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I Wonder Why...?

I will be writing about aspects of Spanish history and their traditions. I am a very curious person and have always needed to know "why" they do it, and "how" it came about. So over the years while living in Spain I have made a conscious effort to discover "el porque de las cosas" and I will be sharing them with you. I hope you find it as fascinating as I do.

The Beggar's Smoke
Friday, February 3, 2023

When Christopher Columbus reached the West Indies in 1492, the natives greeted him with fruit, wooden spears and “certain dried leaves which gave off a distinct fragrance.” The Spanish sailors in Columbus’ crew appreciated the fruit but threw away the dried leaves not knowing what they were for. A few weeks later, while on a reconnaissance on the island of Cuba, two crewmen from the ship reported that they watched as natives wrapped the same type of dried leaves in maize and lit one end and inhaled the smoke from the other. Reportedly, one of the sailors tried a few puffs himself and soon became a confirmed smoker, probably the first European to do so. 

 Later explorers would learn that the new world was full of smokers and had been for hundreds of years. North American Indians prized tobacco and traded the valuable leaf regularly. While tobacco was usually smoked in simple pipes called “calumets,” Spanish explorers such as Cortez reported seeing Aztec and other Central American Indians smoking flavoured reed “cigarettes” while the natives of Cuba reportedly rolled their leaves into cigars then as now.

By the mid-16th century, Portuguese settlers in Brazil began cultivating their own tobacco for export to Europe. In 1564, Captain John Hawkins and his crew introduced pipe smoking to England and over the next few decades, the demand for American leaves grew significantly. Sir Walter Raleigh is credited with popularizing pipe smoking at the English royal court not long after. A few decades later, John Rolfe brought South American tobacco seed to the Jamestown Virginia settlement and raised the first crop of “tall tobacco” in what is now the U.S. By the 1730s, the first North American tobacco factories had appeared in Virginia manufacturing snuff.

By the mid-19th century, cigarettes were gaining in popularity in Europe. In 1843, the French Monopoly began the manufacture of cigarettes, a form of tobacco consumption which up until then had a reputation as being a “beggar’s smoke”. This name came from the first people to actually make cigarettes, as we know them today. It dates back to 16th Century Seville when the beggars would collect the scraps that were thrown away by the tobacco factories established in the city. They would tear up and crush the broken leaves that were no good for cigars and roll them up in rice paper. This custom continued for centuries and was extended by the Spanish sailors who exported it, so to speak, to all corners of the world. The Spanish were also the first to start manufacturing these cigarettes in the mid-19th century and it then quickly crossed the border into France and what had been a practice only worthy of the lower class became a symbol for the sophisticated upper class of Europe. 

However, in the 18th century, Spain built the Royal Tobacco factory in Seville, which was the gateway for tobacco from the Americas. This 18th-century industrial building was, at the time it was built the second largest building in Spain, second only to the royal residence El Escorial. It remains one of the largest and most architecturally distinguished industrial buildings ever built in Spain, and one of the oldest such buildings to survive. The factory was built just outside the Puerta de Jerez in the land known as “de las calaveras” ("of the skulls") because it had been the site of an Ancient Roman burial ground. Construction began in 1728, and proceeded by fits and starts over the next 30 years. The architects of the building were military engineers from Spain and the Low Countries.

The factory began production in 1758; the first tobacco auctions there (which were the first in Spain) took place in 1763. At that point the factory was employing a thousand men, and two hundred horses, and had 170 "mills" (“molinos”: the devices used to turn the tobacco into snuff, known in Spanish as polvo or rapé); tobacco came both from Virginia and from the Spanish colonies in the Americas. According to the inscription on two of the pillars of the drawbridge on the west side, the building was finished in 1770.

The production of snuff was heavy work: enormous sheaves of tobacco were hauled around manually, and horses turned the grinding mills. For centuries, Seville remained Spain's only manufacturer of snuff. The rising popularity of cigars resulted in part of the factory being adapted for that purpose; cigars were also made in several other Spanish cities: Cádiz, Alicante, La Coruña, and Madrid. Long after the manufacture of cigars elsewhere in Spain (and in Cuba) had become women's work, the workforce in Seville remained entirely male. By the beginning of the 19th century, 700 men were employed in the factory to make cigars, and another thousand to make snuff.

 

   

 

Over time, however, Seville's cigars developed a poor reputation. There were frequent problems with labour discipline, and quality was lower than in the factories where women made cigars; furthermore, men received better wages than women, so these inferior cigars were more expensive than those produced elsewhere. The factory became less profitable. Matters were brought to a head during the Peninsular War. The cigar-making portion of the factory closed in 1811. When it reopened in 1813, it was with a female workforce, then (from 1816) a larger, mixed workforce, and finally (after 1829) an entirely female workforce again, some 6,000 of them at the peak in the 1880s before numbers began to decrease because of mechanization.

 

 

Labour unrest was less common among the women than it had been among the men, though by no means was it unknown. There were revolts or strikes in 1838, 1842, and 1885, but none of them was sustained for more than a few days. With mechanization, the labour force reduced to 3,332 in 1906, about 2,000 in 1920, and by the 1940s only about 1,100. Although the interior has been much altered, especially during the adaptation in the 1950s for use by the University of Seville, the Royal Tobacco Factory is a remarkable example of 18th-century industrial architecture. 

The building covers a roughly rectangular area of 185 by 147 metres (610 by 480 feet), with slight protrusions at the corners. The only building in Spain that covers a larger surface area is the monastery palace of El Escorial, which is 207 by 162 metres (680 by 530 feet). There are paintings inside the Tobacco Factory recalling the women cigar makers who worked there. Outstanding among these is the painting by Gonzalo Bilbao, whose most well-known depictions of customs and manners are in the Seville Museum of Fine Arts, including other portrayals of women cigar makers. A ditch was dug around the factory with several sentry boxes, indicating a defensive use. Today it is the headquarters of Seville University.



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Milestones events in Spain's 2000 years of history
Tuesday, January 24, 2023

 

Although very difficult, the intention of this article is to summarise over two thousand years of Spanish history down into a series of bite size digestable chunks, giving you a quick outline of milestone events and key periods that shaped Spain forever and hopefully arouse enough interest so you keep discovering more about this wonderful country and its endless heritage.

