La Calahorra was the capital of the estate of Don Rodrigo de Mendoza, Marques of the Zenete, from which derives the name of the area. From here not only the totality of its territory was controlled, but also the pass towards the Alpujarra and the Mediterranean coast through the Puerto de la Ragua. For That reason it was built an authentic palace similar to the Italian ones that he admired so much, fortifying it in its outside under the form of a typical post-medieval castle that is today the building of biggest historical and artistic interest of the region.
La Calahorra serves as northern entrance to the Puerto de la Ragua and its ski resort at the back, in the pass between two slopes of Sierra Nevada. It is a district that has colourful traditions and interesting patrimony. A stroll by its beautiful streets will allow the visitor to contemplate to important constructions and to impregnate himself of its culture.
The origins of this district go back to the Prehistoric period, as the archaeological rests found in the area testify. It was occupied by the Phoenicians and it was included in the old Bastetana province, being one of their populations the so called Arcilacis, which later derived in Alcala Horra or Castillo de las Peñas. The Visigoths also occupied these land and later the Muslims. In 1489 it was given to the Catholic Kings, although later, in 1568, it supported the Moorish insurrection against the Crown. The revolt was brutally repressed and after being suffocated the Moorish were expelled from the district. Later it was repopulated by settlers from other regions.
After the Reconquista, the land was given to the Marques of the Zenete, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar y Mendoza, who was the first-born son of the Great Cardinal Mendoza. Peculiarly, the Queen Isabel, so strict in moral affaires, allowed the slippings of the cardinal. The name of Rodrigo obeys to the persistence of his father to become related with El Cid. In fact, he inherited the County of El Cid in Jadraque (Guadalajara). The first Marques of Zenete had fame of foolish and violent. He was married once and his wife died, falling in love with a girl of fifteen who kidnapped from a convent and with he married. In spite of the obstacles, Rodrigo built for his lover the castle-palace of La Calahorra.
He had a refined education and it is said that it had a fabulous library. His daughter Mencía also stood out by her culture and she was always watched by the Inquisition, because she commented that she propagated the Erasmus cult by the region.
Among its dishes, the gachas, the empedrado and a peculiar stew called “sustento”, with potatoes, ribs, garlic and garlic sausage, stand out. Today, the Moorish influences can also be discovered in classic dishes of the gastronomy of the region as it is the rin-ran or cod of which they have many variants. They are also excellent artisan cheeses and sausages.