Periana SUR
Periana: a name written differently over time

Periana: a name written differently over time

Legend tells of two feuding families who eventually agreed to name the village after both surnames, but historians dispute this

Jennie Rhodes


Friday, 28 April 2023, 12:34


At 500 metres above sea level, the village of Periana overlooks Viñuela reservoir and offers residents and visitors alike some of the most stunning views in the Axarquía.

The village is the administrative centre of an area which also lays claim to 14 hamlets, including Moya and El Cañuelo; both of which are home to the relatively large British population in the area.

Periana had a population of approximately 3,000 in 2021, according to Junta de Andalucía statistics, of which 11 per cent were non-Spanish. Of this percentage, 29.6 were British.

A local legend

Local legend has it that Periana got its name from two feuding families, both of whom wanted the village to be named after them; the Pereiro and Santana families. Eventually a deal was made to merge the two names to give the village its name – 'perei' and 'ana.'

The coat of arms bears the words 'ni Pereiro ni Santana,' meaning 'neither Pereiro nor Santana. It also features a peach, which the village is famous for along with its olive oil.

However, according to local historian and retired history teacher, Rafael Núñez Ruiz, the legend is just that and has "no historic value". Instead, Núnez and other local historians have their own hypothesis.

Rafael, who is the editor of Periana's local history and culture magazine, Almazara, explains that there is evidence that the name Periana, or derivations of it, date back to the end of the 15th century; at the time of the Spanish Reconquista.

He says that in the 'Taha de Frigiliana' – an official document demarcating land from that time – there was a farmstead located near to Frigiliana that was called Periana.

Although there is no remaining evidence of the farmstead, the local historian believes that the people who lived in it moved to what is now the village of Periana and took the name with them.

Using documents dating back to the early 16th century, Rafael explains there are references to a Periana fountain (Fuente de Periana) which could well be the existing fountain in the village.

Phonetic evolution

"Hypothesis one is that the residents of the farmstead near Frigiliana established themselves nearer to the fountain and took the name with them," Rafael explains, referring to the natural spring on the current Plaza de la Fuente.

Farmers brought their cattle to drink there en route to and from Granada. Gradually people started to settle there and the place grew as a village.

The second hypothesis, which is considered by Vélez-Málaga historian and archivist, Purificación Ruiz García, and "more reliable" according to Rafael, is that the village was already inhabited but was known as 'Veciliana'.

In some documents he explains, it is written with an 'l' and in others with an 'r' – Veciriana. It is worth noting that in Spanish, a 'V' sound can often sound like a 'B', which in turn can also be mistaken for a 'P' sound.

Purificación argues that through "phonetic evolution" the name changed over the years until it eventually became known as Periana.

Rafael points out that the 'Vecili' part of the name is not unlike 'Bezmili' of 'Bezmiliana' as in the fortress in Rincón de la Victoria, whose name hasn't changed over the centuries.

This is, Rafael explains, because the population of Rincón de la Victoria would have been more stable, unlike that of Periana and other villages in the high Axarquía, which were on the trade route between Malaga and Granada.

Therefore, there would have been a much more transient population in Periana as people came and went on their way to and from Granada. People passed through bringing their own accents and interpretation of the name, hence the phonetic evolution from Veciliana to Periana.

It is well documented that 'ana' comes from the Latin for place or settlement and there are a number of other villages or places in Malaga province that use the suffix, for example Frigiliana, Churriana and Burriana.

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