 

 

 

Carthage Begins to Conquer Spain 241 BCE

Beaten in the First Punic War, Carthage – or at least leading Carthaginians – turned their attention to Spain. Hamilcar Barca began a campaign of conquest and settlement in Spain which continued under his son in law. A capital for Carthage in Spain was established at Cartagena. The campaign continued under Hannibal, who pushed further north but came to blows with the Romans and their ally Marseille, who had colonies in Iberia.

Second Punic War in Spain 218 – 206 BCE

As the Romans fought the Carthaginians during the Second Punic War, Spain became a field of conflict between the two sides, both aided by Spanish natives. After 211 the brilliant general Scipio Africanus campaigned, throwing Carthage out of Spain by 206 and beginning centuries of Roman occupation.

Spain Fully Subdued 19 BCE

Rome’s wars in Spain continued for many decades, often brutal warfare, with numerous commanders operating in the area and making a name for themselves. On occasion, the wars impinged on the Roman consciousness, with eventual victory in the long siege of Numantia being equated to the destruction of Carthage. Eventually, Agrippa conquered the Cantabrians in 19 BCE, leaving Rome ruler of the whole peninsula.

Germanic Peoples Conquer Spain 409 – 470 CE

With Roman control of Spain in chaos due to civil war (which at one point produced a short-lived Emperor of Spain), German groups: the Sueves, Vandals and Alans invaded. These were followed by the Visigoths, who invaded first on behalf of the emperor to enforce his rule in 416, and later that century to subdue the Sueves; they settled and crushed the last imperial enclaves in the 470s, leaving the region under their control. After the Visigoths were pushed out of Gaul in 507, Spain became home to a unified Visigothic kingdom, albeit one with very little dynastic continuity.

Muslim Conquest of Spain Begins 711

A Muslim force comprised of Berbers and Arabs attacked Spain from North Africa, taking advantage of a near-instant collapse of the Visigothic kingdom (the reasons for which historians still debate, the “it collapsed because it was backward” argument having been now firmly rejected); within a few years, the south and centre of Spain was Muslim, the north remaining under Christian control. A flourishing culture emerged in the new region which was settled by many immigrants.

The apex of Umayyad Power 961 – 976

Muslim Spain came under the control of the Umayyad dynasty, who moved from Spain after losing power in Syria, and who ruled first as Amirs and then as Caliphs until their collapse in 1031. The rule of Caliph Al-Hakem, from 961 – 76, was probably the height of their strength both politically and culturally. Their capital was Cordoba. After 1031 the Caliphate was replaced by a number of successor states.

The Reconquista c. 900 – c.1250

Christian forces from the north of the Iberian Peninsula, pushed partly by religion and population pressures, fought Muslim forces from the south and centre, defeating the Muslim states by the mid-thirteenth century. After this only Granada remained in Muslim hands, the Reconquista finally being completed when it fell in 1492. The religious differences between the many warring sides have been used to create national mythology of a catholic right, might and mission, and to impose a simple framework on what was a complicated era.

Spain Dominated by Aragon and Castile c. 1250 - 1479

The last phase of the Reconquista saw three kingdoms push the Muslims almost out of Iberia: Portugal, Aragon and Castile. The latter pair now dominated Spain, although Navarre clung on to Independence in the north and Granada in the south. Castile was the largest kingdom in Spain; Aragon was a federation of regions. They fought frequently against Muslim invaders and saw, often large, internal conflict.

The 100 Years War in Spain 1366 - 1389

In the latter part of the fourteenth century the war between England and France spilt over into Spain: when Henry of Trastamara, bastard half brother of the king, claimed the throne held by Peter I, England supported Peter and his heirs and France, Henry and his heirs. Indeed, the Duke of Lancaster, who married Peter’s daughter, invaded in 1386 to pursue a claim but failed. Foreign intervention in the affairs of Castile declined after 1389, and after Henry III took the throne.

Ferdinand and Isabella Unite Spain 1479 - 1516

Known as the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile married in 1469; both came to power in 1479, Isabella after a civil war. Although their role in uniting Spain under one kingdom – they incorporated Navarre and Granada into their lands – has been downplayed recently, they nonetheless united the kingdoms of Aragon, Castile and several other regions under one monarch.

Spain Starts to Build an Overseas Empire in 1492

Columbus brought knowledge of America to Europe in 1492, and by 1500 6000 Spaniards had already emigrated to the “New World”. They were the vanguard of a Spanish empire in southern and central America – and nearby islands – which overthrew the indigenous peoples and sent vast quantities of treasure back to Spain. When Portugal was subsumed into Spain in 1580, the latter became rulers of the large Portuguese empire too.

The "Golden Age" 16th Century to 1640

An era of social peace, great artistic endeavour and a place as a world power at the heart of a world empire, the sixteenth and early seventeenth century have been described as Spain’s golden age, an era when vast booty flowed in from America and Spanish armies were labelled as invincible. The agenda of European politics was certainly set by Spain, and the country helped bankroll the European wars fought by Charles V and Philip II as Spain formed part of their vast Habsburg empire, but the treasure from abroad caused inflation and Castile kept going bankrupt.

The Revolt of the Comuneros 1520- 21

When Charles V succeeded to the throne of Spain he caused upset by appointing foreigners to court positions when promising not to, making tax demands and setting off abroad to secure his accession to the Holy Roman throne. Cities rose in rebellion against him, finding success at first, but after the rebellion spread to the countryside and the nobility were threatened, the latter grouped together to crush the Comuneros. Charles V afterwards made improved efforts to please his Spanish subjects.

Catalan and Portuguese Rebellion 1640 – 1652

Tensions rose between the monarchy and Catalonia over demands on them to supply troops and cash for the Union of Arms, an attempt to create a 140,000 strong imperial army, which Catalonia refused to support. When the war in southern France was initiated to try and coerce the Catalans into joining, Catalonia rose in rebellion in 1640, before transferring allegiance from Spain to France. By 1648 Catalonia was still in active opposition, Portugal had taken to opportunity rebel under a new king, and there were plans in Aragon to secede. Spanish forces were only able to retake Catalonia in 1652 once French forces withdrew because of problems in France; the privileges of Catalonia were fully restored to ensure peace.

War of the Spanish Succession 1700 – 1714

When Charles II died he left the throne of Spain to Duke Philip of Anjou, grandson of French king Louis XIV. Philip accepted but was opposed by the Habsburgs, family of the old king who wished to retain Spain among their many possessions. Conflict ensued, with Philip supported by France while the Habsburg claimant, Archduke Charles, was supported by Britain and the Netherlands, as well as Austria and other Habsburg possessions. The war was concluded by treaties in 1713 and 14: Philip became king, but some of Spain’s imperial possessions were lost. At the same time, Philip moved to centralise Spain into one unit.

