OUR local village Montejaque and its neighbour Benaoján, in the Serranía de Ronda, featured on German TV’s SWR channel this week.

Spätzle auf Spanisch
was a documentary about the 50-year-long links between these two villages in the Sierra de Grazalema natural park and the southern German town of Knittlingen (Baden-Wuerrtemberg).

From 1960 onwards hundreds, later thousands, of andaluces went to Germany to work as part of the German government’s Gastarbeiterprogramm (Guest Workers Scheme).  Unemployment, poverty, hunger and squalor were the order of the day in post-Civil War Andalucía, so this was an opportunity too good to miss.

The sign at the entrance to Knittlingen

The men went first, later to be followed by their wives and families. From the Serrania de Ronda alone some 8,000 people headed north, with the villages of Montejaque, Benaoján, El Gastor and Igualeja being the biggest providers of workers.

The majority initially headed to Baden-Wuerttemberg and the industries of the Neckar valley around Stuttgart. The strong German Mark and the weak Peseta enabled these Gastarbeiter to invest in houses, farms or businesses back home in Andalucía.  Children of the émigrés born in Germany grew up bilingual.

Today many montejaqueños remain in Germany in the area around Knittlingen.  Although the official Gastarbeiterprogramm ended in  Germany in 1970, Spaniards continued to go there to work.  Older ones started to return to Andalucíá because they had achieved their aims or longed to return home to their villages and their families.

In the 1980s even more headed back because of the economic boom in Spain and growing signs of economic weakness in Germany, especially following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent re-unification of Germany.

The TV documentary was the brainchild of German author Erica Ruetz, who owns property in Montejaque.  She became fascinated by the Hispano-German link and began to research it vigorously.

The result was a fascinating programme which focused on interviews with residents of the three towns, some who remain in Knittlingen and others that have moved back to Andalucía, and probed the reasons for their choices. Monica, daughter of Antonio, a montejaqueño who emigrated to Knittlingen, was born and brought up there, and married a German man, Charly. They decided to move to Montejaque several years ago and don’t regret it one bit. They love the relaxed lifestyle in Andalucíá and their young daughter Sara is growing up bilingual. Dad Antonio has also returned to his home village with Enisa, the wife he met and married in Knittlingen. Others, however, would not dream of living in Spain, as they enjoy the comfortable lives they have built up in Germany.

The mayors of Montejaque, Benaoján and knittlingen sign the official partnership agreement last year

Good contacts have always been a feature of the “partnership”. In 1986 a delegation from Montejaque, led by the then mayor, Francisco Montes Montes, together with the village band and a dance group, made a successful visit to Knittlingen.  The following year a delegation from Knittlingen visited Montejaque and inaugurated the Avenida de Knittlingen, the main road into the village.

Regular civic and cultural visits have continued ever since.

In June 2010 the three mayors put the official seal on the 50-year relationship between the three towns with an official ceremony held in Knittlingen.
Locals in Montejaque and Benaoján, many of whom lived and worked in Germany, and have German TV reception, watched Spätzle auf Spanisch, tickled pink at seeing their friends and neighbours, and, in some cases, themselves, on the telly!

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