RAUL Orellana, an ex-primary school teacher and PP politician, became mayor of Orgiva in 2019, taking the helm of ‘the world’s best’ town, set in the Alpujarra of Granada.
A thriving market town nestled in the Guadalfeo valley between the Sierra Nevada and Sierra de Lujar mountain ranges, Orgiva is a cultural melting pot combining Spanish lifestyle and traditions with alternative communities, such as those found in Beneficio, Cigarrones and El Morreon. It’s also home to famous author Chris Stewart, and the Olive Press was launched there in 2006.
The Olive Press caught up with affable mayor, Raul Orellana, in Orgiva’s town hall, which is steeped in history. It was built during the 16th to 18th century, on the site of an ancient Moorish tower which successfully sheltered the Moors during their rebellion. The impressive building is now the seat of the town council and, these days, rebels are of a different kind!
Raul explains: “Órgiva has countless corners to discover and a fantastic environmental richness. We have some typical neighbourhoods, where you can enjoy a pleasant walk and, of course, the Palace of the Counts of Sástago, which is now converted into our town hall. We also have what is possibly one of the world’s most important Cervantes classrooms.”
Raul is speaking of the public library, Hurtado de Mendoza which has a vast collection of Cervantes texts in its Cervantina Hall, covering 50 languages. Miguel Cervantes created Don Quixote, and a statue in Calle Doctor Fleming commemorates the famous author.
As well as attracting those who want to read Cervantes, or relax in hospitality venues, Orgiva caters for active pursuits, such as walking, mountain biking and horse riding. Says Raul: “There are many hiking trails in Órgiva, but we can highlight the Path of the Centenary Olive Trees, Circular of Bayacas, ‘Camino de los Rojos’, ‘Ruta de los Mineros’, Route BTT Valle del Guadalfeo, Circular Órgiva-La Chuca-Río Guadalfeo-Órgiva or the ‘Paseo de the Vegueta’.”
Whatever your background or country of origin, you’re likely to encounter kindred spirits in Orgiva. Raul says: “Órgiva is an enclave with unparalleled cultural diversity. The multicultural aspect is fundamental and has become one of our most important hallmarks.”
However, as Raul points out, the element of diversity brings some challenges. For example, he has previously voiced concerns about Orgiva’s alternative settlements, such as Beneficio, where some structures don’t have permission to exist, or people have stationed their live-in vehicles in the natural park. He says: “We are clear about the cultural richness in the population, but there must be some order. For example, there must be relevant authorisation and minimum conditions of habitability and respect.”
Clearly, Orgiva is a place where free spirits combine with the more traditional elements of society, requiring tolerance on both sides!
With such a melting pot at play, creative souls have been attracted to Orgiva in their droves – including musicians, authors, artists, and ‘digital nomads’ who work remotely, using the internet. Says Raul: “Orgiva is steeped in artistic activity. There’s a lot of local talent and much that has chosen to stay here.”
An outlet for creativity, Orgiva’s fiestas have a multicultural element, with bands and performers of all nationalities, an annual pantomime organised by Brits, and even the occasional cake-baking contest. The main fiesta takes place during the last week of September or the first week of Orgiva, while the ‘feria’ of ‘Christo de la Expiracion’ (Jesus) is celebrated 10 days before easter, with a mass firework event in the centre of town making some serious bangs!
Raul says: “We have festivals throughout Orgiva and its neighbouring towns, with years of tradition. For young people, there are live music activities, contests, sports, and summer camps.”
Sporting events are also increasing, with a night race and kayaking down the Guadalfeo river planned for later this year. Meanwhile, the town has increased its municipal parking to cater for the influx of visitors.
In view of its relaxed atmosphere and stunning surrounds, many newcomers have decided to make Orgiva their permanent home. Raul advises: “I invite people to come and discover for themselves this very special town. Enjoy the best place in the world to live but do it in an orderly manner and seek integration.”
He reflects: “People of 65 different nationalities have chosen Órgiva. What better recommendation could you have?”
- Travel Spain: These are the villages you should visit in the Alpujarra south of Granada
- Viable alternative: A look at the ‘hippy’ communities around Orgiva in Spain’s Alpujarras
- Nowhere to Lorca, everything to me: A personal journey through the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain’s Granada