Wars of the French Revolution 1793 – 1808

France, having executed their king in 1793, pre-empted the reaction of Spain (who had supported the now dead monarch) by declaring war. A Spanish invasion soon turned into a French invasion, and peace was declared between the two nations. This was closely followed by Spain allying with France against England, and an on-off-on war followed. Britain cut Spain off from their empire and trade, and Spanish finances suffered greatly.

War against Napoleon 1808 – 1813

In 1807 Franco-Spanish forces took Portugal, but Spanish troops not only remained in Spain but increased in number. When the king abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand and then changed his mind, the French ruler Napoleon was brought in to mediate; he simply gave the crown to his brother Joseph, a dire miscalculation. Parts of Spain rose up in rebellion against the French and a military struggle ensued. Britain, already opposed to Napoleon, entered the war in Spain in support of Spanish troops, and by 1813 the French had been pushed all the way back to France. Ferdinand became king.

Independence of the Spanish Colonies c. 1800 – c.1850

While there were currents demanding independence before, it was the French occupation of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars which triggered the rebellion and struggle for independence of Spain’s American empire during the nineteenth century. Northern and southern uprisings were both opposed by Spain but were victorious, and this, coupled with damage from the Napoleonic era struggles, meant Spain was no longer a major military and economic power.

Riego Rebellion 1820

A general named Riego, preparing to lead his army to America in support of the Spanish colonies rebelled and enacted the constitution of 1812, a system supporter of King Ferdinand had drawn up during the Napoleonic Wars. Ferdinand had rejected the constitution then, but after the general sent to crush Riego also rebelled, Ferdinand conceded; “Liberals” now joined together to reform the country. However, there was armed opposition, including the creation of a “regency” for Ferdinand in Catalonia, and in 1823 French forces entered to restore Ferdinand to full power. They won an easy victory and Riego was executed.

First Carlist War 1833 – 39

When King Ferdinand died in 1833 his declared successor was a three-year-old girl: Queen Isabella II. The old king’s brother, Don Carlos, disputed both the succession and the “pragmatic sanction” of 1830 that allowed her the throne. Civil war ensued between his forces, the Carlists, and those loyal to Queen Isabella II. The Carlist’s were strongest in the Basque region and Aragon, and soon their conflict turned into a struggle against liberalism, instead of seeing themselves as protectors of the church and local government. Although the Carlists were defeated, attempts to put his descendants on the throne occurred in the Second and Third Carlist wars (1846-9, 1872-6).

Government by “Pronunciamientos” 1834 – 1868

In the aftermath of the First Carlist War Spanish politics became split between two main factions: the Moderates and the Progressives. On several occasions during this era the politicians asked the generals to remove the current government and install them in power; the generals, heroes of the Carlist war, did so in a manoeuvre known as pronunciamientos. Historians argue that these weren’t coups, but developed into a formalized exchange of power with public support, albeit at military behest.

The Glorious Revolution 1868

In September 1868 a new pronunciamiento took place when the generals and politicians denied power during previous regimes took control. Queen Isabella was deposed and a provisional government called the September Coalition formed. A new constitution was drawn up in 1869 and a new king, Amadeo of Savoy, was brought in to rule.

The First Republic and Restoration 1873 – 74

King Amadeo abdicated in 1873, frustrated that he could not form a stable government as the political parties within Spain argued. The First Republic was proclaimed in his stead, but concerned military officers staged a new pronunciamiento to, as they believed, save the country from anarchy. They restored Isabella II’s son, Alfonso XII to the throne; a new constitution followed.

The Spanish-American War 1898

The remainder of Spain’s American empire – Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines – was lost in this conflict with the United States, who were acting as allies to Cuban separatists. The loss became known as simply “The Disaster” and produced debate inside Spain about why they were losing an empire while other European countries were growing theirs.

Rivera Dictatorship 1923 – 1930

With the military about to be the subject of a government enquiry into their failures in Morocco, and with the king frustrated by a series of fragmenting governments, General Primo de Rivera staged a coup; the king accepted him as a dictator. Rivera was supported by elites who feared a possible Bolshevik uprising. Rivera only meant to rule until the country had been “fixed” and it was safe to return to other forms of government, but after a few years other generals became concerned by forthcoming army reforms and the king was persuaded to sack him.

Creation of the Second Republic 1931

With Rivera sacked, the military government could barely keep power, and in 1931 an uprising dedicated to overthrowing the monarchy occurred. Rather than face civil war, King Alfonso XII fled the country and a coalition provisional government declared the Second Republic. The first true democracy in Spanish history, the Republic passed many reforms, including women’s right to vote and separation of church and state, greatly welcomed by some but causing horror in others, including a (soon to be reduced) bloated officer corps.

The Spanish Civil War 1936 – 39

Elections in 1936 revealed a Spain divided, politically and geographically, between the left and the right wings. As tensions threatened to turn into violence, there were calls from the right for a military coup. One occurred on July 17 after the assassination of a right-wing leader caused the army to rise, but the coup failed as “spontaneous” resistance from republicans and leftists countered the military; the result was a bloody civil war that lasted three years. The Nationalists - the right-wing led in the latter part by General Franco - was supported by Germany and Italy, while the Republicans received help from left-wing volunteers (the International Brigades) and mixed assistance from Russia. In 1939 the Nationalists won.

Franco’s Dictatorship 1939 – 75

The aftermath of the civil war saw Spain governed by an authoritarian and conservative dictatorship under General Franco. Opposition voices were repressed through prison and execution, while the language of the Catalans and Basques were banned. Franco’s Spain stayed largely neutral in World War 2, allowing the regime to survive until Franco’s death in 1975. By its end, the regime was increasingly at odds with a Spain which had been culturally transformed.

Return to Democracy 1975 – 78

When Franco died in November 1975 he was succeeded, as planned the government in 1969, by Juan Carlos, an heir to the vacant throne. The new king was committed to democracy and careful negotiation, as well as the presence of a modern society looking for freedom, allowing a referendum on political reform, followed by a new constitution which was approved by 88% in 1978. The swift switch from dictatorship to democracy became an example for post-communist Eastern Europe.



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Coca Cola is from Spain..?
Thursday, January 12, 2023

 

Locals believe that the Spanish town of Aielo de Malferit is where Coca-Cola originated -- and that the factory which developed the formula that inspired the world's best-selling soda has been cheated of its rightful place in history. Not to mention profits.

