Pitarque is located in the middle of the Pitarque river valley at 998 meters above sea level. The name Pitarque apparently comes from Arabic, and could derive from “Abu-Tariq” or “Tareq”. Its translation could be “Father of the irrigation ditch” and, given that the main irrigation ditch was built by the Arabs, it is likely that it was given that name because of its importance.
The history of Pitarque
It is known that the first settlement was in the area called Pitarquejo and that the inhabitants were Iberians. Later, with the need to protect themselves, they went into what is today the town of Pitarque. It was also an Arab settlement since the present church is located on what was once the Arab castle.
There is evidence of the existence of the locality from the date on which the Commander of Amposta ceded the lands of Pitarque to Mr. Palacini, back in 1214. Pitarque was part of the Baylía Sanjuanista and Aliaga until the disentailments of the 19th century.
In 1914 there was a spinning mill near the river that was flooded by a landslide. Its ruins are today called “broken factories” and denote the importance they had in the area. In 1920 a hydroelectric power plant was built on the Pitarquejo. This supplied energy to the textile factory in Aliaga and to a flour and textile factory in Pitarque. Unfortunately, the hydroelectric plant was burned by the Maquis in 1947, which meant the end of 65 jobs in the factories it supplied. Also in 1947, the power plant located at the headwaters of the Pitarque River was sabotaged. Since then, this plant has provided public and private lighting to 43 municipalities. Finally, in 1965, it was absorbed by the company “Eléctricas Reunidas de Zaragoza”.
The natural environment
The main attraction of the town is known as the source of the Pitarque River, 5 kilometers upstream. The source is a large karst upwelling, a point where groundwater emerges from the enormous natural reservoir formed by the Cretaceous limestone of the Lastra and the Sierra de la Cañada. It is one of the main tourist attractions in the region because it is a Natural Monument.
Between the source and the village of Pitarque, the valley is a lush landscape populated by rocky vegetation at the bottom and by a unique association of oaks, maples, hazelnut trees, boxwoods, guillomos and wild roses on its slopes. All this presided over by the gyrocopter flight of the numerous colony of vultures that inhabit the walls of the Nacimiento.
Two tunnels drilled in the rock at the beginning of the 20th century made it possible to cross the river narrows. They also facilitated road access to this small municipality. The open and luminous space between these narrows is known as Pitarquejo, where there are also several climbing routes (link).
The urban center occupies two hills and the valley in between. It is presided over by the church of Santa María la Mayor; a neoclassical work from 1818, “perhaps the last building constructed under the economic influence of the military orders in Teruel” (Santiago Sebastián, 1972). Of the rest of the urban complex, it is worth mentioning its popular architecture, the oven, the washhouse, the fountain, a peirón and the blacksmith’s building. There is also an 18th century mansion on Baja Street, with a painted coat of arms, a couple of hermitages, the Virgen de la Peña, on the way to the birth, and San Cristóbal.