Urban art with a rural touch: Cortes de la Frontera fills the walls of the town with colour and tradition

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V. Melgar

Urban art with a rural touch: Cortes de la Frontera fills the walls of the town with colour and tradition

The pueblo blanco in Malaga province's Serranía de Ronda has more than 15 murals and other pieces of artwork decorating its streets, the latest by some twenty young artists from five different continents

Vanessa Melgar

Cortes de la Frontera

Monday, 17 June 2024, 12:55

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Cortes de la Frontera has been adding art and colours to its whitewashed walls for several years, but in the last few months this commitment has gone a big step further. This small town of around 3,000 inhabitants, in the Guadiaro valley in the Serranía de Ronda, has around 15 murals and other artwork on the façades of its houses and other buildings that have been painted by different artists.

The latest additions were created in May, the result of a project financed with EU funding and sponsored by the Friends of Europe Association and the local town hall. Around 20 artists from four continents painted their creations on these unconventional canvases. "We gave them ideas, about the patrimony of the people, also the human touch, and they created their works of art", explained Rocío Álvarez, who is a local social worker and in charge of cultural affairs at Cortes town hall. Both she and the president of Amigos de Europa, Javi Morales, were very pleased with the results. The same goes for practically all the residents of this municipality, who have welcomed the project and are full of praise for these creations.

The local council intends to continue with this initiative and even create a walking route with QR codes to make the experience easier for the visitor to find all the artwork. "We want artists to come again next year," said Álvarez, who revealed the news that the town hall is already in receipt of dozens of requests from artists who also want to leave their mark in Cortes. "Not all walls are suitable, we are already selecting the ones that can take such work," said Álvarez.

Sake Ink, the award-winning urban artist from Cordoba

The first murals in Cortes were created by the award-winning urban artist from Cordoba, Sake Ink. In this case, most of them are located in the Plaza de Andalucía on the blank sides of the apartment blocks there, looking out over the valley. They are dedicated to two common, traditional trades in the town: the 'matuteras', the women who smuggled sugar, coffee and other essentials from Gibraltar, especially during the post-war period; and the cork-cutters, who each year harvest the cork from the alcornocal trees (cork oaks) surrounding the town in the Malaga part of Los Alcornocales Natural Park.

Sake Ink, among others, also focused on the natural heritage of the town with two murals: one dedicated to the native roe deer that roams the surrounding mountains; the second depicting chanterelles, in tribute to the many edible fungi found in the nearby forests. In Estación de Cortes, one of the white villages within the same municipality, Sake dedicated another of his murals to the village women who used to take in laundry that they would then carry to wash on the banks of the river Guadiaro that runs through the village.

Mr Henderson's railway

There are also murals dedicated to hiking, to the famous, British-built, Mr Henderson's railway (the Algeciras to Ronda line that stops in Estación de Cortes) and to the plentiful, local wildlife such as goldfinches and griffon vultures. There are even peacocks to commemorate when Cortes had them in its park (Las Camaretas). Another is dedicated to María Barea near the Parque de Las Camaretas, painted by Carolina Sampedro. This local resident was a midwife and helped women way back then to give birth. She was known as María Reguera.

José Bullón has also been captured on a wall where the old barracks of the Guardia Civil in Cortes used to be. He was a local resident who died at the age of 102 and who took part in the Cuban War. He used to smoke a pipe and would always sit for a smoke near the barracks and tell his stories. This artwork was painted by Mousab Achabbak and Mohamed Assarrar.

In María Reguera park, a surprise awaits an elderly lady who still lives in the town: a portrait of her as a young girl, a tribute to her childhood. In Calle Toledillo there is another reminder of yet another local, traditional trade, that of the muleteers (arrieros), who also worked on such as the cork harvest (and still do), by Taro Llorens and Julia.

Near the town hall, in the old apothecary's shop, the artists paid homage to the apothecary and all of his herbs, bottles and paraphernalia. Next, in Calle Alcantarilla you will find the image of a local trade that has now disappeared, that of the piconero, the man who made charcoal to heat homes in winter. The list goes on: a beautiful sunset, floral motifs that mingle with the real flowers adorning the streets, an old door, neighbours sitting in their doorways to cool off on a summer's eve... And so many other works of art and poetry invite you to lose yourself in the streets of Cortes de la Frontera, to soak up all the colours and to drink in all the stories that they tell.

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