Postcard from Malaga, Spain: The Alcazaba and Castillo protected Malaga for centuries

The Teatro Romano at the base of the Alcazaba

Built in the 1st century BC during the reign of Emperor Augustus (63 BC-19 AD), the ruins of the Teatro Romano served as a convenient quarry for the Moorish fortress being constructed above in the 700s. Some of the amphitheatre’s columns and capitals were recycled and can be picked out in the Alcazaba.

As for the Teatro Romano, through the centuries it was filled with rubble and forgotten until “rediscovered” during a construction project in 1951. Excavation and restoration did not begin until 1995, and it reopened for outdoor performances in 2011.

Entrances to the Alcazaba were angled advantageously on the hillside to protect the Moorish fortress. Most of the Alcazaba’s remaining palatial structures were erected between the 11th and 14th centuries.

The security of the Alcazaba was eroded with the advent of artillery usage in warfare. So in the 14th century, Yusuf I (1318-1354) built a hilltop castle, Castillo de Gibralfaro, to protect Alcazaba down below.

The ascent to the castle was a climb. Upon arrival at the top, of course, we observed a shuttle bus that approached it from the other side. The climb did, however, make one appreciate its topographic advantage with commanding view on all sides, particularly of the harbor.

The descent was somewhat challenging as the soles of my shoes bore a seemingly impenetrable layer of wax from weeks of wandering around Andalusian streets coated in wax from candlelit Holy Week processions. It has taken several hundred more miles of walking to finally render the rubber soles safe again.

Following the expulsion of Moorish rulers in 1487, the Castillo remained a military garrison until 1925.

Postcard from Antequera, Spain: Where women are not depicted as the weaker sex

Romans. Visigoths. Moors. Then Christians. As in Ronda, evidence of the waves of occupiers choosing to fortify a natural citadel in Andalucia remains in Antequera. Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, an early (early 1500s) Renaissance church, dominates the hilltop with its Alacazaba fortress.

A replica of a 1760 float from the Corpus Christi processions parked near the front of the church is what stands out. Tarasca depicts a powerful woman, representing faith, conquering the seven deadly sins, symbolized by a snarling seven-headed dragon.

Then there are the faded murals on the church’s walls. Look closely. The Virgin Mary is not the only role model for young women here. The featured saints are all women. Women at war, leading Christian forces to victory.

And in the church of San Sebastian, there is a statue of a young woman gazing toward heaven. In her right hand, she bears a sword pointing downward to the head of a slain Moor at her feet.

Growing up with these images, are the women of Antequera particularly strident?

We lunched in a small restaurant patronized by locals that balanced things out by presenting the male side of the equation – the walls were covered with photos of matadors.