Puente Genil is situated on the River Genil and has the distinction of being in the geographical centre of Andalucia.
Puente Genil is a relatively new town. In the 15th century there were two villages separated by the River Genil: Miragenil on the west bank, which was in Seville province and La Puente de Dom Gonzalo on the east bank in Córdoba province. A stone bridge built in 1583 linked the two villages but the year after it was built it was washed away in a flood. It was not until 1874 that a bridge designed by a French architect, Lemonier, proved more lasting. Just as well, the two villages had been united into one town in 1834.
The oldest part of Puente Genil is in a loop of the river in the vicinity of the bridge. However, as the lady in the oficina de turismo explained, there is nothing left of historical value because it has all been built on. The newer part of town is a series of pedestrian streets with coffee bars, pastelerias and shops, lots of shops.
It is whilst wandering the streets that you start to see that, perhaps, the lady in the tourist office was mistaken. On Calle Jesus, a neo-Mudejar designed building comes into view. On its central turret looking out over the street, there is a huge statue of the goddess Aurora. Built in the late 19th century it was the headquarters of the San Cristóbal electricity generating company.
Near the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Victoria, is another fine building, the 19th century Casa de la Reina, designed by Anibal González, who also designed the Plaza de España in Seville. Then there is the magnificent Palace of the Duke and Duchess of Medinaceli. You will soon start to spot more.
By now you will also realize that Puente Genil has a plethora of churches, convents and chapels which neatly leads into the town’s unique selling point – the Mananta.
Mananta is the name given to the celebration in Puente Genil that lasts from Lent, right through Easter week. Lent is strictly observed and during the 40 days of Lent, various religious ceremonies take place conducted by ‘Cofradias’ and ‘Hermandades’, brotherhoods whose traditions go back centuries. In the 19th century these brotherhoods amalgamated to form ‘’corporaciones”. There are some 60 corporaciones in Puente Genil. During Easter week the brotherhoods process through the streets. All wear costumes and, depending on the procession, face masks representing figures from the old and new testaments. One corporaciones , the ‘Imperio Romano’, considered the most noble of the brotherhoods, represents the power of Imperial Rome. Behind all the costumery and ceremony is a deeply religious fervour that binds the people of the town together.
For such a new town, with little remaining of any historic past, it is surprising to see a well presented archaeological museum. You will find it contains exhibits from the nearby Fuente Alamo, Roman villa.