Life in Culebrón

Friday 15 September 2017 - Immaterial my dear Watson

Elche is a biggish town just a little under 50kms from Culebrón. It's home to two World Heritage sites - well one of them isn't a place at all - it's an event; the Mystery Play. The play was awarded the badge of Intangible World Heritage back in 2001. The year before the palm grove in Elche, the Palmeral, the biggest palm grove in Europe, had also been given World Heritage status.

In the middle of the week we popped into the Archaeological Museum in Elche to see an exhibition called Inmaterial: Patrimonio y memoria colectiva. The exhibition was basically groups of photos based on everyday culture, on the intangible daily events which, though long gone, are still recognisable to us today - sections on trades, transport, on fiestas, gossip, division of male and female labour and the like. The title of the exhibition is a play on words of a sort. Patrimonio Cultural Inmaterial de la Humanidad translates into English as Intangible World Cultural Heritage. But inmaterial, as well as meaning intangible, also translates as immaterial - so, unimportant under the circumstances or irrelevant. Geddit? Crikey, that took some explaining. Maybe it's not such a good pun as I originally thought.

I enjoyed the exhibition. Some of the old photos were excellent. The information boards were short enough to be read but long enough to be descriptive. This was what the board said, more or less, about Fiestas, the adapted translation sounds nowhere near as good as the original: The fiesta is a collective expression which embraces a complex symbolism through gestures, clothes, dances, music, songs, recitals, beliefs and emotions. This set of manifestations, is repeated periodically following a well trodden path which constitutes what we call ritual and ritual is, arguably, one of the most expressive forms of any culture. These shared experiences, carried out in the present day, refer to a collective memory. In the Fiesta there is a shared identity among the members of a community which temporarily neutralises the daily tensions and fissures within that community.

Right, moving quickly away from Pseuds Corner, and back to reality. So there was a leaflet that went with the exhibition detailing lots of events related to it. One little section said that every Friday at 11.30, in the bit of the Palmeral which houses a museum and is used as a teaching space, there would be a demonstration of palm tree climbing. So I turned up to watch. The woman in the museum knew nothing about it. "Ask the lad who looks after the palm grove," she said. So I wandered around until I found a bloke pushing a wheelbarrow.

"Do you know anything about this demonstration of palm tree climbing?" I asked. "Have a date," he said, "I just picked them. The problem is that there was a big group here about an hour a go so I shinned up a tree for them." "So it's not on?," I asked. "No, it's not a problem, I can go up again."

So having waited for him to get his gear I was given a detailed run down on the palm, the palm groves and associated lifestyle. We talked about the gear he used and its development over time and we had a useful conversation about keeping the weevil, that's destroying palm trees, at bay. I took careful note as it's something that may be useful to protect the palm tree in our garden - a sort of biological warfare using a fungus that's poisonous to the weevils but no problem to the palm or the bees or the birds. I think he talked to me so long in case someone else turned up. They didn't.

He shinned up the tree, I took some snaps, I said thanks and went to have a look at the Med down near Santa Pola.

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Day to day life in the Spanish village of Culebrón in inland Alicante

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