On Saturday 26 November AMUX members enjoyed a guided tour of medieval Xàtiva. With our excellent guide, Esther Polop, we learnt a lot of history, including among many other things: why there were once 12 convents, why the windows of a palace are offset to one side, why the cathedral is so huge and why it was never finished; who wrote on the walls, the controlled price of staple foods in the 17th century, the mystery of an Islamic marble bath and why the portrait of King Philip V is hanging upside down...and much more.
Xàbia : Facts and Anecdotes/ Fishermen of Xàbia - Part I - Did you know that in 1927 a cooperative association of fishermen was formed in Xàbia called the Pósito de Pescadores ?
Xàbia : Facts and Anecdotes / Part II ... Did you know that the cultivation of citrus in Xàbia is relatively recent compared to that of vines and olives ?
Although there had already been plantations in the Kingdom of Valencia by the end of the 18th century, it was only in the 1920s that plantations of citrus appeared in Xàbia. Over the decades they gradually increased and by the 60s it was a thriving agricultural branch. There were, and still are, two main areas of cultivation. One starts behind the Arenal in the Pla area and goes westwards up to the Benitachell road, with the Rio Gorgos on the northern border and the Cami Cabanes on its southern. The other is the region of Les Valls, between the Carreteras de Gata and Jesus Pobre.
The major citrus fruits planted here are oranges and clementines. Grapefruit is very minimal due to low demand, and lemons are not cultivated in Xàbia. There are two categories of oranges : the naranja blanca - white orange - which is used for juice, and the Washingtonia for the table. In the 50s, and approximately up until the 70s, mainly juice oranges were planted : salustiana, cadenera and also the sanguina or the blood orange.These were exported to France and Italy. Then from the 70s onwards several types of Washingtonia oranges were grown, replacing the cadenera and the sanguina.Today in Xàbia, there are mainly two types of juice oranges and four types of table oranges so that oranges can be had from November to June. Four different kinds of clementine are also grown here, harvested between November and May.
Orange trees need much care and water. Until the end of the 70s the method of irrigation was that which the Moors had introduced so many centuries ago.This is the „ a manta „ system, a canal-system in which the land is flooded. This uses a massive amount of water. In the 60s, when the Canal de la Fontana was being built, they had to perforate, hence disrupt, the protective layer between groundwater and sea water. This allowed the sea water to enter so that a large number of wells whose water was being used for irrigation, became salty. This, combined with longer periods of drought in the 70s and 80s, during which the ground water level fell - allowing even more sea water to enter - caused many trees to die and several plantations had to be abandoned. At the same time, tourism was on the rise, increasing the price of land and many then preferred to sell their land.
With such scarcity of water, a new irrigation system had to be found. Towards the end of the 70s the drip irrigation was introduced (goteo). Some say that it´s use here in Xàbia was the first time in Spain ! So far it has proven to be most effective. Each orange tree gets an average of 6 emitters, each one giving four litres of water per hour. In summer the irrigation system is turned on for 3-4 hours every night. Many farmers have wells on their land from where the water is taken. Those who don´t, have to buy well-water from a company.
Orange trees are work-intensive all year round. Once the fruit has been harvested, the trees need to be pruned. They have to be fertilized at regular intervals. This is done via the ground, but also via spraying onto the leaves for quicker absorption. Dealing with disease and pests is a particular challenge, especially since the more effective but dangerous pesticides are now prohibited in Europe. The citrus mealybug ( cotonet ) and the white fly ( mosca blanca ) are the most difficult to get rid of, but also the red spider mite and the cochineal bug are stubborn pests.. And among the many diseases plaguing the orange tree, the most persistent are the fungi.
A constant battle for the farmers !
And now the battle has to be waged on other fronts too. In the last few years there has been a 30% increase in citrus imports from South Africa, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco. Mainly due to low wages, these countries can offer considerably lower prices. A worker in South Africa gets paid approximately € 1,20 a DAY- with longer working hours- while in Spain he is paid the minimum wage of €12 an HOUR ! In addition, in Spain they must adhere to much stricter regulations which make for higher costs. This year a kilo of oranges fetched only 12 cents. The mighty retailers dictate the price. In the past six months the price of energy, petrol, fertilizers and pesticides has surged so exceedingly that there is barely any margin left. Each year there are farmers abandoning their plantations. The situation is so critical now that one wonders, will Xàbia - or even the Comunidad Valenciana for that matter - still have its beautiful citrus plantations in the years to come ?
