rinse and scrub off the coarse sand and then paint everything over,” a woman in Capileira told the regional newspaper Ideal. This is work that requires a lot of money.
The municipalities of Trevélez and Capìleira have already announced via their social media that they will request financial assistance from the province and the Junta de Andalucía. The characteristic white must return before the season starts. Mayor Adrián Gallegos of Trevélez has a meeting with the province of Granada on Thursday to convey his request for help. Capileira also agrees.
Who pays for the empty houses?
“We want the village to go back to the way it was. The problem is that many of the houses are empty because of the depopulation of the villages. Who pays for its cleaning? Nobody. And if no one does, the essence of the Alpujarra, the white villages, will disappear,” Gallegos told Ideal.
“Already tried everything”
First, the streets were cleaned to prevent people from slipping on the mud. Then an attempt was made to scrub the loose sand from the facades. However, most residents already know this is not easy. “We have already tried everything, brushed the facades, used high-pressure cleaners or scrubbed with rubber… but everything remains brown”, said the mayor. “It’s as if the village has aged a hundred years.”
Cleaning will take weeks
“All villages in the Alpujarras have the same attitude,” said Mayor Ángel Pérez of Pampaneira. “We first want to know what amounts to think about and what exactly we need,” he continues. “We want our village to be nice and clean. Furthermore, we see that the work of a whole decade appears differently through this cloud.” A good cleaning will certainly take weeks.
Not just white villages brown
White villages are not only found in the Alpujarras. The whole of Andalucia is littered with it. Especially those with a location in the middle and east of the region had to deal with a natural ‘paint job’. Other tourist attractions are also watching with sadness as now their villages are coloured brown.
Below Sacromonte, caves near the Alhambra in Granada, where flamenco performances are held. A lot of money is needed to get one of the “most beautiful streets of Granada” back to normal.
In Guadix it is all about the facades of the famous cave houses. The rest of the houses are hidden behind it in the earth. Yet it is precisely those white facades and chimneys that make Guadix so characteristic. Furthermore, on some terraces, there is a 2-centimetre thick accumulation of mud.