What is the history and culture of the Maragatos of Spain?
- ConnieLv 78 years agoBest Answer
Mitochondrial DNA analysis confirms that Maragatos from Spain are a genetically isolated human group. Genetic distances between Maragatos and the comparison samples are significantly different even with the León sample (P<0.001) which shares the same geographic area as the Maragatos. Although the north-African haplogroup U6 is present in them, their attributed Berber origin is weakened, as this haplogroup is also detected in surrounding populations with which, in addition, Maragatos have the smaller genetic distances. These U6 haplotypes are ascribed to a pre-historic African colonisation that influenced all the Iberian Peninsula. The presence of Neolithic haplogroups in this sample suggests that their isolation culture was not absolute until recent times.
The maragato are a group numbering 4,000 who are believed to be the last Moorish people in Spain. They were descended from the Berbers of North Africa who crossed into the Iberian peninsula with the first Moorish incursions in the early eighth century. The maragato are spread over 40 villages in the greatly depopulated hills outside Astorga in Leon, northern Spain. After centuries of maintaining their identity and customs and prospering by monopolising Spain's muleteer trade they are struggling to survive. In an attempt to remedy the decline in population and culture, the local government has launched tourist promotion schemes and introduced profitable forms of agriculture to encourage people to stay.
But it is perhaps those who emigrated who hold the key to the maragato future. Many founded food brands that have become some of Spain's main business dynasties and some of these old maragato families have been encouraged to return and invest money to rejuvenate the culture. Although their Moorish roots have been contested, they are believed to have converted at the time of the reconquista. But, unlike other moriscos, converted Moors who blended into Spanish culture after the first expulsion of the Moors in 1492, the maragatos preserved their identity.
They were first recorded in the area in the 10th century. They used mules to transport fish to Madrid and ferry the Spanish monarch's gold from place to place. Although they share their folklore, weddings and food with tourists, maragatos have a protective and distrusting demeanour that few penetrate. They play down any differences with their neighbours other than admitting that they eat backwards: taking soup after the main course. "There was endogamy everywhere not just here," said Mr Martinez. Perhaps from the habit of an age-old denial, he vehemently denied talk of Moorish ancestry. "There have been too many myths about us," he said. "We are like any other Spaniards."
- 8 years ago