Hidden in the mountains of the Marina Alta and regarded as ‘the pearl of Valencia’, Vall de Laguar is not only beautiful, but steeped in history and intrigue. The Vall de Laguar is a chain of three villages overlooking the “Barranc del Infierno” gorge. The valley obtains its name from the arabic “Al-Agwar” which means “the caves”.
As you climb up the valley, the first village you reach is Campell, then Fleix, and finally, Benimaurell. This area was the last stronghold of the descendents of the Moors who were forcibly expelled in 1609. There is a story, half legend, about the final stand of the moors on the “Cavall Verd” Ridge (Valenciano for Green Horse – Caballo Verde in Castillian/Spanish), which runs above these villages on the south side of the valley. The story goes that in 1609 Ezzme de Laguart (1580-1609), a beautiful sorceress and healer from Laguar, incited people to rebel against the expulsion edict by spreading the prophecy of the green horse. At the order of their improvised leader, a farmer named Mellini, 1500 rebels converged around the “Cavall Verd” (the green horse), the crest that lies above the Vall de Laguar villages, ready to resist expulsion. Armed with just slingshots, stones and a crossbow, these peasant farmers and families faced five thousand well-armed and trained soldiers from Naples and Sicily. The result of that battle was inevitable: Felipe III Army massacred thousands of moors and the rest either leapt from the cliffs or took refuge in the caves of the Cavall Verd, whose name evokes precisely the legendary figure of a green horse that waited in vain to save them. The valley was repopulated by people from the island of Mallorca in 1611, and today you will still find some families with Mallorcan family names in these villages.
Sanatorium San Francisco de Borja aka Sanitarium Fontilles is situated in the Vall de Laguar, between Orba and Campbell, and was founded by attorney Tormos Joaquín Ballester Lloret and the Jesuit father albal Carlos Ferris Vila. It was opened in 1909 by the Association Fontilles and since then has served leprosy patients from every corner of the globe. The beauty and serenity of Fontilles make it well worth a visit, and there is a very interesting museum there sharing further information about the organisation, mainly run by volunteers.
For over 100 years, the sanatorium has been fundamental in the healing and elimination of leprosy in Spain. It also has a specialized laboratory where research projects are conducted in collaboration with universities and national and foreign entities. Currently the Sanatorium is still operating as a non profit organization, working for the right to health and the fight against social exclusion experienced by sick and disabled people, with particular attention to leprosy and other diseases linked to poverty. The organisation performs development cooperation projects and health care for older people with varying degrees of dependency and chronically ill people who need post-operative care and rehabilitation. This work takes place in Spain, in Fontilles Borja Geriatric Center and Hospital Ferrís located in La Vall de Laguar, Alicante, as well as is other countries, such as Brasil, China, India, Equatorial Guinea and Nicaragua where there are still people who are marginalized and rejected because of poverty-related diseases or disabilities.