Digital Fragments of History

Memories preserved in the Historical Archive of the Province of Almería

By Andalusian Archives

Archivo Histórico Provincial de Almería

Archivo Histórico Provincial de Almería (2017-05-18/2017-05-18) by (Archivo Histórico Provincial de Almería)Andalusian Archives

The Historical Archive of the Province of Almería

In 1932, Isabel Millé, a civil servant in the Body of Archivists, Librarians and Archaeologists, was the driving force behind the establishment of the Historical Archive of the Province of Almería and director of the Historical Archive of the Province of Andalusia. The archive in Almería was one of the first of its kind in Spain, and was introduced following the Decree of November 12, 1931, for the Creation of Provincial Historical Archives.

Protocol of public deeds granted in Almería before the notary Alonso de Palenzuela (1519) by Notaries of Almería.Andalusian Archives

The first documents collected in the archive were from notaries and registries, namely the deeds from the province that were over 100 years old, in accordance with the notarial protocols in place at the time.

Since then, a steady flow of documents has entered the archive, and today it holds a collection dating from the beginning of the 16th century to the present. The heritage contained in these documents forms an essential point of reference to facts and events: it is a primary source for historical research that provides objective information on public and private activities, as well as the everyday life of the inhabitants of Almería.

Twenty-one documents have been chosen from this documentary legacy, which is priceless in terms of its historical and cultural value. The documents shed light on some of the province's most important historical milestones.

Protocol of public deeds granted in Almería before the notary Alonso de Palenzuela (1519) by Notaries of Almería.Andalusian Archives

The archive's oldest notarial deed

The archive's oldest document has been chosen from more than 10,000 notarial registers, which originate from the four notarial districts of the province where public deeds were once collected. It is a lease letter addressed to Francisco de Valdivia, a resident of Almería, issued on June 17, 1519.

The moorish imprint in notarial protocols (1520-06-02) by Notaries of Almería.Andalusian Archives

The citizens of an islamic Almería: the moors and documents in their language

After the Christian conquest of Almería by the Catholic Monarchs in 1489, the Muslim population mostly retained a majority in Almería until they were driven out in 1570.

Before that time, they were forced to convert to Catholicism and adopt Christian culture, though they continued to speak and write in their mother tongue. A multitude of documents describes their activities and are signed in Arabic. These documents are, once again, a reflection of the cultural mix in these lands over the centuries.

Memorial of the remaining houses to be shared in the city of Almería and its river (1573-10-09)Andalusian Archives

The second repopulation

Almost 90% of the Moorish population resided in large areas of the province, such as Las Alpujarras and Alto Almanzora.

This large Moorish population led to the uprising of the Alpujarras of Almería in 1568, resulting in the subsequent expulsion of 1570.

The forced exodus considerably reduced the number of inhabitants in Almería and triggered successive attempts to repopulate the area throughout the 17th century. In particular, the area drew citizens from Jaén, Granada, Castilla-La Mancha, Levante and Aragón. However, despite many attempts to repopulate the area, Almería never recovered the number of inhabitants that in had the 16th century.

The sheriff of Vera denounces a slave for having fled his master who was the regidor of Murcia (1629-06-07/1629-06-24)Andalusian Archives

Masters and servants

Almería was an enclave for the slave trade for centuries, owing to its strategic location between two continents. Testimonies dating back as far as the 11th century document the use of slave labor to satisfy demand in the silk, marble and ceramics industries. Moreover, there was an increase in the number of slaves in the 16th century. One of the reasons for this increase was the strengthening trade relations between the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa, mainly Oran and Algiers.

Numerous documents about these events are stored in the archive, such as the one that is presented here. It is a court order containing a complaint about an escaped slave, with a very detailed description of his racial and facial features.

Notarial copy of the testament of Bartolomé Marín de Poveda (1703-07-04) by Notaries of Lúcar.Andalusian Archives

From Almería to the indies

Numerous documents kept in the archive record the trade and activities of citizens from Almería who left for the Americas and became involved in the new trade routes.

For example, this document is from Bartolomé Marín de Poveda, who gained extraordinary wealth and power. He came from a well-known family, of which some members emigrated from Lúcar (in Almería) to the Indies in the 17th century.

Family tree for the House of Lara (1179-07-22) by Notaries of Almería.Andalusian Archives

The pressure of nobility

In a society such as that of the Old Regime (political and social system commonly known as the Ancien Régime), citizens were concerned with promoting their social and noble status. Many documentary records relate to citizens who were granted exemptions on and ownership over assets and rights, and which guaranteed the transfer and ownership of these assets and rights.

Moreover, the archive contains diverse sources from which interesting genealogical information can be obtained.

The document on display here shows a family tree in part of a testimony requested by the Royal Court of Justice.

Sketch of the city of Vera (1753)Andalusian Archives

A panorama of Almería in the mid-17th century

The Marquis of Ensenada, the Minister of Finance under King Fernando VI, suggested a fiscal reform that involved the preparation of a general cadastre. A preliminary step of the cadastre involved informing the state of its citizens income and land revenues. The reform was eventually abandoned.

