• ‘Exotic and quoted: red gold’

    Let’s speak about saffron, a crop that can not be considered as an agricultural product more but as part of the historical and cultural heritage of the province of Ciudad Real and by extension of Castilla-La Mancha (Spain), to be protected and preserved . Talk of saffron and the peculiarities of a product, concentrated in the region of La Mancha, which makes the Castilla-la Mancha region the one that use the greater extent of ground to produce saffron (about 380 villages and engage in it about 420 farmers), followed by Aragon, Valencia and Murcia, and stands as the largest exporter. Saffron was introduced in Spain during the Arab domination and between the seventh and ninth centuries became a product monopolized by the gentry Andalusí. In the first third of the nineteenth century La Mancha was producing the best quality saffron from Spain, reaching the highest yields per hectare of dry land. Nowadays DO La Mancha Saffron collects around 1,000 kilos. It immemorial cultivation is abundantly documented in Pedro Muñoz, Campo de Criptana or Manzanares. Planting bulbs is traditionally from the second half of June to the first of September. When the saffron blossom is collected daily all open flowers before they wilt (the ideal moment from 11.00), for a period of approximately thirty days between the months of October and November generally, depending on conditions climate of the agricultural year in question. In addition, the cut flower, delicate, and beautiful mauve, requires great skill, as it has to be fast and precise to prevent the stigmata (the three strands of deep red) could separate or come off. The harvest of saffron and subsequent peeling and roasting of the strands are usually carried out in the household of the farmer, and with the cooperation of neighbours, which do this work in exchange for some amount of this precious spice . Arranged in the houses on large tables, they cleverly hold the flower between the index finger and thumb for using the other hand to extract the appreciated strands. The "red gold" is in vogue, and today is a globally valued product. This is attested by the sale price for the farmer, who are advised not to sell below 2,400 euros a kilo.
  • ‘Luminarias’

    At nine o’clock in the evening on each April 30, after the ringing of bells, white smoke from burning rosemary flooded the streets of Fontanarejo, a small town in the province of Ciudad Real of just 450 inhabitants, which keeps alive centuries later the flame of tradition and the essence of their own history. Legend has it that during the Middle Ages the small enclave surrounded by mountains, on the sunny side of the Sierra de Valdeja, was rocked by an outbreak of plague when April had its last hours. Then, its inhabitants brought to the street rosemary to burn it and with the purifier smoke healed their souls and drove away evil spirits. Centuries later, the fontanarejeños remember the salvation of his people reminiscing the Luminarias. With the ringing of the bell of the parish church, located in the highest part of the town, each neighbour lights at the entrance to his house a blaze of rosemary. The smoke moves in just over forty minutes on each corner of the town, one of the 16 historical towns that make up the so-called Montes de Toledo. The locals, residents and arrivals to date, gather around the fire, they breathe and open their lungs to custom. The smoke blinded the streets of a town surrendered to their festivities. Watery eyes, laughter and smiles, the younger races trying to spread the embers, preparations for grilling the food of the earth ... the wineskin, ham, cheese ... the kindness of a cosy village. White smoke gives way to a clear night and the red warm light of the embers of a hundred Luminarias. Families, groups of friends, visitors and onlookers gather around the fire to enjoy a magical night, culminating in the procession of San Felipe and Santiago at dawn.
  • ‘Villarta, its ‘Paces’ and its outbursts of faith’

    Can anyone imagine San Fermin without bulls, a celebration of Merce without castellers, the Fallas without masclets and mascletá or El Rocío without the passion of Almonte? Why imagine things that are not and will not be as time continues to demonstrate that there are unchanging traditions and devotions, still unexplained from the distance, that once known transcend the senses. Villarta de San Juan, its ‘Paces’, its peculiar and unique way to demonstrate their unconditional passion for its patron saint, the aroma and taste of gunpowder, its thunderous burst of faith ... the good work and the heat of its citizens. Everything continues surprising every year on the day of the patron saint of Villarta, Virgin of Peace. People begin to concentrate around the church of San Juan, where a Mass is celebrated. Outside, the members of the 23 clubs that will leave their soul on the streets by their patron saint, begin to gather. Blue overalls, whitess, orange, grays or yellows bind while people take positions in the church square. It is the big day of the Paces and everyone of Villarta are on the street to enjoy a holiday that is declarated of Regional Tourist Interest since sixteen years ago. The villarteros get ready to take out the Virgin, that is when about 300 members of the clubs begin to shot rockets (over 10,000 dozen in total) during a course of about four hours, more than a 500 meters until the old church, where the Virgin contemplates from the distance the "Operation 2000": the release of another 2,000 dozen of rockets announcing the return of patron saint back to San Juan. Bursts of faith for a unique event in the region.