In the year 1198, Alonso Pérez de Sanabria, Captain of the forces of Alfonso VIII, took (in that wonderfully graphic mediaeval sense of the verb ‘to take’) the Castle of Peñarroya. While debating with himself at precisely which angle a particular prisoner’s head should be parted from his shoulders, this prisoner, known to history as Allen Ilec, revealed that he knew of a secret treasure and suggested they might do a deal. He turned out to be telling the truth, the deal was struck, Ilec kept his head, at least until the next battle, and in the roof of the castle the treasure was found. It included the lost image of Our Lady of Peñarroya, a dark Virgin venerated in the area since before that time.
A shrine was built within the castle for it, and there it has been ever since. It’s taken annually to the nearest village so it can be carried back again to the shrine, accompanied by a large crowd of people. Then everybody fries sausages and gets drunk. That’s how these things usually work around here.
In 1959 Franco decided to build a dam at that exact spot. The castle stands on an eminence commanding a spectacular, and strategic, view of the valley in both directions, and of the surrounding hills. This position, just where the valley narrows for a moment, and with rocks on either side, was perfect for the head of a reservoir. So the Generalissimo thought, and he was probably right.