For there is no real support nor solidarity coming from either central nor local authorities. Laws, that protect the interests of the farmers, are not being made, or only half-heartedly. A new law was passed this past June requiring cold-treatment for all citrus coming from non-EU countries. This is to prevent insects like the false codling moth ( falsa polilla ) from being brought into Spain and will at the same time increase costs for these countries, easing slightly the competition for the farmers. However, laws need to be passed that ensure fair pricing for the farmers. While the consumer´s price of citrus is rising, this is not reaching the farmer.
There are associations in the Comunidad Valenciana like the Unio de Llauradors and the Asociación Valenciana de Agricultores - Asociación Agraria de Jovenes Agricultores ( AVA-ASAJA ) which represent the interests of agricultural and livestock farmers. For the past 15 years Juan Antonio Miñana, a long-time citrus farmer, is the delegate of the latter in Xàbia. Although there are some 200 members of this association in Xàbia alone, only 10 or so are full-time citrus farmers, a number that has been dwindling since the 1980s. Unfortunately, there is no Spain-wide network, for these associations to carry any real weight and the farmers have every reason to feel left alone in their struggle for existence. Sad to say, even the Ayuntamiento of Xàbia has turned its back since the 80s to agrarian development, giving its preference to tourism.
If the situation does not change soon for the farmers, we can be sure that within the next 10 years there will be no spring-time orange blossom perfumes in the air of Xàbia and the orange could possibly even lose its status as symbol of the Comunidad Valenciana !
Xàbia : Facts and Anecdotes / Part I - Did you know…that the citrus fruit, which is not only Xàbia´s but also the Comunidad Valenciana´s major fruit crop and an emblem of the province, is the most commercialised fresh fruit worldwide?
Its history and development in the Mediterranean region is so interesting that I have decided to dedicate this month´s article to its history. Next month, in Part II, we shall look at Xàbia and its citrus plantations, past and present.
Xàbia Facts and Anecdotes: Did you know…. that before the decimal metric system was introduced in Spain in the mid nineteenth century, there was quite a chaotic and - for us now - complicated system of measuring?
There were myriads of different measures and often the value of a measure depended on the product being measured. To counter fraud and too much diversity of measures the kings and senyors of Valencia tried to impose some objective guides to unify the system. The „alna“ was for sizes, the „ lliura“ for weights, the „barcella“ for quantities (of cereals for example) and the „cànter“ and „arrova“ for wine. These were the main measure-guides from which measures for other products were derived.
For measuring lengths and surfaces, man was the measure for all things. So all was compared to the human body. Some examples are : el dit (finger), el pam (handspan), el colze (from elbow to fingertips), la braça (from one outstretched arm across the body to the other), el peu (foot). And it is the alna, also called the vara in other kingdoms, (see photo) that is the measure-guide.
1 alna = 2 colzes = 3 peus = 4 pams = 36 polzades = 48 dits.
The measure-guide for weights was the lliura (pound). In Valencia, this corresponded to today´s 355g, although in Castellon it was 358g and in Alicante even 474g.
30 lliures were 1 arrova ; and 4 arroves were 1 quintal
However, it depended on what you were weighing. A lliura of meat was 36 onces (ounces), whereas the „lliure del peix“ (fish) was 18 onces and the same for fruit and vegetables was 16 onces. So a lliure wasn´t just a lliure !!
And then flour was measured by quintales and arroves !
Cereals and grains were not measured by weight, but by the capacity of a recipient, the barcella or almud with its multiple sub-measures.
Liquids too were measured according to the volume of a recipient. The càrrega (pitcher) of wine or vinegar was 15 canters (jugs) or arroves and the canter was 4 quartes. But in the case of oil, the càrrega was12 canters !
And there were so many more measuring terms………..
As you can see, the system had no unity and the difficulties increased when it came to trading with other kingdoms, for even if they used the same terms, there were usually differences in what they represented. There is a historic document from 1671 in which the equivalent weights and measures of other lands are officially determined for their value in Valencian measures. (See photo). For example :
1 arroba of Catalonia (which were 26 catalonian lliures) were 34 Valencian lliures and 3 onces. Or :
100 braçes (of silk) of Genova were 56 Valencian alnes.