 


It's allegedly the birthplace of the world's best-known soft drink. Grey-haired and bespectacled, Juan Micó - in his seventies -  still runs a liquor factory and produces a brown liquid with a secret - Grated kola nut and multiple herbs blended with alcohol mature in a clay jug for a month then Juan claims, what happens next is a secret...

 

A very well-kept one. Supposedly, the recipe for his liquor -- now called Nuez de Kola Coca -- is the basis for Coca-Cola. The syrup is extremely sweet -- sugar beet molasses are bland in comparison and Juan suggests that it's better to mix it with water rather than to drink it pure or even with milk as is prefered by the ladies of the village. It is also common locally to add it to coffee.

The first version of Nuez de Kola Coca was invented more than 120 years ago by the founders of Micó's factory. Even today, people come from far and wide to sample it -- sometimes, entire coachloads of visitors.

 

The history of Aielo's Fábrica de Licores dates back to 1880. The factory was founded by Bautista Aparici, Ricardo Sanz and Enrique Ortiz. The three entrepreneurs began manufacturing quality products -- including liquors with such imaginative names as Perfecto Amor (Perfect Love), Lágrimas de Contribuyente (Tears of the Taxpayer) and Placer de Damas (Ladies' Pleasure).

  

Kola Nut                                                                         Coca Leaves

Aparici, who was in charge of sales, was soon travelling from the Spanish province to trade fairs in Rome, Paris, London and Chicago. In 1885 he went to Philadelphia with a new beverage in his luggage. Called Kola Coca, it was made from the caffeine-rich fruit of African kola nut trees and the leaves of Peruvian coca plants, and promptly scooped an innovation prize. Before he left, Aparici gave some American sales representatives a few samples. Perhaps it was coincidence, perhaps it wasn't -- but just one year later, US pharmacist John Pemberton made history when he invented Coca-Cola. I'll let you be the judge of that...

 

 

 

 

Back in Aielo, Micó is proud of his framed collection of medals and honours. Kola Coca won the company awards in Milan in 1881, in Chicago in 1883, in Philadelphia in 1885, in London in 1889 and in Paris in 1900. They were certainly onto something big...

A total of 20 gold medals and 10 honorary diplomas were won by their Kola Coca drink. He believes wholeheartedly that the basis of Coca-Cola was invented in Aielo de Malferit. He claims it was easy to copy a beverage in those days because patents were only registered if a product proved successful. His predecessors only patented the Nuez de Kola Coca formula in Spain in 1903. But by then, Coca-Cola was already well on its way to iconic status in the US.

Half a century later, the two companies finally crossed paths. When Coca-Cola decided it was time to move into the Spanish market, there was no way of avoiding the small factory in Aielo de Malferit. In 1953, Coca Cola executives visited provincial Spain and acquired the rights to the name from Joaquin Juan Sanchis, who was then the owner of the factory.

It was allowed to go on producing Kola Coca, but only an alcoholic version. Nuez de Kola Coca has been a liquor ever since. The deal is believed to have been worth 1700 euros , but no one knows for sure, since records have been destroyed. It was definitely a lot of money for those days.

But it was only a fraction of what it could have been. In 2011, Coca-Cola celebrated its 125th anniversary as one of the world's best-known brands. 

As things stand, his business now consists of little more than an old factory with a peeling facade, a worn stone floor and a few dozen wooden barrels. The business changed hands many times before Micó bought it in 1971. He had worked there for eight years, starting out as an employee and advancing through the ranks to become the sales manager. In those days, the company numbered nearly 40 employees. Today, only four are left.

Juan remarks that the business has become difficult now that overseas companies have cornered the market. Most traditional businesses have closed down and these days his company is mainly a wholesaler.

Micó also works as a farmer so he can make ends meet. Recently, his company also took over sales for a major Spanish brewery. The liquor factory is basically just a hobby these days for Juan but he wants to keep the tradition alive, so it doesn't get lost forever, but they can no longer invest in it so the factory will eventually die a death.

The village of Aielo has been campaigning for permission from Coca-Cola to allow it to market the village as the origin of the drink and gain its rightful place in history. Somehow I can't see that happening...



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A thousand tin cans for the Epiphany
Thursday, January 5, 2023

By boat, camel, horse, helicopter, on foot, by donkey or even in a convertible ... they will get there any way they can. The three wise men or the Three Kings will visit all towns around Spain on the 5th of January and most towns will organise their festive floats and parades to welcome them but in Algeciras, they will be summoned by an extremely noisy tradition with more than a century of tradition

On January 5th in the morning, before the Three Kings Parade, Algeciras celebrates the 'Arrastre de Latas' (Dragging of Cans), when the children of the city drag a string of tin cans through the streets. This tradition has a couple of explanations the first being an attempt to banish the "Giant of Botafuegos" who every Christmas tries to cover the sea with grey fog, obscuring the star from the Three Kings and thus making it impossible for them to proceed and also impossible to see the port of Algeciras. The noise scares off the Giant and the fog vanishes meaning that the children are able to receive their gifts. However there is another version of this legend: in the olden days when many families were too poor to buy presents, parents told their children that the Three Kings had so much work to do that they were tired and had fallen asleep. Therefore the children decided to make as much noise as they could so that the Kings would hear them and dragging tins through the streets was an effective solution.

 


Every year over 40,000 children, parents and grandparents attend this traditional ceremony before the arrival of the Kings. On the 5th of January, all participants congregate in the Plaza Andalucia at 11:00 am and at midday they set off for Llano Amarillo near the port, where the Kings are scheduled to arrive at around 13:00 pm.

Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar for many children are more important than Santa Claus but these three Kings were not always three or even Kings, there was even a time when the three were all white because Baltasar was not black until the sixteenth century. It was at that point that the Church wanted the wise men to represent the three parts of the known world: Melchor: old, bearded, white-haired representing Europe; Gaspar: young blonde on behalf of Asia and Baltasar: black, personifying the African continent. However what is general belief is that these wise men visited Christ on the twelfth day of Christmas, carrying Gold, Frankincense and myrrh.

    



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Why do they eat grapes in Spain on New Year's Eve?
Thursday, December 29, 2022

 

Traditions have always aroused a lot of curiosity in me because there is always a reason for them, nothing just happens by chance. Every year I celebrate the tradition of the New Year's Eve grapes and many years ago I wondered why they actually did this and nobody really seemed to know why. Still, to this very day, I am yet to meet a Spaniard who knows the story..... so I always end up telling it, every year!

