Francis Wharton.

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from those rude, old-world vessels surely none but thirst-
stricken labourer under Spanish summer sun — be he
peasant or bustard-shooter — can ever fully realize !

At the cortijo, or corn-farm, are four or five permanent
employes — the steward, the bread-maker, and the tenders
of the working oxen. All the rest of the labourers — men
or women — are hired temporarily as required. Herdsmen
and shepherds we do not include, as these do not live at the
farm, but in some reed-built choza, or other rough shelter
hard by their flocks. Hence it will be seen that the class
of labour employed on arable land is of the lowest — there
is none of the inducement to steady industry begotten of
permanent place. At the vineyards, in addition to the
higher rate of wage, the food supplied is also much
superior. This industry, in short, absorbs the pick of the
labour-market. No women are employed in the vineyards,
nor allowed to touch a vine^ though on the farms many
are engaged for such work as hoeing and weeding.

To become the capataz of a vineyard is the highest
ambition of the labourer. To go into the market-place and
hire, instead of standing there to be hired, are obviously
very different things. It implies, besides, permanent
wages at increased rate, without manual work to do, for the
capataz only orders.

He hires the labourers required, often with an eye to his
own advantage. The master never sees the men engaged :
there is no check on the honesty of the a^ent, but coo*

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siderable variation in the quality of the hired. The old,
the halt and lame, if friends of the capataz, receive the
same pay as the young and strong. Although all may go
forth into the vineyard at the seventh hour, there is yet
ground for doubting the substantial justice of the nine-
teenth-century capataz as there was in olden days of Bible

These and other minor abuses will not be remedied till
landowner and farmer live on their properties — a thing un-
known in Spain. The farmer, or lahrador — as with grotesque
incongruity he styles himself — lives in his cool and
luxurious mansion in the town, receiving visits every few


days from his steward ; but months go by, even years, be-
tween his rare visits to the farm. The land is, as a rule,
his own, and being a man of means, so long as things go
on fairly, and his sacks of corn or casks of wine arrive in
town in due season, and without excessive pillage, he is

Most of the farms being held by capitalists, the farmer
can withstand the loss of a few bad years : and when a
good one comes — they calculate one fat year to four lean —
all losses are recouped and a large balance to the good re-
wards his patience.

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Ploughing, or what passes muster as such — a tickling of
the surface by tiny wooden ploughshare identical with
those of Roman days, drawn by yokes of tardy-plodding
oxen — takes place in autumn. Wheat is sown in De-
cember, the seed scattered broadcast, and one-third of the
land laid fallow each year. The fallows {manchones) in
spring produce wildernesses of weeds, as tall and rank
as the com itself, and gorgeous with wild-flowers —
Elysian fields for the bustards, which revel amidst the
ripening seeds and legions of locusts and grasshoppers.
Here whole acres glow witb crimson trefoil, contrasting
with the blue borage and millions of convolvuli: there
are lilies and balsams, asphodel, iris, and narcissi of every
hue — but it is idle to attempt to describe the unspeakable
floral beauties of the Spanish manchon.

The fallows are not, however, left to waste their substance
entirely on weeds and wild-flowers, for they form the best
spring-grazing grounds for «attle, and thus, too, receive a
certain allowance of manure.

One's patience is exercised to watch the tardy oxen
creeping along those league-long furrows ! Even in our
English corn-lands, in the fifty-acre fields of Norfolk or
Northumberland, there appears to our non-technical eyes
a grievous disproportion between the work to be done and
the means employed, albeit a dozen stout draughts may be
at work in a single field. Here, where the "field " stretches
away unbroken by fence or hedge to the horizon, a day's
journey in either direction for those plodding oxen, tiie
task truly appears more hopeless than the labours of
Sisyphus. Not even on the prairies of Western America
can they boast a longer furrow than can be traced on
these plains of tawny, treeless Spain. Well may the
ploughman seek, by chanting old-time ditties, to avoid
utter vacuity of mind.

In June and July the harvest is gathered in — no
musical rattle of reaper, for the sickle still holds its place :
and over the breadth of fallen swathe soar hawks of every
sort and size, preying on the locusts and other large insects
and reptiles now deprived of their accustomed covert.