In 1849 Queen Isabel II sanctioned the Law of Weights and Measures in which the decimal metric system was introduced to Spain. Until then, every province had its own traditional weights and measures. Despite this law, the age-old measuring systems continued being used until 1880, when a national decree obliged provinces to use only the metric system for all administrative and social purposes.
Today, although we sometimes still hear the older generation speak in terms of lliure, pam or fanecada (measure of land area), we can only but admit that the introduction of the metric system, with its simplification and universality, was a huge success and an enormous stride in the direction of modern progress ….. or of centralisation, depending on the perspective of the reader !
Main source of information : „ Al Metre : de les Mesures Antiques“ by Antoni Espinos, CIRNE
Xàbia : Facts and Anecdotes .. Did you know...that Xàbia’s one and only cinema theatre - Cine Jayan - is the sole family-owned cinema in the whole region to survive the onslaught TV, video rentals and Netflix?
Cine Jayan - is the sole family-owned cinema in the whole region to survive the onslaught first of TV, then video rentals and finally internet movie channels like Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime ? By the 1930s almost all the towns around Xabìa had their own family-owned cinema theaters. Xabìa´s first cinema, Cine Espinos, was opened around 1915 by Antoni Espinos Llopis. This was located in what is today the parking lot of Restaurant Trinquet. It had been a casino before Antoni bought it to convert into a cinema with approximately 800 seats, a film reel office and a piano, all films being silent films in those days. It became extremely popular, with people even coming from the surrounding towns and was always fully booked. First it opened only on Sundays, later also on Saturdays and even later even on Thursdays. It became customary on Sundays that the men went to a football match after lunch, while the women spent time together and then at 7 pm they would all look forward to the latest cinema film. A second session would be shown at 10.30 pm. In the 1940s the family opened a cinema in the port. It also had a summer terrace close by. Cine Espinos in the village would be closed in the summers.
In the 1930s, before the Civil War, Jaime Ortuño and Angela Devesa, a couple who were bakers, moved from La Nucia to Xàbia to open their own bakery in the Calle Nazareno, no.20. Angela, known to all as Angelita, was very enterprising (surprising for a woman of her day !) and saw that there was great scope for a second cinema in Xabìa. She convinced the numerous members of her family (she was the thirteenth of thirteen children) to lend her money to open a new cinema which they then called Cine Central, opening in 1955 next to what is the Museum today. This had a capacity of 700 seats. Three years later Angelita opened a terrace for open-air viewings in the summer at the location of today ´s Cine Jayan in the Port. Very successful, both cinema and terrace were run solely by the family, her two sons taking charge of the acquiring and programming of the films, and the rest running the daily shows including the bars.
In 1973 Antonio Català Bover married Immaculada, one of Angelita´s daughters, who was studying in Valencia to be a pediatrician. He joined the family business and became a very active participant. A year later, the terrace in the port was converted into a cinema hall with a terrace on the roof. This was called Cine Jayan, an acronym of the names of the founders Ja-ime y (and) An-gelita.The theatre originally had a capacity of 420 seats, but due to a necessary anti-humidity reformation in 2003, it had to be reduced to the 347 seats it has today.
In the early 1980s, Antonio, who had brought a lot of quality films to Javea, including original versions of films, suggested opening a drive-in autocinema, which the open-minded Angelita (by now close to her 70 s) agreed to, inspite of resistance from the family. This was opened in1982 in the area near the camping site. A year later yet another open-air terrace was opened behind the Arenal, next to the petrol pump.
Then came 1985, a disastrous year for small family theatres in all of Spain. Ever since the advent of TV, the public´s interest in cinemas had already declined. However, when videos came on the market in the early ´80s and then video rental shops appeared everywhere, it was the final blow for many cinema halls (Cine Espinos had already closed in 1972). By the middle of that decade 50% of the cinemas in all Spain had to close, including those around Xàbia. Angelita´s world of cinemas struggled on. Then in 1995, when the Ayuntamiento showed serious interest in buying the building of Cine Central, they closed it and sold. It has remained unused and empty until this day…….
They were losing the battle against the new era of cinema culture. They had to close other places : in 2000 the terrace in the Arenal and in 2009 the auto-cinema. To keep up with the times Antonio, who had already been running the cinema for many years, had to make a big decision in 2011 : either go digital, which meant a huge investment, or close down. For all six of Antonio´s and Imma´s offspring there was no doubt. Fortunately for Xàbia, the passion is in their veins too !
