My Adopted Village

Do you have a village? If the answer to that question is yes, you’re most likely Spanish, or—as in my case—an adopted Spaniard. Mario’s village is called Manzanal del Barco, and it has a total population of 156, according to the Spanish Wikipedia article. Now, unlike many Spanish people, Mario does not actually enjoy the village, at least not for long periods of time.

Nonethless, “hay que ir a veces,” at least to show la guiri what true village life is like.


So last Saturday, off we went, as there were several festive activites going on in our beloved Manzanal—even if there was only one real holiday, on May 15: San Torcuato. You see, every city in Spain, big or small, has its own patron saint, and Manzanal’s is San Torcuato (Saint Torquatus in English). And, like any great Spanish party, they extend it so that it goes on all week long!

We went on the 19th to hand out invitations to several of Mario’s relatives, and to see—what else?—the bulls. Now when most Americans think of bulls, they think of “running with the bulls” or bullfights. No, no: this was more like bugging a heifer. Seriously, it was not a bull. It was a vaquilla, or a heifer. A female cow. Actually several female cows, as apparently bothering them for too long isn’t nice, so there have to be more than one.


Not so bothered in this picture.

I won’t say much about the politics of bullfighting, nor this type of spectacle, but it’s not uncommon in Spain, and the whole village came out to see it.


This guy had to escape.


Waiting for their turns with the red flag.


Also on this trip, I learned of another interesting tradition: el mayo (maypole in English), which is a trunk that stands in the main square during the month of May. It’s made by cutting down a tree and then placing it in the main square, where previously a hole is dug so that it doesn’t fall. The also add another branch from a special type of oak tree called an encina. It’s a sign of fertility (oh goody!), because it stands for spring and new life.



Have you ever been to a Spanish village? What did you think?

18 thoughts on “My Adopted Village

  1. bother the heifers haha. oh villages. i worked in one last year and I was not prepared for how crazy their festivals are

      1. Liz, you should get to the fiesta in Uclés – by far the most fun festival I’ve been to in Spain! And thanks for the link to a waaaaaaay old blog Kaley! How’d you find that!?!

  2. Very, very cool! Your village seems so fun and so warm. I want to live in a Southern French village but I’m sure it won’t be anything similar. I’m loving your new Spanish stories!!

  3. When I lived in Spain, I spent a little time in my boyfriend’s village, Aldea del Obispo in Salamanca, where he had spent summers as a child. I liked it in small doses – the fiestas were fun, and the fuerte there is quite impressive. At the time I visited (mid-80’s), the villagers couldn’t quite wrap their minds around the fact that I was from another country. LOL

  4. I think my adopted village is Zahara de los Atunes in Cadiz. As for the bulls, it was in Cadiz that I met several people in the bullfighting world in the 1980’s. I went to a ganaderia and I took part in the toreando (or bothering the heifer :-D ). You are right, it’s not really possible to get into the politics. It’s such a Spanish thing that I don’t judge, like a lot of things there. I went to at least a dozen bullfights and I knew bullfighters, their opinion of the whole thing is interesting. But I like the small villages, I can see why a Spaniard would want to get out of them after a week or so, but in a small town you get to know people quickly and really be part of the community.

  5. Love those red pants!

    My most “authentic” Spanish experience was visiting my friend’s family’s country house on the outskirts of Cordoba – it was a tiny little town. Such a great change from the hustle and bustle of Madrid.

  6. Very cool, I didn’t know about that (the village thing) and the “bugging a cow” bit was funny and kinda cute, I’m glad all they do is bug it a bit, that’s fine…apparently if it gets too irritated then it makes you leave :D


  7. yeah, seems like everyone in La Rioja has a village since it’s so small that that’s really all there is besides Logrono. I think it’s cute.

  8. Yup, El Cargadero a few miles outside of Jerez, Zacatecas! My grandparents have a home there overlooking the main plaza. Four years ago, they signed the home over to my mom. I’ve visited El Cargadero a few times over the years. It’s changed a lot since I first visited, but I always thought it was cool to visit the adobe home where my grandpa lived as a boy. I think he was born there too. We also visited the orchards and land they owned closer to the nearby creek.

    El Cargadero is sort of like a ghost town these days. There’s lots of nice homes, paved streets and a shiny new plaza with a roof (it was dirt when I visited as a kid). All the former inhabitants and their kids have emigrated to the states. I’d love to go back in the fall when it’s lively for the fiestas for the patron saint.

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