The very short version of the story, which is pretty much common knowledge, is that wine farmers from Alicante and Murcia promoted the tradition in 1909. They were eager to sell on their large surplus of grapes from the incredible harvest they had had that year. However, although this story has some truth to it, the real origin dates back even further.

If we define the tradition of the New Year's Eve grapes as when twelve grapes are eaten in the Puerta del Sol at 12 am on December 31, which is basically the general understanding, the first written testimony of this goes as far back as January 1897 when the Madrid Press published that in "Madrid it is customary to eat twelve grapes as the clock strikes twelve, separating the outgoing year from the incoming year…" this means that at least in 1896 it was done, and probably many years before that for it to be considered  “customary” by the local press.

The plausible explanation for why someone decided it was a good idea to get cold the last night of the year waiting for a clock to strike 12 strokes and choke on a dozen grapes goes back to 1882. That year the mayor of Madrid, José Abascal y Carredano, decided to impose a tax of 5 pesetas for all those who wanted to go out and celebrate the Three Kings on the night of January 5. The purpose of this was not to stop any tradition or start any new ones but to stop the general public from raising hell and getting drunk through the night – this should not be confused with the festive floats and processions which were in the afternoon and open to everyone. 

However, it did deprive the vast majority of the locals of partying that night, except for those that were well off, of course. This obviously led to the people rebelling and trying to find a way to let off steam so New Year’s Eve became the night of preference for partying and an opportunity to make a mockery of the recent bourgeois traditions imported from France and Germany. The local newspapers frequently published how the upper class now celebrated the New Year by drinking champagne and eating grapes during the New Year’s Eve dinner, so as an act of protest the working class would congregate in the Puerta del Sol and eat grapes as the clock struck twelve.

This behaviour quickly spread and popularised in the capital, to the point that in 1897 the merchants of the city advertised the sale of “Lucky Grapes” and within just a few years it was known as far away as Tenerife.  Now, this is when the Levante wine farmers come on the scene, taking advantage of their surplus production in 1909, they carried out a national campaign to embed and enhance the custom throughout the country and were thus able to sell all their harvest.

Clearly, it worked and today there are few who do not welcome the New Year with 12 grapes in their hand and eat them to the sound of each stroke as it counts down to the New Year. Rare is the Spaniard who will risk poisoning their fate for the coming year by skipping the grapes, many don’t finish them in time and it does take a bit of practice but it is the effort that counts, no effort – no luck, well at least that’s what those who don’t succeed tend to say… 

For those who cannot be in the Puerta del Sol, they will follow it on television, normally on La Primera which tops the national audience ratings year after year with around 8 million viewers, some 6 million more than second place. Being such an important occasion some people spend a few extra minutes to remove the seeds or peel the skins off their grapes all in an attempt to improve their chances of swallowing them in time. My best piece of advice is: buy small seedless grapes and you’ll have no problem but they are not easy to come by as the traditional grape variety for New Year's Eve is the Vinalopó from the Valencian Community, the one promoted by the wine farmers back in 1909, so if you can't find seedless try to avoid the large juicy ones or you’ll be in trouble and may well choke your way into the New Year, try and pick the smaller ones and at least remove the seeds…. Good Luck and wishing you all a Happy New Year!

 



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Spain's Christmas Characters
Friday, December 23, 2022

Santa Claus and the Three Wise Men have earned their well-deserved reputation, but they are not Spain's only protagonists during Christmas. Although less known, there are other very peculiar characters who always visit us around these times. From the Olentzero to the Caga Tió, the one who doesn't bring gifts still brings peace and love, something less materialistic but equally important. Discover more about these interesting Christmas characters, maybe one of them will visit your home in the coming weeks....

 

Basque Country: Olentzero

Olentzero is a coal miner who brings presents on Christmas Eve to those living in the Basque Country and Navarre. Towns, cities, and neighborhoods normally have a procession the day before Christmas with a doll that represents him. Although the origin of this tradition is unknown, some sources indicate that it comes from the winter solstices, when the doll would be set on fire to symbolize the burning of the old to make way for the new; a renewal for the following year. The tradition of fire still continues today but in the modern version the character is someone who comes down from the mountains to announce the birth of Jesus.

 

 

Asturias: Guirria and Anguleru

This is said to be one of the oldest traditions of the municipality of Ponga. Every New Year's Eve, the boys ride out on horseback accompanied by this half man-half demon character and they roam the streets looking for single women. The character kisses these women as it throws ashes at the boys. But it's not only the Guirria who steals kisses. Single people over 15 years old, both men and women, are paired up by pulling names from jars and they promise to have dinner together one night. Another tradition that still remains today despite the passage of time occurs on the last night of the year and that is when the Guirria and his court go door to door asking for a Christmas bonus. Asturias also has another character who is called l'Anguleru. This character comes from the Sargasso Sea and, like Santa Claus, arrives on Christmas Eve bearing gifts for the little ones. 
 
 

Catalonia: Caga Tió and Caganer

 

 

Although it may be a bit difficult for the rest of us to understand, in Catalonia children not only receive a visit from Santa Claus and the Three Kings, but also that from a log. It is not just any log, in fact, it is magical and it's called the Caga Tió. It arrives at homes on December 8th and stays until Christmas. During this time, it is always covered by a blanket and is fed daily with food scraps, fruit, and bread. On Christmas Eve, the children sing a traditional song while they hit the Caga Tió with a stick. As a result, this curious character "poops" gifts. The origin of the tradition is said to have come from the logs burned in the earthen fires at home since they provided everything the home needed: heat, light, and even a place to cook. Although the gifts were initially little things like sweets or candies, today the Caga Tió gives all kinds of presents. 

This character, however, is not the only one with a scatological nature in the Catalan Christmas. Every year the famous Caganer, the figurine of a young herder defecating, appears in the nativity scene. In recent years caganers have been characterized as some of the year's most famous people. This is a tradition that now appears in nativity scenes throughout Spain.


Galicia: O Apalpador

Galicia also has a curious character whose presence during the holidays has recently reappeared although its origin is very old. It is Apalpador, a first cousin of Olentzero, who has the strange habit of coming down from the mountains to pat children's bellies and see if they have eaten well during the year. The figure of this coal miner with a big belly and a red beard lives in the Galician mountains near the regions of O Cebreiro, Os Ancares, and O Courel. He comes down from here on Christmas Night and New Year's Eve. Originally, it was said that he visited homes on these special days to see if children were being well fed and if not, he would leave some chestnuts for them to eat (now he usually brings an extra present too). We can find a very similar character in Ecija, Seville. We are talking about Tientapanzas, the character who visits children at night to see if they have eaten well and then informs the Three Wise Men whether or not they deserve gifts. This tradition resumed in 2004 and since then even a parade through the village streets is held to greet him. 

