A Gypsy Read My Hand

Zufre Travel Blog

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Weeks have passed yet again. The wonders continue to rain down as well as the water. It has been a long damp winter and the locals assure me that it is not usual to have so much and such heavy downpours. Many of the ancient homes are crumbling under the stress and fontaneros (plumbers) are in high demand here.

I have been making the most of the last weeks and been on several excursions worthy of a story.
February is a very busy month in Andalucía. Come to think of it, so are March and April . .

It began with an invite to my friend’s little farmlet �" actually a paddock on the side of a hill with a couple of shacks for animal feed and what-not. Jaime shares the plot with another bloke and between them they have several dogs, 2 horses, a donkey, assorted chickens and three sturdy pigs. Unfortunately for one of the three, it was to be his last day on earth.

The name for the ritual is ‘Matanza’ and it is definitely not for the squeamish. As a meat eater, I was interested to see how professional and clean the entire process was. The matarafe (butcher) is certified and ensures the health of the animal the day before the event. It is a community affair and in many villages everyone joins in to make pork products for the rest of the year. These are typically the wonderful spicy chorizo sausage and the rich dark morcilla (black pudding) chock full with aromatic spices.

In our case, the meat was simply separated into the various cuts and a generous portion laid aside for the day-long BBQ to follow.
But, let me back-track a little as it was a long day. I was picked up from near my home at 7.00am on a Saturday morning. Jaime and I then drove to a nearby village where we changed cars and joined his mate and his father. It was then an hours drive to the hills North of Sevilla to Zufre. This quaint white village is perched on a hilltop peeping above the mist and clouds. With less than 1000 inhabitants, it is home to a small company producing organic olive oil through many generations. The oil is famous for its delicate fragrance and is claimed to be one of the best in the world.
The town centre is formed around four main squares; the church square, La Plaza de las Quebradas, La Plaza de la Constitución and the Town Hall Square. The Ayuntamiento (town hall building) was built in 1570 and has a main façade of three arches on columns, which open out onto the plaza. The building still houses the offices of the local council and the Mayor. Also, there are still two remaining seats which were used by the Tribunal of the Holy Spanish Inquisition! Unfortunately the offices were closed but on my next visit I will try to view them.
Next to the Ayuntamiento is a fountainhead called "Fuente del Consejo" (the fountain of advice). This fountain has provided the weary traveller with fresh mountain spring water since the Roman times.

So, we parked in front of the fountain (the farmlet is merely 100m away down the hillside) and made our way up the cobbled streets to the bar to sit with the cazadores (hunters) as they warmed up before setting of to hunt deer and wild boar. decades of similar coloured photos of the village activities. The walls were smokey yellow and lined with Here we met with the matarafe and after a quick coffee, set off to the farm.

The fattest pig was selected and quickly separated from the remaining two. It was a swift and humane act and quickly the animal was carefully moved to a safe place for the fur to me singed and cleaned off using a gas fired flame. All the men assisted in lifting the beast onto a lined table under an arbor of grape vines. The view over the hills, dam and misty morning was glorious as the sun picked up its speed and warmed up the early morning my merely degrees.

I watched every deft movement of the matarafe’s knife slice through the warm flesh. He never missed a beat and in less than an hour the meat was divided into several assorted plastic bins in the shade of the old lean-to shed.
The men were happily chatting and I decided to explore the little village so set off alone with camera and smile. I found the local panaderia, expertly disguised as an elderly lady’s front room. The smell of fresh village bread was too good to ignore and I found myself departing with a couple of giant loaves of ‘pan de pueblo’ for the BBQ.

Walking past the village bullring, I noticed the door ajar and followed my nose to see what lay inside. There were about eight burros (donkeys) being readied for a little village fair later in the day. Their saddles and bridles were rustic to say the least, many made from brightly braided cottons, long since faded in the summer sun. My friend Jaime joined me and said that one of the donkeys belonged to him and would I like a ride?? Would I?? . . . . just try to stop me.

I climbed aboard and took a couple of circuits to get used to the movement and then the young handler handed me the reins and gave the burro a swift tap. Off we went, trotting around the bullring, giggling and laughing out loud at the sheer exhilaration of my simple pleasure.
We took the lovely burro back to the farm for a walk and by now more friends had started to show up (the squeamish I suppose).

The fire was burning nicely and ‘dad’ was tending to the coals to prepare for the food. A simple iron grill would be placed over the glowing coals and chunks of fresh pork sizzled with only lemon juice and a little salt added for taste. Even the lemons were harvested from a laden tree on the farm.

The sun had risen by now and the chill was replaced with a glorious sunny winters day. I protected my face from the glare with a faded Che Guevara hat lent by one of the old toothless mates of Jaime. It was fun sitting with these country people and chatting about dogs, chickens and pigs. My Spanish is now sufficient that I can normally get the gist of a conversation and say just enough to be included.

After eating my fill, I rested by hanging out with the dogs, sitting perfectly still. My sunny spot on the slope allowed me to glimpse the ancient Moorish church out one corner of my eye while I surveyed the valley and deep blue dam below me. The lively party was just metres away but I was lost in my own world �" a wonderfully slow Saturday with simple food, fun and folk.

In the early afternoon (that’s 4.00pm here), Jose arrived from his day at work and joined me on another donkey ride. We had a hilarious moment as he jumped aboard but slipped and slid sideways, taking me with him to land on the yellow sand. More amused than embarrassed, we dusted off and set off around the bullring again before returning for round two of the BBQ. I was almost the only English speaker I attendance and although ranks had now swelled to over 40 people, the atmosphere remained fun and festive.

Cool descended and the clothing layers were put back on, Che replaced on the rusty hook and goodbyes said to new and old friends. The drive down the hills to Sevilla was spectacular in the early evening sun and I thought back on my day.

One of Jaime’s friends (a gypsy) had read my hand and said that I ‘like projects’, am ‘very emotional’ and my life has been and will continue to be ‘very interesting’. A fitting summary of a life well lived.
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