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Tben followa the threshing of the com, an operation
which is carried on with the primitive simplicity of the
patriarchs of old — perhaps on precisely the same lines.
The sheaves are brought from the stubble on creaking
bullock-carts, and thrown. on the era^ or threshing-ground,
a hardened level space adjoining the farm. Here it is
threshed — or rather, trodden out under foot by the yeguas —
brood-mares, a team of which are kept briskly trotting over
the circle o£ outstrewn sheaves, driven on by a man who
stands in the centre. With a long whip and the skill of a
circus manager, he drives ■ the mares in circles, round
-and round— ^this is the only duty asked of the yeguas
all the*. yeiar^- except that of maternity. Amidst clouds of
dust and heat V the sweating animals are urged on tilLthe
com and brittle straw is trodden into finest chaff. Then
the mares are rested, the grain and chaff pushed aside to
make room for fresh sheaves, and the operation is repeated
till all the prpduce has been trodden out.

The next process is to throw .the broken corn high in air
with broad wooden shovels. The wind serves to separate
the grain from thechaff, the former falling in heaps on the
earth, while the lighter material drifts away to leeward.
The grain is gathered into sacks, loaded upon donkeys, and
away: goes the team to the owner's granary in the town :
as many as three score, and more, of patient borricos may
often at this season be ' seen plodding along the dusty
byeway. , Similarly one sees, at the same season, the casks
of newly-pressed wine being jolted along on bullock-carts
towards the town, along rough roads or tracks that will not
be required again till the same traffic occurs after the next
year's vintage.

The broken straw and chaff is stored in large stacks, to
form the staple food for horses and cattle during the
winter : and is indeed of good quality, affording as much
nutriment as the best hay, of which none is grown in this
southern, land.*

* Though no hay is made expressly, yet the sun-baked herbage,
caHedpastoa, of the fallows and winter grazings is practically equiva-
lent to hay found ready-made

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The com goes to. the owner's granary, the wine to his
bodega, and all is soon safely housed within the city walls.
Nothing, beyond actual necessaries, is left in the country.

The antipathy evinced by Spaniards towards the
country is a curious feature of this southern life. No
Spaniard, rich or poor, will remain in the country for a
single night, even in the green and glorious spring-time
when the Andalucian vegas revel in richest charm to eye
and ear. The labourers whose work takes them into the
campo do their best to get back by night : even the
poorest prefer a walk of several miles, morning and
evening, rather than remain overnight amidst rustic
scenes. Centuries of former insecurity may explain this :
but now no present cause can be assigned beyond the
force of habit, and perhaps the fear of being overtaken by
sudden illness or death beyond the reach of priest — in
which case the last rites of religion might not be availa'ble.

"Whatever be the cause, the country gentleman, the
country parson and doctor, Hodge and rural population
generally, are unknown in Spain. The landowner hies him
townwards at night to his gossip, his paseo and his favourite
game of tresillo at the casino — ^the workman to his village,
his wife and bairns in the humble tenement he proudly
calls his casa. Spain is a land of customs and accepted
traditions — be they good or bad. For centuries no one
has sought to introduce a novelty — say a taste for rural
life, though the conditions for its enjoyment exist here
as favourably, at least, as elsewhere. So far as we can
judge, the vesper-bell will continue for all time to gather
in the natives to the cities as rookeries unite their flocks
when every sun goes down.

This, of course, does not apply to farmsteads remote
from town or village, where labourers and herdsmen per-
force live as in a rural fortress. It is not surprising that,
with the gregarious instincts of the Spanish people, the
lot of such men should be despised ; and that there should
arise in these unhappy groups, isolated for weeks from
kith and kin, and with the barest means of subsistence,
that spirit of discontent which resulted in 1883 in the

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majio negra, and this year in that anarchical furor which,
on both occasions, was expiated on the scaffold.