 



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Discover the origins of Cava - Spain's 'Champagne'
Thursday, December 8, 2022

You'll probably drink a lot of Cava over the coming Christmas period, but do you know the history behind it? Three hundred years ago, wine was much more important than it is today. Currently, the annual consumption per capita in Spain is around 15 litres per year, whilst before, the consumption per capita would have been around 150 to 200 litres!

In all probability, the reason justifying this higher consumption would have to be attributed to the need for higher levels of energy that were needed to perform the work that at that time was almost all manual and therefore, required more effort; which implied a higher intake of calories than today. This would explain the importance given to the cultivation of grapes and of all the associated wine industry, which weighed heavily within the economy of the territory, in particular in the area of the Mediterranean. At that time (XVIII century), wines had very different characteristics to current wines, since they were fortified with alcohol and were sold wholesale in vats, barrels or skins.

Already in the XVIII century, the Catalan people knew of the existence of sparkling wines, thanks to the cork manufacturers from the areas of La Selva and the Ampordà (Gerona) since they were the principal suppliers of cork tops to the Champagne manufacturers in France.

In the first half of the XIX century, the first steps are taken in Spain to manufacture sparkling wines following the same method of Champagne, and little by little they become aware that the preparation of these wines should not only be limited to the fermentation in the bottle, but that within the wine regions, locations should be found that due to the nature of their land and climate, would produce maximum quality wines.

 

 

During the second half of the century, some sparkling wines already became outstanding for their quality, winning some medals in international competitions such as the Universal Fairs in Paris or Vienna, to name some.

As from the end of the XVIII century, vine growing becomes the most important farming activity in Catalonia and particularly in the Penedés region.

According to historians, the evolution of this farm product can be attributed to the success obtained in the export of brandy and from the wines produced throughout the second half of the XVIII century and which increased during the XIX century.

But in this latter period the principal role was played by the invasion of phylloxera in the French vines, that as from 1863 stopped producing, and consequently, the Catalan wine producers went through a splendorous unprecedented era, known as the “gold fever” because it made the prices of the Catalan wines rise tremendously, due on the one hand to the scarcity of French wines and on the other to the development of sales by means of railways.

 

Although at that time it seemed impossible, the great production dream in which the inhabitants of the area lived, would receive a severe blow.

This was phylloxera, a very small insect but very prolific in reproducing, which could at great speed finish off any vine stocks it found in its path eating all the roots.

Phylloxera appeared for the first time in Europe in 1863 through Bordeaux, originating in America. This insect, which advanced at a rate of 40 km per year, first attacked the French vineyards and after a few years, it also attacked the Spanish vineyards.

However, while phylloxera attacked the French vineyards, the Spanish wine producers saw their earnings increased considerably by exporting their wines to France as well as to other countries that France could not supply.

When phylloxera reached Catalonia through Gerona in 1879, the way to fight this insect was already known, this was by grafting the vine to American rootstock that is resistant to the insect.

Once they found a way to combat phylloxera, now they could think of replanting the fields.

In Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, a group of farmers and wine producers, amongst which were Marc Mir and Manuel Raventós, committed themselves to a fast renovation of the vineyards and to the improvement of the sparkling wines that had recently become implanted in Spain and in particular in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.

The great achievement was not only to have obtained the restoration of the fields but also in making the right decision to determine which kinds of grapes would develop more successfully in these lands.

Experiments began to take place with local grape varieties and with others that were already grown in the area, such as Macabeo, Xarel.lo, Parellada, Monastrell and Garnacha, as well as more central European varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The refurbishing of the wine cellars, which at that time had no facilities for cooling the grape must, did not allow for the adaptation of the last two since being earlier varieties (more precocious) were harvested when the summer temperatures were too high, which entailed fermentation problems.

The visit of King Alfonso XIII to the Penedés in 1904 represented a recognition that the sparkling wines produced in the area were quality wines, at the same time reinforcing the area in its self-esteem and promoting its projection.

In this way, little by little the production of sparkling wines is consolidated. In 1911 the official statistics show that the sales of these wines in Spain already exceeded the amount of foreign sparkling wines. At the same time, the development of exports is also carried out towards the Latin American countries with which Spain had always kept a good relationship due to the origin and relationship of its inhabitants.

New technologies are introduced, and the quality in the trade improves and working conditions become increasingly more professional.

The development of society at the end of the ’50s and ’60s provokes an increase in consumption of wines from 5 to 40 million bottles, which obliges winemakers and producers to make increasingly large investments to cover an increase in demand.

This same growth phenomenon also commences to appear in Europe after the Second World War, but while German and Italian sparkling wine producers opt for carrying out the second fermentation in large pressure tanks, French and Spanish producers opt for maintaining the traditional method of obtaining the sparkle naturally with a second fermentation of the wine in the bottle itself.

Intensification of cultivation is already a fact. The industrialisation and commercial aspect of sparkling wine becomes increasingly more important.

One of the most relevant periods with regards to change that takes place in the viticulture sector is, without doubt, the decade of the ’60s. In all spheres, there are profound modifications in the structures with the objective of improving quality. New rules and regulations are established in order to guarantee the quality of the products and improvements in viticulture techniques continue to be introduced. There is an introduction of new technologies in bodega infrastructure, vinification processes are perfected and a good economic level is attained with the increase in sales. As an anecdote, during a symposium on economy held in 1964, it was already being said the Cava (Champán or Xampany as it was called at that time) had very good perspectives both in the national as well as in the international markets and taking into account a future joining of the common market, the future production of cava could reach a roof of 100 million bottles. Today the production of Cava has exceeded 230 million bottles.

 

 

The decade of the 70s was the time when the great expansion of Cava outside the country took place, and it continued to grow until today with a presence in over 120 countries.

Due to legal security matters and economic needs, as from 1932, new regulations are enacted in Spain to regulate the wine sector, which will modify all the legal organisation with the publishing of a framework law, a series of regulations of inferior legal range and the creation of Regulating Councils. The Decree of April 18, 1932, created the “system guarantee of the origin of the wines” and a period of 4 months is set for completing this Decree with a General Statute for Wine.