Known as El Cadastre de Ensenada, the reform was launched in 1749, and today it offers the oldest and most extensive economic overview of agricultural and local land under the Crown of Castile.

Books from nearly all the province are in the archive. Their wealth of information, systematic recording of their data and the array of investigative areas that they offer, in addition to their perfect condition, make them some of the most consulted items.

One of the preserved books can be seen here: it contains the "Respuestas Generales" declaring citizens' property and income from the City of Vera in 1753.

Book of Royal Customs Duties (1782)Andalusian Archives

Trade in Almería

Owing to its location and Mediterranean port, Almería was a main enclave for trade with North Africa.

Many preserved documents stemming from this naval-trade activity provide details on materials and goods that came and went through Almería's dock. These items came from, and were destined for, other parts of the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterranean.

The document shown here belongs to the so-called "Libros de Aduanas", or customs books, and contains information on trade conducted in the last third of the 18th century and the second half of the 19th century, as well as taxes collected for the arrival of goods and materials to the port.

Wealth Charge Book for the Lead Rent of the Presidio and Canjáyar Factory (1815/1817)Andalusian Archives

The 19th century: a mining century

Mining was the most important chapter in the history of Almería's economy in the 19th and 20th centuries, boosting the influx of investors and infrastructure in a way that transformed the province's natural and economic landscape.

The railway was the chosen method of transport for mining production while the waterways served as an outlet for trade and exports.

The book shown here is the record of charges for revenues from lead in the factories of Presidio (Fondón) and Canjáyar.

Record file of the iron mine "El Coloso" by Luis Siret Cels (1899-12-01/1901-03-02)Andalusian Archives

Engineers and archaeologists

Engineering and archeology are traditionally linked. In the second half of the 19th century in Spain, some of the most distinguished engineers, university professors and other professionals were forerunners in the development of archeology—including the Siret mining-engineer brothers.

Luis Siret Cels came to Almería to work as a mining engineer in Sierra Almagrera and was a pioneer of Andalusian archeology. He discovered the prehistoric civilizations Millares and the Argar, and maintained a close relationship with famous archaeologists such as Jorge Bonsor.

The selected document is the Registration of the "El Coloso" mine, located in Cuevas del Almanzora, filed by Luis Siret in 1899.

Nicolas Salmeron´s certificate of qualification in Philosophy Front view (1847-06-02)Andalusian Archives

Salmerón and Federal Spain

In light of his intellectual and political career, Nicolás Salmerón, President of the First Spanish Republic, is one of the most prominent figures of 19th-century Spain. His thinking and personal journey convey the profound and turbulent political changes that took place in the second half of the 19th century.

Born in 1837 in Alhama la Seca, now Alhama de Almería, his political thought was characterized by the defense of the autonomous regions of Spain. His idea that Spain is both "one and diverse, one and plural" is widely recognized, which makes him the forerunner of the Autonomous Communities of Spain, as they are known today.

The document shown here is a record of his personal life as a student: It shows the grades he obtained in the Institute of Secondary Education of Almería.

Plan of the extension project of the Paseo de Almería (1886-11-25)Andalusian Archives

The city is transformed

Various infrastructural projects were undertaken in Almería between the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century. Driven by economic growth in the province, these projects dramatically changed the area.

The project shown here was designed by the architect and town planner Trinidad Cuartara Cassiniello in 1886. As the son of emigrants who had come to Almería at the beginning of the 19th century in the hope of working in the mining industry, he played a fundamental role in the urban transformation of the city, transforming it into the Almería that we see today.

The blueprint shows the city expanding towards the south and the sea, thanks to an extension from the Paseo from Rueda López Street (formerly La Vega) to the old Rambla (which has still not been channeled).

Salt lake of Roquetas General Topographic Plan (1899)Andalusian Archives

The salinas

The salinas "Salinas de Dalías" and "Roquetas de Mar" were sold off by the state and acquired by private owners, including overseas companies, in a long process that lasted from 1870 to 1917.

Over the first half of the 20th century, the new owners transformed the salinas into salt production facilities. The areas were also used to house workers, such as the workers in the Salinas, and to build dams for loading and unloading ships (which mostly carried Scandinavians and Icelanders looking for salt for salted fish).

This topographic map, drawn by Enrique Aznar in 1899, is part of a sales dossier used in the salinas industry. It was drawn by the Treasury Delegation, whose responsibility it was to mark out the salinas, assess uses for the land, and value the salinas for sale.

Authorization file of the band of street musicians titled The disinherited of life (1926)Andalusian Archives

The "carnaval"

Since the beginning of the 20th century, programs and posters for the festive activities of the city, including dances, theatrical performances and processions, have been stored in the archive, so that they could be sent to the civil governor at a moment's notice.

"Carnaval" celebrations take place immediately before the Christian (predominantly Catholic) observance of Lent. They consist of dances and parades (carnivals) where participants wear masks and costumes. This tradition has survived over time to the current day, and there are many accounts of the activities and formations of the carnival groups since participants have to formally sign up, name their group leader and declare the content of their act before they can participate in the carnival.