Agriculture in Spain is thus deprived of that gracia
which in other lands distinguishes it from other commer-
cial pursuits. It is devoid of that loving, homely interest
that in England attaches to it, making the cultivation of
the soil — at least when conducted (willingly) by the land-
owner — something of a recreation or "labour of love."
Here, nothing beyond elementary and imperative opera-
tions are carried on — those which a rule-of-thumb ex-
perience has shown to give fairly good results with a
minimum of trouble. Experiments are things unknown.
There is a settled conviction among the agricultural class
that improvement is impossible, that their patriarchal
system represents perfection. Reward is looked for rather
in a twenty or thirty-fold return once in every four
or five years by luck of favouring climatic conditions, than
sought to be sissured by skill and the adoption of modem
modes of tillage.

Corn-growing nevertheless does pay in Spain, owing to
the import-duty on foreign grain, which ensures a profit
to the home-producer. But fortunes realized on the
cortijo are always ascribed rather to a run of good luck
than to any other specific cause.

He would be a bold man who departed from the
traditional systems in vogue since time began, in this land
where '' whatever is is best." And a strange fatality does
await experimental changes. The very soil seems to
repel innovation. A firm of practical English agricul-
turists failed signally some thirty years ago, and one still
hears it satirically told how the deep-searching iron
ploughshares from Inglaterra left offended fields which
for years afterwards refused to yield a crop.
. The minor accessories of farming, such as the dairy,
poultry and the stock-yard, which, we are told,
stand between many an English farmer and ruin, are
here ignored. For this, however, there is some excuse
in the vexatious and mistaken system of the octroi {con-
BumoB)y under which farm-produce and consumables of

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every kind are taxed on entering the town. The rural
farmer, it is true, escapes the town taxes, but as a counter-
poise, to tax his produce on its way to market, is clearly
saddling the wrong horse.* The incidence of such a
burden clearly falls upon the already over-taxed consumer
in the towns, increasing the cost of the necessaries of
life. The whole system is, moreover, arbitrary and irri-
tatiilg. How would one like at home to be stopped
every time he came in from a day's shooting, in order
that a '' duty " may be assessed on his bag of partridge,
rabbits, or quail? Or, worse still, on a few bottles of
wine which may remain unconsumed at luncheon, but
which the official of the octroi knows perfectly well were
taken out into the campo that same morning ?

The principal crops raised (Andalucia) are wheat, barley,
beans, and chick-pea (garhanzo)^ together with rye, alfalfa,
vetches, and canary-seed. Very few oats are sown, barley
forming the chief grain-food for horses. + No roots are
cultivated, no manure applied, nor any scientific rotation
of crops attempted.

Neither maize nor rice are cultivated in the south,
though both form important items in other parts of the
Peninsula. Bice, especially, is grown on the Mediterranean
coast (Valencia, &c.), and in Portugal. Possibly the Anda-
lucian marismas might form "paddy-fields" that would
make San Lucar a rival of Bangoon, as similarly Cadiz
might compete with Odessa. But may these ** improve-

* Taxation fleJls heavily enough on the farmer direct. Land-
owners are asked by the State for about one-fourth of the rental.
The tax on tenant-farmers is equally heavy, estimated by a cumbrous
assessment, based on the niunber of draught-oxen employed, or the
head of grazing stock. A large proportion of the taxation leviable is,
however, evaded.

t The following table shows the production of cereals (in Spain) in
a normal year : —

Wheat 82,776,055 hectolitres.

Barley 17,410,164

Rye 7,892,778

Maize 7,788,188

Oats 2,688,672 „

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ments " await another age ! May some few outlandish
nooks and comers of Europe be left as God made them,
where primaeval conditions may yet survive, and wild nature
reign in uncontaminated glory — at least during our time.

Much could easily be done to bring Spanish farming
nearer to European standards. Improvements will come,
one day or another : already the dawn of a more active
industrial life is beginning to glimmer. But as yet the
flutter extends only to manufactures, not to agriculture.
Capitalists are beginning to furnish their factories with the
appliances of modem machinery, and Spanish workmen
are found capable of adapting themselves, by their intelli-
gence and attention, to the new conditions, and to bear
a fair comparison with the workmen of other countries.