With the Wine Statute of 1932, the production system is regulated for viniculture products, which represents the very first legislative systemization that is applied in our country. What it is, in fact, is a legal text promulgated with the object of organising all activities of the whole viniculture sector in the Spanish State. Said Statute defines sparkling wines as “those that have carbon dioxide produced within the wines by second alcoholic fermentation in the closed container, that is spontaneously, or produced by the classical method for these productions or variations”.

But it was only later that an Order of 1959 when the first Spanish rules were passed on sparkling wines. It was also in this text when for the very first time in official documents the word “Cava” was used, although this name did not have at this time the etymology which later would become the defining word for sparkling wine.
These rules also set forth that those producers of sparkling wines that wish to state on the labels the type of production must request it from the authorities in order that the label may have a subtitle in smaller letters than those used for “Sparkling Wine”, that mention “Aged and produced in a Cave”.

Here, the generic name “Cava” was not to be applied in a specific manner until the enactment of a new Rule in January 1966 approving the “Regulations for Sparkling and Gasified Wines”. This rule defines the word “Cava” to characterise the sparkling wines of the classical system of fermentation in the bottle and ageing in the cellar, and a consulting and ancillary body is set up of the General Directorate for Agriculture, called the Sparkling Wines Council, which acts as a link between the producing sector and the Government. Specifically, in its Article 5, it is established that “The producers of sparkling wines by the classical system of fermentation in the bottle and ageing in the Cellar may characterise their products with the Name of “Cava”, which is the distinctive brand for this system of production, after prior authorisation from the General Directorate of Agriculture”.

During the ’50s and ’60s Cava begins becoming a well-known product. An interesting fact is worthy of mention in this History of Cava and that is the case of “Spanish Champagne”, which occurred in the United Kingdom during the ’50s.

In the mid-’50s, the fact that a company was selling in the United Kingdom, with a certain amount of success, a wine labelled with the name of “Spanish Champagne”, began to draw the attention of the large companies distributing French Champagne, all of which took the case to the Courts.

At that time, the United Kingdom had not signed the Treaty of Rome, for which reason the rules for the denominations of European origin were not applicable in that country and in fact, other countries such as Australia, Germany, Russia or Cyprus had also sold and were selling products under the name of Champagne.

In 1958, in a first lawsuit, which was heard in the penal courts, a popular jury declared the Spanish company innocent, condemning the defendants to pay the costs for the court case. Nevertheless, the French industry continued with legal actions and in a second court case in 1960, this time through the civil courts, the Court ordered that the company desist from selling the sparkling wine in question under any description that included the word Champagne since the expression “Spanish Champagne” could confuse a part of British consumers.
This particular case brought an important precedent. As from that time, in the United Kingdom and the whole Commonwealth, the word Champagne could only be used to describe the wine produced in this region under the rulings of the AOC.

A few years later, in 1966, Spain ratifies and adheres to the Lisbon Agreement where the protection of certain geographical names is recognised and among these, that of “Champagne”. This position will be reasserted in the “Ratification Instrument of the Agreement between the Spanish State and the French Republic on the protection of the Denominations of Origin, an indication of origin and Denominations of certain products and Protocol” drawn up in Madrid in 1973.

With the future entry of Spain into the Common Market, the need arises for adapting the legislation on Cava to the community rulings. Due to this need, the Order of the 27th of February 1986 is published by which it is established that the Denomination “Cava” is reserved for quality sparkling wines produced by the traditional method in the region that is established therein. It was in this Order, specifically in its annexe, where the area of production is determined of the Determined Region for Cava and which is currently defined in the Regulation for Cava that is in force.

The incorporation of Spain into the CEE on the 1st of January 1986, signifies the recognition of Cava as a Quality Sparkling Wine Produced in a Determined Region (V.E.C.P.R.D.), a category in which are grouped all the first category or maximum quality sparkling wines and which are comparable to the Denominations of Origin and what it, in fact, means, is the recognition of the CEE, that Cava can only be produced in the Spanish State and provided that this is within what is known as the “Cava region”.



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Spain's Different languages
Friday, November 18, 2022

 

 

In Spain, as you probably already know, other languages are spoken in addition to Spanish. Spanish is the official language throughout the country, but in some regions, it coexists with other official languages: Galician, Basque, Catalan and Valencian. These are the co-official languages in Galicia, the Basque Country and Navarre, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, and Valencia.

 

 

CatalanThe first known text written in Catalan dates from the 12th century. It is the translation of a small piece of code of Visigothic laws: Liber Iudiciorum. In the thirteenth century, Ramon Llull was the first great universal literary talent to use Catalan in his prose. After centuries of linguistic repression, a time of recovery began in the 19th century (Renaixença). In 1907 the Institut d'Estudis Catalans (Institute of Catalan Studies) was created, and in 1913 established the Normes ortogràfiques (Orthographic rules), in 1917 the Diccionari Ortogràfic (Orthographic Dictionary) and in 1918, the Grammar.

Basque (Euskera)The co-official language in the Basque Country and in the Community of Navarre since 1979. Since then rules have been developed – Euskera Batua, which groups the six dialects of Basque, was agreed upon - and various institutions for the recovery of the competitiveness and use of the language have been created. It is one of the oldest languages in Europe. Its origins are unknown, although some linguists have tied it to the Caucasian languages. The first text in Basque was Linguae Vasconum Primitiae by Bernard Dechepare (1545). Later, in 1571, Joanes Leizarraga translated the New Testament into Basque (Testamente Berria).

Galician: Since 1978 it has been the co-official language of Galicia together with Castilian. Although it thrived in the 18th century with the Cantigas de Santa María by Alfonso X the Wise, it was not until the 19th century when the literary Rexurdimento (Resurgence) and the singular linguistic movements brought Gallego back into world culture. In 1905, the Real Academia Gallega was constituted; this represented the institutionalisation of the process for linguistic recovery.

Valencian: Its literary splendour took place in the 15th century and part of the 17th century. In the late 19th century, the movement known as “Renaixença” recovered the use of this language in literature. In 1932, the orthographic norms were signed; these were followed by Valencian authors for the following 40 years. In 1998, the Cortes Valencianas (Valencian Parliament) approved the creation of the Academia Valenciana de la Lengua.



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Halloween around Spain
Thursday, October 27, 2022

 

All of you who know Spanish culture will agree that it revolves around festivals and parties. Most of the world knows about the British way of celebrating Halloween, but if you are in Spain on October 31 this year, you will realise that it is quickly becoming an important affair here. The festival which originated from the essence of remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed is fairly common in most of the civilizations across the globe.

