Lagarteran balcony. Ingar (Madrid) 1/1935 no 13, p 417
I was born in 1932, and my first memories are from the late 1930s. I am the second of eight children. My father was a day labourer, working in the fields, while my mother looked after the children and earned money embroidering.
What we ate
In the morning we had soup and fried fat pork for breakfast. We often had ‘migas’, (fried breadcrumbs with garlic, and a good way to use up hard bread). Some people ate migas in the morning and others had soup and fried fat pork later in the day. At midday we had chickpea stew with fat pork and a potato. Some people who had enough money, would buy a little piece of meat to go in the stew. In the evening we had rice and potatoes or bread soup for supper.
In those days there were many women and children who had problems to do with what we ate. Back then we didn’t eat as many vegetables as we do now. The people in the village who had irrigated vegetable gardens sold what they grew. There were a lot of vegetable gardens and people grew a lot of vegetables on them.
Lagarteran market gardener with his produce in panniers. Photo: Francisco Andrada Escribano (1874-1977), in Oasis (Madrid) 11/1934, no 1, p37
People didn’t come from La Vera (a rainy, mountanous area to the north of us) to sell vegetables. We ate a lot of cheese, and people did come from La Vera to sell it to us. It was goat’s cheese. There were no goats here. They came from the towns of Madrigal and Candeleda. Women and men would come with donkeys and sell the cheese in the streets.
When I grew up we ate very little fish. It wasn’t like now, no, it certainly wasn’t. There’s a family in the village whose nickname is “los peceros” (the fishmongers). The wife, husband and children used to catch fish from ponds. In those days it rained a lot, more than now. There were many seasonal ponds on the dirt tracks and in the mountains. Fish were raised there and a herb like wild fennel was used to catch them.
In the afternoon, at tea time sometimes people ate sardines that came in a round wooden box. They weren’t sold in the fish market, but in the shops.
Rosita’s mother would go with a mule to the train station to get fresh fish. It would arrive in a goods train, in wooden crates. They brought sardines and small whiting. Small fish. This was many years later.
You could also buy dried cod in shops. Many years ago, when I was a girl the adults used to tell me to go to uncle Francisco’s shop to get a cod tail. We were going to have rice with cod and potatoes. But it was just enough to give a taste of cod. Back then, people would ask for one or two pesetas worth of cod. It was sold for very little money.
We didn’t eat seafood or anything like that. In the old days, we didn’t eat as many sweet things as people do now. Only at weddings, when we ate sweet doughnuts made with honey, called ‘mangas’ and ‘floretas’ according to their shapes, and puff pastry made with pumpkin cooked with honey.
How we cooked and heated our homes
Kitchen in the museum of Lagartera
We cooked on a wood fire. The bedrooms weren’t heated with anything. We had a fire in the fireplace in the kitchen, and that was the main heat for the house, but the kitchen fire didn’t heat the whole house. There were charcoal braziers. We felt the cold in winter in those days. The beds weren’t heated either, though, if you were ill you might have a hot water bottle in your bed.
Clothes and shoes
There were no pyjamas. After the war people started to wear them. We slept in a T-shirt or a shirt and in panties or briefs, with several blankets. My mother bought us clothes once a year. You couldn’t hand them down from one sister to another because they were too ragged after a year’s wear. On Sundays we had a different dress from during the week. We wore dresses, there were no suits.
All the families used to dress in more or less the same way. After a long while people did wear more modern clothes, but not at first. Everyone wore more or less the same sort of clothes, and there were many women who wore the traditional costume. There were a lot of people of my age who wore the Lagarteran costume.
We had cloth and esparto shoes. We didn’t have boots. Some rich people did, but then, the rich people didn’t have many shoes either. So everyone wore cloth shoes, and sandals. I was barefoot, when I was a girl, during the war. In the winter we had rubber sandals and we got sores and chilblains on our feet. That was in war time, then after the war, people started to wear different shoes and clothes. After the war there was less scarcity, you could buy more things, life was better. Cloth shoes came from outside Lagartera. They didn’t make esparto-soled shoes here. They didn’t make cloth either. There were no looms. I didn’t know of any.
How clothes were washed
There were no washing machines to wash clothes. Women went to the countryside, to the orchards and gardens where there was a well and a stone sink, and they washed their clothes there. We used to wash at Pozo Martín, where there were ten or twelve sinks and we women would get together there and talk a lot. We did our washing well. You washed the clothes and laid them out in the sun, and then you washed them again and again to be laid out in the sun and then they were rinsed and laid out in the sun again to dry. IThey werew washed with homemade soap. There was no detergent.
On Sundays we’d change our clothes and on Mondays we’d go and wash them. During the week we’d do more washing. We didn’t change our clothes every day like we do now.
