Sadly this is my last day in Almagro. Still looking into the logistics of the 2015 tour, the day was spent in exploring the museums I’d not been to before, viz the Casa de Pacas, the Lace Museum, and the Museo Etnografico, the Ethnographic Museum. The feature museum of Almagro is the National Theatre Museum and while it is truly splendid and deserving of another visit, it was not to be so for me on this occasion.
The Lace Museum is located in a lovely 3 storey casa off the Mayors Square. Lace making, linen work and embroidery is a traditional artesan art form throughout La Mancha, seemingly with each area having its particular designs and embellishments. Almagro has high art lacemaking and it’s not uncommon to pass a lace shop and see the shop keeper actually working with her bobbins while waiting for customers. Indeed it seems to be a rather meditational activity but with incredibly sophisticated patterns and coloured pins depicting the elements of the design.
On this visit, a group of schoolgirls were being taught the art and while photography of the exhibits was prohibited, I thought I might be able to photograph the next generation of lace makers. But when I asked the tutor, I received a negative response as the children were minors and their fathers were not there to grant permission.
As a wonderful addition to the lace, there was also an exhibition of the graphic art for the 400 year celebration publication of Cervantes’ Don Quixote (2004). Antonio Mingote is a highly esteemed Spanish artist, cartoonist and academic and this display consisted of copies of the chapter illustrations from among the 600 illustrations created for the auspicious edition. The drawings were charming, utterly charming and often I found myself laughing out loud at the evocations.
My laughter however turned to misty whimsy when the museum attendant gifted me a small picture – they were not on sale – and when I looked at it, it is the scene of Quixote on his death bed with a tearful Sancho kneeling by the bed. It immediately evoked the memory of that scene when I played Aldonza and Sancho and I were in exactly those positions – and all of a sudden there were tears rolling down my cheeks some 30 years later.
On leaving the museum, I quickly did a spot of local craft shopping, including lace, and then off to the ethnographic museum before it closed for the siesta.
This was a collectors dream. Jose Louis had spent his lifetime collecting the full range of ethnographic activity in the area ranging from agriculture, wine and oil production, leather work, black smithing, and so it goes on and on with every aspect of life covered, from the laundry, through the kitchen, to the bedroom, to children. It was well worth the visit and Jose Louis was justifiably proud of his curatorial expertise. Again, he did not speak English but we were certainly able to communicate. And that was my museum morning, sadly without photos. The next thing was lunch in the square where one always finds people one knows and it’s another beer and some more tapas. By then it was time to meet Genaro for the visit to the windmills.
There are two main areas that have windmills and we were at Consuegra. The village itself is rather charmless with nothing to further a tourists curiosity but then when up on the mountains with these beauties what else could there be? Of course, a terrific bar. But that is not to be at this stage. Pedro, the windmill shopkeeper had some Manchego cheese, small cans of beer, and the usual desirables of Coca Cola and chocolate. He was a wag and made the purchases and visit to explore the interior of the windmill great fun.
Each of the mills is named after a Don Quixote character and as you look out across the vast plains and see the wheat fields, you can reflect on the days when horses both hauled and ground the wheat at the top of these steep and rocky slopes.
The photo above is with Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Almagro, Genaro Galan Garcia, who very graciously organised the trip.
Curiously, La Mancha remains one if the largest agriculture producers, especially wheat, olives and grapes and of course there is always the cheeses from either sheep, goats or cows or a blend thereof.
Below are some shots of the bulls being raised for bull fighting. I’m fascinated by the ritual of bull fighting and have always wanted to see a bull farm.
Following our excursion, we dined in the converted convent where Genaro had spent his childhood. A little off the tourist track, I was treated to a meal consisting of local Manchego fare and loved it. And that sadly is goodbye to Almagro for 2014.