When it comes to festivities the Spaniards like everything to be grand and elaborate. So now Halloween has become a three-day event starting with the night of Halloween. The second day (November 1st) is Dia de Todos Los Santos (All Saints Day) a day that has always been celebrated as far as can be remembered. Finally, on November 2nd, the concluding day of this festival is known as the Dia de Los Muertos (the Day of the dead) a holiday that is being borrowed from the Mexican tradition. This festival is all about honouring the dead and celebrating the continuity of life and thanking the Lord for giving us this life.

 

 

Different provinces and parts of Spain follow different rituals on these three days. Halloween in Galicia in Northern Spain is celebrated with more enthusiasm and pumpkin carving competitions, costume parties, bonfires fill the entire area. People happily sip a strong alcoholic drink named Quemada after reciting a spell (esconxuro).

Halloween in Barcelona and Catalonia is a little different affair and the bars and clubs are full of special nights and costume parties. Enjoy the Catalan tradition of La Castanyada and eat the small Catalan cakes ”panellets” made of marzipan, almonds, nuts and various other foods. Also be a part of various events, game shows, music concerts and other activities. You can eat in the local stalls which will be filled with seasonal delicacies such as castanyes (chestnuts), sweet wine, savouries, sweet potatoes and other delicacies.

 

 

There might be other fun activities in Barcelona during this time, but the locals do not forget to pay respect to their dead. Make sure you visit the city’s magnificent cemeteries to witness these mass gatherings. Some of the popular cemeteries are Montjuïc, Poblenou, and Les Corts.

Even though Halloween in Spain certainly has a commercial side, you will witness families gathering at the graves of deceased loved ones with flowers, offerings, holy water, food and drink on the second day of the festival. This is very much rooted in their culture and most will place at least flowers on family members' graves.

Halloween and the cut-outs of pumpkins go hand in hand in the memory of everyone who celebrates it or has witnessed it in movies and TV series. Just like in Britain and the US, on the first day of Halloween, around the country, you will now see children carving pumpkins and illuminating them with candles. It is now common to see pumpkins on sale in all supermarkets, something that wasn't so common 10 years ago. 

 

 

In the Southern part of Spain, in the city of Malaga, Halloween is marked with a large zombie march through the streets. You can witness the participants dressed up as witches, ghosts, goblins, zombies, vampires, Dracula, Frankenstein etc. roaming around on the streets and scaring people. There are competitions organised to tell scary stories and there is an eerie environment all around. This air of carnival can be seen in most cities around the country nowadays especially in University cities where you will see hundreds of students dressing up and roaming the streets.

In the city of Cadiz, during the Halloween holidays, street performances and concerts are organised. Also, you can enjoy the fruit and vegetable stalls which will display characters from some recent political scandals. The cut-outs and models made out of fruits and vegetables are quite mind-boggling. 
Tosantos in Cadiz also celebrates what is possibly the world’s weirdest Halloween gastro fest where market stallholders dress up their merchandise in fancy dress, so long as it’s entertaining and made out of food, anything goes. 

 

 

 



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Spain and its relationship with Beer
Thursday, October 6, 2022

Spain is mostly known as a wine producing and consuming country going back 1000's of years, and one would wonder when and how did beer become so popular?

Nowadays it would be unheard of to find a bar, restaurant or café that could survive without beer on sale, even McDonalds and Burger King had to include beer on their menu to even get customers through their doors during their early years in Spain.

There are no real certainties as to who brought it to the peninsular for the first time. The formula may have been inherited from the Greeks or the Phoenicians who traded in the south of the country and some areas of the the Mediterrranean. There are other theories that say it came with Lybian soldiers. Be it as it may, we have references from Pliny the Elder, who did not like beer from 'Hispania', that the Iberians drank far too much of it.

Unlike wine, Spanish beer went rather unnoticed in Europe for hundreds of years until emperor Charles V came to Spain from Flandes, brining with him his court and their customs. Charles was born in Ghentt in 1500. In time he would become the most powerful man in the world, but as condition to access the Spanish crown, he had tot comply to learning Spanish and living in Castile. Flandes was not a wine producing country and therefore he had quite a taste for beer, which the king, unsurprisingly, imported to the Iberian peninsula. It was reported that he chilled his beer with snow against all the recommendartions of his doctors.

In 1558, the king abdicated and retired to a monastery in Yuste in Caceres. It was then that Charles hired a Belgian brewmaster and installed a small beer factory in the  monastery of Yuste following Belgian tradition. This was probably the first beer factory in Spain. Today there is a beer called “Legado de Yuste” (now owned by Heineken) that claims to follow a similar style; artisan Belgian abbey beer.

 

 

However the king's taste for beer was not shared by the people but his son and successor Philip II commanded the reestablishment of beer production in the riviera of the Manzanares, at this point Madrid was the capital of Spain, since the courts had been recently been transfered from Valladolid to the current capital. The number of large factories of Spanish beer varied from then on, but despite the fact that beer had no real popularity to speak of, there was always some beer production in Spain.

Still, the commoners and gentry alike did not really have a taste for beer. Perhaps it really didn't have much to do with Charles V at all, but rather the fact that wine in Spain was good quality and very cheap.

The real start of Spanish beer factories happened in Madrid, in 1611, most named after their owners, who were either Flemish, Alsacian or German, anything but Spanish. It didin't take long for some rules and regulations to be established with regards to beer manufacturing, among them the ingredients: wheat, barley and hop. If anything else was used those responsible were fined or punished.

Even so, no one in Spain really liked beer and most references that exist don't give it any praise. Only during the beginning of the 20th century did it gain enough popularity for large factories to open. Mahou (Madrid) opened in 1890, Águila in 1900, Cruz del Campo (today Cruzcampo) in 1904 and Damm in 1910.

However the dice did turn and during the 60's it became the prefered summer drink for two reasons: it's low alcoholic content and that it was very refreshing. Unlike previous centuries, beer came to be cheaper than wine, perhaps this fact contributed to its increasing popularity.

Nowadays, beer is one of the drinks of choice when you head to a Spanish bar and can often be cheaper than a Coca-Cola! It is not uncommon for people to order a 'caña' which is a small glass of beer. These small glasses of beer mean that you can finish the beer before goes warm, as would happen with a pint glass.

A 'caña' anyone?



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