Therefore, in addition to registering, they had to be authorized to sing the lyrics of their songs, such as tangos, cuplés and pasodobles. Given the burlesque and satirical themes of the songs, which often used the social and political context of the time as a source of humor and parody, the lyrics had to be approved by the local government based on their content.

The lyrics sung by the group shown here are from the 1926 carnival. The document is one of the oldest of its type in the archive.

Poster of the bullfights that were held on 22 and 24 august in the bull ring of Almería (1895) by unknown author.Andalusian Archives


The Plaza de Toros (Bulls' Square) in Almería, inaugurated in 1888, has been the location for numerous bullfighting festivals. All of these festivals needed authorization from the local government. Nowadays, they are authorized by the presiding government office.

Government permits for these bullfighting festivals have been preserved in the archive, along with a collection of posters and announcements, the oldest of which dates back to 1895.

Statistics of passenger departure by sea (1920-11-09)Andalusian Archives


Spain saw a period of mass emigration from the end of the 19th century until around the 1930s.

Despite some statistical gaps, this archive contains records of the ships and passengers who left Spain between 1901 and 1950.

These documents contain passenger lists used to create the Official Statistics on Migratory Movements. They provide diverse and precise information about the people who departed during this period, including their first names, surnames, gender, age, marital status, profession, level of education, destination and ultimate place of residence.

Entrance exam by Federico García Lorca (1908-09-21)Andalusian Archives

Lorca in Almería

The Historical Archive of the Province of Almería houses documents related to the schooling of this poet from Granada, who attended some undergraduate classes in the city of Almería. They provide substantial records of his academic education.

The document is Federico García Lorca's entrance exam from the Institute of Secondary Education of Almería, where he applied for a bachelor's degree in 1908.

Letter from Domingo Domínguez, mayor of the Cabo de Gata neighborhood, to the Civil Governor requesting food for the refugees (1937-02-14)Andalusian Archives

"La desbandá"

The bombing and flight of the civilian population that occurred on the Malaga-Almería highway is one of the bloodiest events of the Spanish Civil War.

The event known as "La Desbandá" refers to civilians' urgent and desperate departure from Malaga to Almería. They fled from the occupation of General Francisco Franco's rebel troops on February 8, 1937.

Thousands of people were terrorized by war dispatches and radio broadcasts made by General Queipo de Llano on Radio Seville. A horrifying number of fugitives, most of whom were women, children, elderly and wounded, were consumed by fear, hunger, exhaustion and death. They were persecuted by Franco's foreign troops, including Moors, Mussolini's soldiers, overseas soldiers and German air bombers, who mercilessly attacked Malaga's civilian population.

Documents bearing witness to this event have been preserved in this archive in Almería. The letter on display here shows a request for supplies for refugees that was sent to the civil governor.

Filming file for Lawrence of Arabia Photography (1962)Andalusian Archives

Almería "land of cinema"

The film An Eye for an Eye, shot in the Tabernas desert in 1966, is considered the first production that made Almería's landscape known.

In its wake, films like Cleopatra, Patton, Conan the Barbarian, Three Ruthless Ones, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Death of a President were shot in the 60s and 70s.

Thanks to shooting films in the region, the film industry was boosted and tourism became a source of income for the province. This photograph from 1962, shows a moment in the shooting of the film Lawrence of Arabia.

Filming file for Lawrence of Arabia Filming file for Lawrence of ArabiaAndalusian Archives

Lawrence of Arabia

Directed by David Lean and starring Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif and Antony Quinn, Lawrence of Arabia may be the biggest blockbuster made in this region. It took more than two years to shoot the film.

The image shown here is of a document created by the local government to allow film shooting in the natural landscape of Almería.

Statistics of movements of travelers in hotels and tourist camps (1972)Andalusian Archives


In the 1950s, Spain established itself as a tourist destination.

This decade saw the development of infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, airports and urban developments, designed to facilitate tourism in Spain. This development began in the Costa del Sol and took a few years to reach Almería. Tourism took off in the area thanks to two fundamental events: the declaration of Aguadulce as a National Tourist Interest in 1964, and the opening of its airport in 1968.

Tourist Day photograph (1976)Andalusian Archives

This photograph was taken in 1976, on the Day of the Tourist: a celebration that became widespread along the coastal towns during the tourism boom.

Credits: Story

Historical Archive of the Province of Almería: Digital fragments of history

Organized by: Ministry of Culture of the Regional Government of Andalusia

Curator: María Luisa Andrés Uroz
Texts: María Luisa Andrés Uroz and Diomedes Parra Rodríguez. Historical Archive of the Province of Almería
Photographs: Ramona Bianca Rus, Diomedes Parra Rodríguez and Yalila Dayanara Romero Álvarez
Digital Exhibition: Digital Exhibition: Charo Andreu Abrio.
Directorate General of Cultural Innovation and Museums.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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