The wave of progress is at present confined to the
foundry, the mine, and the workshop, but will some day,
perhaps, extend to the cavipo — substitute the steam-plough
and reaper for the sluggish ox-team and sickle, the steam-
thrasher for the trotting brood-mares, and metamorphose
into an active industry the present drowsy, old-world
routine of Spanish agriculture.

Progress in Spain moves with halting step, and it were
folly to cherish sanguine expectations. Such a change can
only come with altered conditions in the people. Why, for
example, try to improve dairy arrangements when there is
no demand for fresh butter ? Why trouble with the cattle
when the fighting bull is the prize animal of the pasture ?
What encouragement is there to improve the grazing of
stock when an enthusiast who had stall-fed his beasts is
told by the butcher, " if you wish me to sell any more of
your animals, you must send them tcithoutfaV .^ Hitherto
this gentleman's efforts to reform the national taste have
resulted in utter collapse. Fattened joints are, in Spain,
in advance of the age, amongst a people wedded to the
flesh-pots of the j)ucherOf wherein the beef is required to be,
above all things, lean. The fat of the pig only is appre-
ciated in Spanish cuisine.

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The Olive.

Interspersed amidst the monotony of corn-land and vine-
yard is seen the peculiar foliage of the 6live. Its regular
rows of sober green cover many of the higher lands and
hillsides, and its produce, next to com and wine, occupies
the third place of importance. Outside the ancient htiertas,
where since Moorish days the orange, lemon, and citron
have been carefully tended and watered, the olive is the
only cultivated tree ; and well does it repay the minimum
of care which it requires. The olive enters largely into
the economy of every-day existence, forming an important
element both in the food and light of the Spanish people.
Olive-oil is the universal illuminant — in a little saucer with
rudely-fixed cotton wick (the mariposa), it lights the herds-
man's choza, the cottage^ and cortijo : this oil is also a
leading article of consumption with all classes. To the
poor it is an absolute necessary, taking the place occupied
by meat among northern nations, giving flavour and zest
to the hard bread and to the tough dry stock-fish imported
from Newfoundland or Norwegian fjord — besides beinjg
an essential ingredient in the universal gazpacho. The
fruit itself, in various forms^ gives a national flavour to
nearly every dish. Every one eats olives, from the way-
farer on the dusty highroad, whose hunch of dry bread is
sweetened by a handful of the piquant fruit, to the Madri-
lenian epicure who at Lhardy's restaurant demands the
"Eeinas" from Seville. These olives are of large size,
— almost like walnuts — and are only rivalled in flavour by

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the " manzanillas/' a smaller variety more resembling the
French olive, but, to our thinking, of superior taste.

These two kinds are carefully gathered in late autumn,
and are in universal demand throughout the Peninsula.
Beyond its boundaries they are little known or appreciated,
though some few have already found consumers in the
north of Europe.

Although the olive-trees are of the hardiest nature —
otherwise they could not survive, without irrigation, the



intense heats of summer — yet the crop is a precarious one.
After the fruit has been gathered in December, or rather
beaten off the trees, for that is the method adopted, the
olives destined for the oil-mill are subjected to severe pres-
sure by rudely-constructed wooden screws, often supple-
mented by stone- weights — again the simplest appliances of
modern machinery are often neglected — and the oil ex-
tracted is drawn off and separated into different qualities.
None, however, is of that grade — or rather its manufacture

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and elaboration are too rough and careless, to enable the
Spanish produce to compete with the refined neutral oils
of Italy and France. With a little more care in its manu-
facture, and more energy in its introduction to foreign
markets, the rich oils of Spain might doubtless be made a
source of much additional national wealth.

Its substantial quaUties, and in particular its power of
long sustaining light, are appreciated in Bussia, where it is
superseding the oils of other countries for its reliable
illumination of the iconsy or sacred lamps. The religious
tenets of the Muscovites require that these small lamps,
suspended before their images, should bum brightly, without
trinmiing, through the longest winter nights of eighteen
or twenty hours. The little glass tumblers of the icons
are filled to the brim with Spanish oil : a perforated metal
bar placed across, holds the lightly-twisted cotton wick, and
once lighted the little lamp bums brightly, without smoke
or attention, through the longest nights of the northern

At present the preparation and export of Spanish oil is
almost monopolized by the port of Malaga.

