Cártama is a town and municipality in the province of Málaga, part of the autonomous community of Andalusia, southern Spain. The municipality is situated approximately 17 km from Málaga. It is one of the most extensive towns in the province, covering c. 105 km². Cártama has a population of approximately 15,000 residents.
Situated in the heart of the Guadalhorce valley, at the foot of two small sierras, and surrounded by thousands of orange and lemon trees, its territory forms part of the Hoya de Málaga, some 17 km from the provincial capital. It stretches across both banks of the river.
From its main vantage point, the Hill of the Virgin, can be seen the different communities which make up the town: Cártama Pueblo, the ancient town with a 3000-year history and streets laid out in Moorish style; Estación de Cartama, which has its origin in the 1865 railway station; El Sexmo, Doñana, Aljaima and the Sierra de Gibralgalia, with views of the whole valley as far as Coín,Álora, Casarabonela and Málaga itself.
The original town, Cártama Pueblo, stretches across the steep side of the Hill of the Virgin (240 m over the sea level). Its buildings and roads follow the contours of the hill, and reflect the varied topography of the area.
One of the town's most well-known features is the iron bridge (the "green bridge" or puente verde) over the Guadalhorce river, and which provided access between Estación and the pueblo before its replacement by a more modern road bridge. This area has been restored as a recreational area, and an extensive riverside leisure area is now planned.
The strategic position that Cártama holds, being on a natural route from the coast to the interior, made it an obvious place to settle. The area has been successively occupied by Iberians, Tartessians, Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Byzantines and Arabs until it was finally conquered by the Christians in 1485. It was one of the last Moorish strongholds to fall to the army of King Ferdinand the Catholic.
The Phoenicians, who were already established in Málaga, made incursions to the interior via the river. They gave the town its first recorded name, Cartha, which means "concealed city" or "hidden city". Later, the Romans renamed it Cartima, founding the town in 195 BC, and providing it with strong defences. The Roman occupation lasted for six centuries, and during this time it was one of the principal towns of the province. Based on the sheer volume of archaeological sites – mosaics, sculptures, burial grounds and road remains have been found – the area must have been heavily populated. The baths of Cartima, with their fabled curative powers, were famous during this period.
The Hermitage of Our Lady of the Remedies (La Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios) is situated on the Hill of the Virgin and which has been designated a building of historical and cultural interest. It was built on the site of a previous Hermitage from the 15th century, and is a very beautiful building with an approach which winds up the hill above the pueblo, and which commands superb views of the surrounding area.
A remnant of the Roman period is the 2nd-century AD column, called the Humilladero Cross, after for the forged iron cross attached to its top. This well-preserved column is an important reminder of the "Cartima Municipium", and for this reason is incorporated in the town's heraldic crest. It was saved and placed on its current site in 1752 to mark the excavations carried out then by the Marquis de Valdeflores, as an inscription in its base testifies.
The castle dates from the 10th century, when the city was ruled by the Moors. It sits astride a ridge which dominates the surrounding area, and offers wonderful panoramic views. Between the 13th and 15th centuries its strategic situation meant that it became one of Málaga's more important defences, guarding against access from the Guadalhorce valley, which was one of the easier routes to mount an attack on the capital. Its construction is typically military, with a double defensive enclosure; the first had ten towers, while the second, nearer the town, had eight towers and another walled tower. It was well equipped to resist siege, as it had two wells, dug in the time of the Caliphs. The castle's capture by the Catholic Monarchs in 1485 is recorded in the bas-reliefs of the Coro in the Cathedral of Toledo, which testifies to Cártama's importance at the time. Once the Christians recaptured Málaga, however, the castle fell into progressive decay.
The Church of Saint Peter the Apostle, built on the site of the old mosque after the Christian capture of the city. It is still standing and has recently been extensively refurbished.
In the street Calle Viento is the house of the poet José González Marín, who was born in Cártama in 1889 and died there in 1956.
On the same street is the house of Jose Alarcon Lujan, who was born in the town in 1821 and died there in 1902. The house is an elegant mansion which still preserves the architectural beauty of the period.