Veigas & the climb up (Somiedo pt2)
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Veigas is an old parroquia, a parish, within Somiedo. As far as I can tell, it is not and has never been a braña. Traditionally, brañas do not have churches, as Vaqueiros are not clergy and according to María Cátedra, a priest will not set foot on Vaqueiro land except in the case of a death (or braña colonization) but it is not clear if this just applies to a priest or to xaldos as a whole. It makes sense that xaldos would not want to go near the territory of the despised race. Brañas are certainly not parroquias, which in Asturias, serve not only as a religious unit, but political, administrative, and social units very similar to the civil parishes of Ireland. The majority of them are very old, and while brañas are always part of a parish, brañas would not have a church or chapel, much less be a parish, save for the case of colonization by xaldos. (Note: The exception to the churches and chapels in brañas besides colonization is those commissioned by the Principality or private businesses or xaldo individuals in the past 50 years usually for tourism reasons).
This is why I was very surprised to find that it appeared to me that Veigas was inhabited completely by Vaqueiros. Especially after I visited some nearby cemeteries and saw all the Vaqueiro surnames on the niches, it was easy to tell that these regions of Vaqueiro territory today are inhabited mostly by Vaqueiros.
That surprised me a lot. Vaqueiros get described as a very small population dwindling (still true) or a people that no longer even exist (extremely untrue) and I guess I expected for xaldos to be overwhelming the Vaqueiros, which overall, is what is happening, just not in the rural Vaqueiro areas of the west.
Although among the winter territory of the Vaqueiros and some areas of summer territory of the Vaqueiros, Vaqueiros lived with distant xaldo neighbors below them, there were no more xaldos here and only the Vaqueiros remained. It quickly became clear to me why this was and it was a massive point in my research. The xaldos had left Veigas and the other towns looking for opportunity in large cities while the Vaqueiros had stayed because the xaldos lacked the ancestral connection with the land that the Vaqueiros have.
In IGN maps, as soon as the buildings of Veigas end, the brañas begin, and there are many named brañas closely around La Falguera that I do not recognize the names as they pertain to Vaqueiros, but are possibly 'neighborhoods' of La Falguera, as they sometimes existed in the brañas. However, they are clearly marked brañas and are cared for by the Vaqueiros, who have also begun turning Veigas into a braña of some extent.
The church seemed more a chapel than a church, it is very tiny, especially for a parroquia, and it is out of use and the gates are locked, but when I looked into them, it was pretty empty save a weathered figure of Jesus that stared me right in the face.
There were some newer buildings, especially towards the beginning of the town and along with that, older ones in the older one some of which were inhabited, though it was difficult to tell how many people might be living there.
I found the fonte, which was also a l.lavadeiru, where laundry is washed. I think the fonte is one of the most important parts of the braña. Certainly it is a central part of the braña, but it is where people gather to talk and it is where the water, the life of the braña, comes from. The fonte is a specific village or town utility which exists in certain parts of the world. It is certainly a cultural fixture. There is not a good word for a fonte in English because fountain and spring do not describe it well enough. My professor thought it was funny I had taken so many pictures of the fonte, but I thought it was important. It is very important in other parts of my culture as well, and most Americans have no idea what this type of thing is.
I saw four people around Veigas, one woman cooked dinner, another took out the trash, one man seemed to be hammering away at madreñas, and a second was higher in the braña, keeping up the cattle pastures, although this was for a short period of time, because I got there around siesta. There were a few teitus at the top of Veigas, they seemed somewhat newer and I doubt they were there when xaldos lived here, but you never know. There was also a paneira, though it was located closer to the road.
One of the teitus was very strangely shaped, it almost appears to be two levels aside from the loft that is normally in the teitus. Attached to it was a pen with chickens. The Vaqueiros here seemed to be growing and raising their food themselves, as Vaqueiros do traditionally, and they had cultivating areas near the river on the other side of the road from Veigas.
This path I am taking from Veigas to La Falguera seems to have been developed as a walking trail at some point, there is a little touristic information on the teitus and some of the teitus are marked by casa with signs. The oddly-shaped chicked teitu belongs to Casa Diotina.
Walking up to La Falguera is extremely beautiful. However, the 3d map makes it look as if you only need to climb up the side of the mountain, but this is not the case. To get to La Falguera, you must cross over an area in between the peaks to another face of the mountain where La Falguera is located. It is walkable, I did it, but I will say it is very difficult and the path just goes straight up. But if you are an experienced hiker and also don't have asthma, it is probably nothing. The incline is the main concern, for the path is paved and actually, if you can drive a car in the mountains, it is a road that can be driven, otherwise the Vaqueiros of La Falguera would have no way to get there, for they are all at the very least over the age of 50. Asturias, but the Vaqueiro population especially, is aging.
I was required to take an earth science class for university and at the time, I hated science, but I ended up loving the class, and as I began to climb up, I saw more and more things that made me believe that this mountain and the Cantabrians as a whole were glaciated during the last glacial period. I looked this up later and while maps never show anywhere in Spain as being glaciated, there are many papers about the glacial history of the Cantabrians.
Something else I notice is plenty evidence of cows, but there are no cows to be found! There are many large cow pastures across the braña above Veigas. It is bright and green, and it is so sloped I could hardly stand on it much less imagine the cows standing on it.
As you can see also, the Vaqueiros have spread manure in parts of the braña. This is a very Vaqueiro practice. Of course, manure is used for fertilizer everywhere, but one of the most important things cattle do for Vaqueiro is produce manure, which they call cuitu, and spread in very many parts of the braña to create very fertile land. I find it unlikely that Asturian xaldos would be spreading large amounts of manure on cattle pastures on the sides of mountains.
One of the photos my professor was most interested in, Vaqueiros use slash-and-burn agriculture, and in the braña there was a clear deliberately burned area of land. According to my professor, slash-and-burn agriculture is extremely rare in Spain.
I came across a fonte, in this case, a free flowing spring, as I got closer to the top towards La Falguera.
After reaching the limit at the top, the view changed dramatically and instead of looking steeply up, I felt perched on top of it all. And for the first time, I could see over to the face of the mountain where La Falguera was located.
I will do a third post to cover La Falguera because this became much longer than I expected! Sorry for the wait and sorry because I am going to leave you with another!