Horse-Breeding and Live Stock.

Andalucia is the breeding-ground of the best horses of
the Peninsula : many of the landowners are possessed of
well-known " brands," as they are called, and the farmers
are almost universally interested in horses to some extent.
Great strides have been made of recent years in the
improvement of the breeds through the importation of
thorough-bred English sires, &c. This is, indeed, the one
branch of rural industry in which a decided advance has
been made. Since the introduction of racing into the
country by Englishmen, about 1867 — Jerez de la Frontera
being the cradle of this, as of most other sports — the superi-
ority of the present breed has been thoroughly established.
Horses of a larger and better stamp than formerly are
now seen bearing the branded device of the various pro-

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vincial herds, it being still the cuistom to brand each
foal with the particular sign of the stud to which it

Eor temper and enduring powers the old Spanish hack
could never be improved upon ; but in shape and make the
race had sadly degenerated since the Spanish Gennet was
the favourite and fashionable steed of the wealthy both in
France and England. The heavy Flemish stallions
introduced by Carlos Quinto — of which Velasquez' pictures
give us the type — account for this falling-oflf from the
earlier form of that high-bred Arab race which long ago
supplied the wants of a nation of horsemen — the
CahalleroSy whose interests in life were coloured and
directed by a devotion to knight-errantry unparalleled in
other lands, and : which still leaves its impress on the
thought and habit of the Hidalgos of to-day.

Now, however, the Andalucian horse bids fair to regain
his ancient prestige ; some of the more ambitious hai^ax
boast their strings of pedigree- stock, and the stud-book
of Spain is an established institution, its register having
been zealously kept till this year, by the sportsman-
grandee, the late Duke of Fernan Nunez.

In contrast to these favoured breeds, and at the other
extremity of the scale, we have the almost wild horses of
the marismas, which shift for themselves throughout the
year on the open wastes, and fly, like the deer, from the
unaccustomed sight of man. The heats of summer, the
cold and wet of winter, are faced in turn by this hardy race,
which, in return for their freedom, provide their owners
with a yearly contingent of sturdy offspring. These
youngsters are only separated from the wild herds,
"rounded up," and captured with great difficulty — after
long and fast chases on the open plains. Perfect little
demons of vice and fury they are, too, when caught, shaggy
and unkempt little beasts, coated with dried mud, biting
at each other, quarrelling and screaming with savage rage
— Qt corral full of them newly-caught is indeed a singular
sight. On many of the old mares of the marisma the
hand of man has never placed a halter.

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Of the fine description of Spanish merino sheep, so
celebrated till the beginning of the eighteenth century, and
so rigorously guarded and protected by Spanish Govern-
ments, there remains to-day hardly a trace. France,
Sweden, and Saxony found means about that period to
obtain specimens of the Spanish breed, and with them
departed the glory of the privileged race. There remain
now in Spain but degenerate representatives. Years of
apathy have left to her little but the coarsest breed of
sheep both as to flesh and fleece. The race from which
nearly all the best European varieties have originated is
now, perhaps, the lowest on the list.

Mutton is comparatively scarce in the southern viercados,
where for one sheep may be . seen a dozen kids exposed
for sale. The latter — strange parti-coloured little beasts
— together with the ubiquitous pig and tough, stringy beef,
provide most of the meat consumed in Spain, whose scant
quantity and poor quality is eked out by vast supplies of
small birds — Larks, Buntings, Quails, and the like — which
are caught by means of a dark-lantern at night, as we
have elsewhere described ; whole festoons of small birds,
with Partridge, wildfowl, and Little Bustards, adorn the
market-stalls in the Spanish cities, flanked by Boe and
Bed Deer from the forests, and sometimes by a grizzly
boar from the sierra.

The Spanish markets also afford a wondrous display of
southern fruits and vegetables — ^whole mountains of golden
melons and sandias, tons of tomatoes and pimientos (red
pepper), prickly pears, purple-ripe figs, loquats, apricots,

Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 18 of 36)