If men went to the mountains (where there was more water, so irrigated crops) to tend crops for a fortnight, they changed their clothes when they came back to the pueblo, and that’s when we washed them. We’d take the food to the men and stay there for the whole day. When the daughters in a family were older they went to the countryside to wash clothes, while the mother stayed at home with the younger children.
Corral de Lagartera, 1932. Corral de Casa Rica, 1938, by Amadeo Roca Gisbert. The ‘corral’ was a walled enclosure by the house where animals were kept. The bigger houses had a yard for animals at the back, while the street door opened to a courtyard (patio) where women embroidered. In these houses, the ‘patio’ was the ‘public’ space for humans. However, many houses had small yards, so the ‘public space’ was confined to the covered doorway, and the rest of the yard was used for keeping livestock.
We drew water from a well to wash our hands before eating. People bathed using a basin or sink with water. The water was heated and that’s how you washed yourself. When the weather was good you could wash in the yard and if it was cold you could wash in the bedroom. The men bathed in the ponds and in the river.
A plan of a traditional Lagarteran house by a man who came to Lagartera to study traditional houses. This house had quite a lot of space for a stockyard and ‘patio’. Ingar (Madrid) 1/1935 no 13, p 417
People used to urinate in the stockyard by the house and in straw heaps. In the past, there used to be a heap of straw in the yard, which we used as a toilet. There were heaps of manure in the vegetable gardens and they were collected and used on the vegetable gardens. All the rubbish was thrown onto the manure heaps.
The houses were cleaned and whitewashed every year. All the rubbish was thrown on the manure heaps and then used on the land. There wasn’t as much cleanliness as there is now.
School and work
I was taken out of school very young, when I was eleven years old. My mother had many children and the older ones had to be at home helping her. When I left school I was studying ‘El Catón’ (a school primer). I didn’t get to sit at a desk. I really wanted to be put at a desk. The classroom was laid out so that in the middle there were desks and around the classroom there were benches without backs. The pupils who knew the most were at the desks, but as I didn’t go to school for long, I didn’t get to sit at them. I can’t write properly, I leave out some letters, I don’t know where to put them. I can read. I was using a primer when they took me out of school.
My brothers and sisters are more or less the same as me. I don’t know much about maths, adding and subtracting.
My father worked on the land and earned five hundred pesetas a year. He was given his wages on St. Peter’s Day, in June, and he, Lucio, and my mother, Sabina, managed the money for the following year. He also had twelve bushels of clean wheat, he sowed the piojal, barley and wheat, chickpeas and potatoes. They bought two piglets and fattened them with barley flour during the year. They would slaughter the pigs and my mother would keep one for the whole family to eat and sell the other one, and with that money they would buy another pig to fatten it for the next year. And so on, year after year. They made bread with the wheat they grew. Bread was made every fortnight.
We women embroidered. Girls were given a small napkin and we would first hem it, then do the motifs, using counted threadwork. We would block them in with a special stitch and then fill in the background, with another stitch in a contrasting colour, and that was it. Nothing was calculated, there was no maths. To make a tablecloth, you folded it several times and found the centre, and from there you distributed the embroideries, put in a thread to work out where the motifs went, and distributed them. If there was any leftover space, you did a rough estimate.
Children helped with the household economy. The older ones went out to work because children were coming into the family, and others were getting older, and at first there was only the money that the father brought home, so if the children earned something, it was good for the mother. The older daughters stayed at home embroidering and helping with the housework. We left school at a very young age to work, either inside or outside the home. There were eight of us children . After they had finished their first communion my father put my two brothers to work first. They worked in the fields at first and then changed their trade. My sisters, who were younger than me, went into service at the age of fifteen.
Before when women were pregnant, it wasn’t such a big deal as it is today. You didn’t know how the baby was going to be born. People didn’t look after themselves as much. I used to go out to the countryside to wash clothes in winter and in summer. They didn’t do tests or anything in those days. Women gave birth at home. I’ve had two children, both were born at home. You didn’t go to the hospital. There was a doctor in the village and a midwife, but it was the midwife who did most of the work, who washed us and brought the baby into the world.
Many children died because there weren’t the advances in medicine that we have now, nor the medicines. One of my sisters died when she was four years old. She had diarrhoea and because there was no medicine they prescribed sour milk, milk with lemon, that’s what they gave to children. People used to go to Calzada to get medicine when you couldn’t buy it here. Now we can see doctors, and they prescribe medicines that we can buy in Lagartera.
Filomena García Herrero, Lagartera, Toledo, 12th January 2024
Two interesting articles (in Spanish)
Lagarteran houses: Hemeroteca Digital. Biblioteca Nacional de España (bne.es)