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History and tradition

The origins of the district

The origins of the human settlements in the Sierra de Guadarrama district date back to the Neolithic. The archaeological sites, especially those in Manzanares El Real, are proof of this.

These first settlers lived in caves and crags, and shepherding was their main occupation. Some scholars claim that they belonged to the Carpetanos tribe, hence the name given to this mountain for a long time: Carpetanos Mountains.

There are traces of later civilisations, such as Romans, Visigoths and Muslims and from the latter comes the name of “Guadarrama” – from the Arabic term Uad-Er-Ramel, which means “river of the sands.” The district has gained in importance in the Reconquest period, from the 10th century on, and underwent an obvious economic development. To these lands arrived settlers of the north plateau, mainly shepherds from Segovia, attracted by the rich pastures and the abundance of water. For more than three centuries, clashes over the ownership of the region between Madrid and Segovia were frequent because it was a borderland.

To settle these disputes, King Alfonso X called “the Wise” created the territorial entity El Real de Manzanares, which included Manzanares El Real and 19 other villages. However, when King Sancho IV arrived on the throne, he ceded this territory to the inhabitants of Segovia.

The disputes continued until King Juan I, in the 14th century, ceded these territories to the Mendoza family as a feudal entailed estate. Thus, this family of nobles owned these lands until the dissolution of El Real de Manzanares, in the 16th century, when the title of “Villa” was accorded to most of the towns that belonged to this entailed estate. The moving of the Court of Felipe II from Valladolid to Madrid entailed an important social and industrial impulse for the region.


Traditional crafts and the landscape

Traditional crafts have been linked to resources of the district: pastures, granite, forests and water. These trades have left an important mark in shaping the mountain landscape. This district has forest areas of great socioeconomic and ecological importance.

The forest floor of the Sierra de Guadarrama has been exploited and transformed by Man through agriculture, cattle breeding and logging, according to his needs. For centuries, forest lands were used to get wood and coal, while today they are used for livestock breeding and hunting. In areas where there was greater livestock activity, and less forest, spaces such as grasslands, pastures and grazing areas were set, in contrast to the lands densely forested. From the very beginning, all towns had in their vicinity lands for agriculture, small orchards, flax fields, arable lands and rye fields, lands used by families to feed themselves and the cattle. Nowadays, these areas barely continue to exist. At the same time, the large granite areas Sierra has had made the development of stonework possible, mostly in granite quarries. Traces of this activity can be found in the surroundings of almost all municipalities.

Finally, there are numerous trades linked to water, such as natural ice boxes exploitation, laundrywomen or flour mills; all these trades, relevant in many municipalities of the district.