Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pigs, kissing friends and sword fights in castles: childhood in Trujillo

It is difficult to imagine the charmed life of a not unhappy chiled growing up in the exquisite little town of Trujillo in Extramadura, Spain. And whether it involves cutting the pigs throat with your bare hands, feeling and smelling its blood, or fighting with antique swords in palaces not yet visited by thieves or archeologists, a Trujillo upbringing would surely vibrate with exhilaration and wonder.
Just a small glimpse at the golden nugget of the memory of our friend, Luis, yielded many stoires, and as we walked and talked our way around this huge village, basking on a granite rock, he talked about his life here, pigs, girls and trespassing being some major highlights.
Every year, the family kill a pig, an event central to their meat-loving life. Hilariously, their early morning post-kill coffee was interrupted twice one year by the presumed dead porker making a red bannered resurrection dash. Another year, the pig leapt off the barbecue, only to sprint around in a flaming halo before the decisive blow being belatedly applied. Perhaps they are better here at eating pig than at killing it! Poor Waseem, unable to eat the neck-less, and so ‘Haram’ meat, was the centre of much genuine but unquenchable curiosity at meal times, almost in opting out of this large “chunk” of their culture in this way he became curisouly alien and invisible to any inquiry. And what with temperance at the dinner table being decisively out of vogue, we were both the source of great mirth and head shaking bewilderment.
But back to the children, on the walk we headed in along climb to the top of this (children's) playground of civilization, on the way up we came to the Alberca, a pool of spring water cupped in a 30 metre deep spiral staircase of stone. Luis would often plunge off its sides, daring friends even strapping a table to a nearby turret and leaping off from a great height to watery safety. A worn down trough was for the arab women to wash and socialize, and nearby were places where Luis would bring girls, or “kissing friends” as he called them, to little centuries old romantic locations.
He and his friends would no doubt have poked fun and played around the various statues and historic erections, the impressively macho bust of Francisco de Orellano (1511-1545), his impassive glowering face a veritable font of ape and ridicule, one of many structural playthings at a young persons luxury. Discover of the Amazon and townsman, along with Pizzaro, slayer of half of south and central America, warrior role models are in good supply here fof the youth.
And what would an impressionable soul make of the whirlwind season of larger than life fesitvals? In Easter, men in KKK-style white pointy hats promenade around with sculptures describing the stations of the cross, and then on the 5th of September, a giant Virgin Mary (Trujillo’s Victoria) is carried on a giant wooden polished brass cradle, complete with candlebras, down from its castle fortress to the central square by a society of carriers, the noise and colour heightened as families dance to celtic sounding reels in traditional dress, boys with long white shirts and red neckerchiefs, black waistcoats and close fitting caps, the girls in decorated dark skirts, plumped out with underskirts. On Mayday, they outdo us by partying like there is no tomorrow at a Monty pythonesque titled “Fanfare of the Cheese”, celebrating not just the local specialities but also several special bullfights. In one local cheese, the purple heart of the thistle weed is poured into the fermentor to make a special flavour, its spikes also the bane of the unwary youth playing around the scrub that line the castles ramparts. Here, cacti grow, great strap like pads of thorny green in overgrown reveries of succulence, their fruit reddening on the branch free to pick. Dopily, Waseem having taken one down to inspect, I tried to wipe off the ultra fine hairs with fingers, only succedding in inflicting an irritation all over our hands. Luis’s mother had once taken tweezers to his tongue. Another day, we explored the other major stinging thing hereabouts, turning over a large rock and discovering a large yellow scorpion having a siesta.
There was other free fruit, lemon orange and pomegranate drooping from heavily laden trees within a climb’s grasp, atop odd ramparts or leaning off walled gardens. And if you had real cheek, you threw your towel over the glass atop the walls of the expensive houses and, while the owner was away, enjoyed his fruit trees, manicured lawns and the cool water in the swimming pools. But not all of nature is up for grabs, some passing nuns a reminder of the three nunneries Luis mentioned were in the town (down from 10) one of which is closed now but used to have an outdoor toilet which wreaked of pee!
The town is thick with little nooks, the narrow streets acting as corridors to transport knowing youth to unknown destinations away from the adult world and to places to play freely beyond the inward looking gaze of the closeknit community. Come here, I would recommend it, and bring some children!

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