What are Spanish Maragato traditions?
- ConnieLv 75 years agoFavorite Answer
Astorga is the traditional market town of the Maragatos, a distinct ethnic group of unknown origin, possibly descended from the Berbers of North Africa, who crossed into Spain with the first Moorish incursions of the early eighth century. For several centuries, they dominated the Spanish carrying trade with their mule trains. Marrying only among themselves, they maintained their traditions and individuality well into recent decades. However, apart from the locally famous Maragato cocido – a typically hearty stew made with up to seven types of meat and sausage, plus chickpeas and cabbage – their only obvious legacy to Astorga is the pair of colourful clockwork figures dressed in traditional costume who jerk into action to strike the hour on the town-hall clock in Plaza Mayor.
The maragatos have always been considered a separate ethnic group from the rest of Spain, due in part to the maintaining of their own, differentiated traditions associated with nomadism. This character granted them a reputation as traders, carriers or skinners: so much so that the name of their group has ended up being equivalent to merchants. But not all merchants were maragatos, and not all maragatos were merchants.
Curiously enough, despite their isolation they were never victims of discrimination. So much so, that they were even respected due to their fidelity, responsibility and bravery: it was said that if a maragato had to make a delivery, he would accomplish it even if his life was at risk. Entrusting them a delivery or a transport was a warranty of security, because it was said that nobody messed with them, not even highwaymen. Of course, some said this is because they had secret arrangements with the bandits.
Their specialty was the transport of salted or dried fish from the bay of Biscay to the interior (do not forget that the Maragatería, in León, is only a couple hundred kilometres from Galicia or Asturias). With the arrival of the train, this activity would disappear, but would lead to a funny circumstance: many of the fishmongers of the interior areas of Spain are of Maragato descent.
Even though the Maragato community no longer exists as that (due to the mixing with other groups and the progressive abandonment of their traditional activities), many feel proud to be descendants of those skinners. Thanks to them, the traditions and history are kept –and in some cases their clothes and or tools-, as well as their gastronomy, based on a mixture of seaside and interior elements. An interesting fact is that some authors even state that the well-known "pulpo a feira" (boiled octopus with oil, salt and paprika) is, actually, a maragato specialty: it would have been born to use the parts of the dry octopus that weren’t sold.