- History of Gata de Gorgos.
Gata de Gorgos is situated in the northeast of the Marina Alta, in the plain formed to the south of the Montgó. It has a municipal area of 20.30 Km2, bordering Pedreguer, Dénia, Teulada, Benissa, Senija and Llíber. More than two thirds are mountainous land, especially in the south, with elevations such as the Solana, the tossal de Llacinta, the Serrillars, the tossal Aspre or the tossal del Moro. The surface is flatter in the northern third of the municipality, which has facilitated communication with Xàbia to the east and with Pedreguer and Ondara to the northwest. This land is the most productive, with irrigated areas reached by the Valls and Rana ravines. Gata currently has 5,825 inhabitants.
The former town was born in the northern side of the Gorgos river, between this source of water and a ravine. We know that the town had widened beyond the Barranquet in the XVII century. At the end of the 30’s, after the bridge of Alcolaies was built, the town began to spread to the other river bank.
The first traces of human presence around the village are the cave paintings found in the Cover Roges, and some fixtures dating from 12.000 years B.C. In addition, the remains of a Roman villa have been identified in the area of Els Ecles, dating from the 1st and the 5th centuries B.C. These are linked to other discoveries in nearby fields, such as the pottery of L’alter de Perdigó, in Denia’s municipal area, or the ceramic settlement of La Rana.
Nevertheless, there is not clear written record of the existence of the village until 1348, when Pere ‘el Ceremoniós’ gave Gata to the Catalan noble Berenguer d’Abella. The book of Reparto (1249) had previosly mentioned the farmhouse of Gorgos, at the area of Ocaive, which was subsequently linked to Gata, near the farmhouse of Ecles at the end of the 14th century and beginning of 15h century.
Until 1609 Gata was one of the many places in La Marina Alta that were inhabited by Muslims. At the end of the 15th century, Gata passed into the Íxer hands, and also to the Lods of Xalo. In 1535 it was dismembered ecclesiastically from Denia and it established its own parish. From this period the Islamic cementery found under the houses of Xaló is still preserved as well as other constructions, such as the Senieta of Gorgos, the well of Pedreguer and the Olivo dels Moros.
After the expulsion of the Moorish in 1609 Gata, where there used to be around 150 houses, was depopulated. However the streets got full of people again very soon: the “Town Charter” was signed on the 4th of March in 1611 by the new inhabitants and Pere Acasi de Joan Montagut and Íxer, Lord of l’Alcúdia, Valle de Xaló and Gata. Nearly the half of the 26 signatories did not stay. In 1645 Jerónima d íxer and 48 settlers approved a new contact that didn’t impose economic censures on the residents, but instead required the sharing of fruits. The new ‘gateros’ were mainly Valencian as well as from the Balearics (mostly Mallorca and some from Ibiza), which explains some local speech pecularities.
Apparently, the current church was built at the end of the XVII century, although the tradition attributes this wrongly to the Duchess of Almodóvar, who was born in the middle of the following century. The building of the Hermitage of Santísimo Cristo del Calvario dates from the same age. Tradition tells us that the Napoleonic troops couldn’t pass through a big white tree which was near the Chapel, where the ‘gateros’ had made an strong-hold. This miracle of the Santísimo Cristo del Calvario saved the local residents.
The XIX century has been pointed out as one of the most important times for the raisin trade, which caused a change in the town’s geography: big country houses were built to plant Moscatel grapes, and many riuraus were made around the area to protect the raisins from the rain. However, during the second half of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century, emigration made a big impact on the population. Many families went to work in La Ribera, or to collect grapes in France; others emigrated to Algeria, and especially to Argentina, and other American countries, such as Cuba or the United States. In 1941, when the emigration process was still ongoing, 63 heads of families are documented to have emigrated to America, which amounted to a total of 192 ‘gateros’ , considering the people they were in charge of.
These were also the boom years of trade in products made with ‘llata’, woven by the gateras with bleached and dried palm leaves. This economic activity along with raisin production was very lucrative for Gata and the nearby villages; not in vain, documentation relating to the two industries has been found dating back to the 15th century. Furthermore, the arrival of the train in 1941 helped the economy. Five years later, the name of Gorgos was imposed on Gata by Royal Decree so as to distinguish it from the other Gata, located in Extremadura.
In the decade of 60’s in the last century, raisin production ceased and the factories of llata went bankrupt. The factories began to disappear or be transformed into furniture factories of importation products. This could be the reason why people didn’t bet on the construction of houses for tourism until the new millennium.
Extracted from the brochure "Toponimia dels pobles valencians: Gata de Gorgos" from Joan Giner Monfort.