Now Cine Jayan is almost the only one left of its kind in all the region. And it continues to be a family affair. After 58 years, we still have Antonio in the ticket office and Imma, who worked all her life as a pediatrician in Denia and in the evenings at the bar of one of the cinemas, is also still there. It is only thanks to their fervour and dedication that Xàbia still has its oh so charming cinema that we cinefiles are so enchanted by.
There´s nothing like a night out at the cinema…….not forgetting the popcorn of course !!
Los molinos de viento - The Windmills (J.Bolufer Marqués, Museu de Xàbia) Thursday, 26 may,. 19.30 pm. Auditorium Museu de Xàbia
Xàbia is the home to one of the most important groups of windmills in the Mediterranean. Eleven are lined up in a row running from east to west on the "Trencall de la Plana". Another, the Safranera windmill, is isolated and lies very close to the river, south of Xàbia Old town. These windmills have been documented in Xàbia since medieval times and they were in use until the end of the 19th century, when other forms of energy, new technologies and other factors, relegated them to oblivion and abandonment. The origins of these devices date back to antiquity, although the first known reference to windmills is found in an Arabic source from the 10th century. In Europe, windmills very different from those of oriental origin, are documented from the 12th century on-wards.
In this presentation, we will talk about the origins of various types of windmills, focusing on the history and description of those of Xàbia and the Marina Alta.
Xàbia : Facts and Anecdotes. Did you know… that the streets of Xàbia were totally dark at night until the mid 19th C. ?
Barcelona was the first city in Spain to get street lighting in 1841 and Madrid, Valencia and Cadiz not long after. Alicante followed in 1861. Not all streets, but the major ones were illuminated with lampposts - gas or kerosene - except on nights of full moon !
We do not know the exact year when Xàbia got its street lights, but it seems to have been one of the first in the region. We know for sure that the more important streets and squares were already lit in 1859 (with oil street lamps) because the Municipal Archives have a document in which the Ayuntamiento stipulates fines for parents of children who throw stones and break the glass of the street lamps….. apparently a new kiddies´ game !
We read in the Xàbia municipal ordinances of 1887 that by that year all streets were illuminated for five hours per night in the winter months and four hours on summer nights.
The 20th C. heralded a new form of lighting : electricity. In 1902 Xàbia signed a contract with the Count of Orgaz, owner of a company generating electricity from the waterfalls of the river Algar in Callosa d´en Sarrià, in which the company committed to provide daily energy „ from ten minutes before sundown until ten minutes before sunrise „ for public and private spaces. Private homes paid according to the number and strength of light bulbs : 1,75 pesetas a month for each five watts bulb ; 3,25 ptas a month for a 10 watts bulb, and 1 centimo per night and bulb that was over 10 watts. Later the luxury version of 40 watts arrived !!
Most houses contracted just one bulb, with sockets in 2 rooms ( which were invariably the kitchen and dining room ) so that the same bulb could be transferred between the rooms according to need. The rest of the house was in darkness and people still used candles or one of the many portable sources of light (paraffin or oil lamps). In addition, the oil hanging-lamp at the centre of the house was still very much in use, especially since there were frequent electricity cuts.
It only cost 0,50 centimos to contract electricity, so it became customary to unregister in the summer months so as not to pay the minimum fee. There was much poverty in Xàbia in those days. Joaquin Armell, owner of the 99-year old household and gifts shop in the Calle Mayor, tells us how his grandfather was employed by the company and was responsible for collecting the electricity fees from private clients every 15th of the month. Some needy families could not really always afford the 1,75 ptas, so he would advise them to pay any small amount so as not to have their electricity cut. Unfortunately, today the electricity companies do not give their clients that option …..
Only a few establishments could afford an electricity meter. The first buildings with a meter were the Ayuntamiento and Telegraph Office, Guardia Civil, agricultural Syndicate, five bakeries, two cinema houses and a few wealthy private homes.
Electricity came to the houses in the countryside only in the 1940s. Here oil and kerosene lamps were still the main source of light even into the 1950s.
For us in the 2020s a life without electricity is virtually unimaginable. For not only does it give us light, it makes for all kinds of amenities that promote an easier life. In fact every aspect of society today depends on it. Of course, whether that is a good thing or not is open to debate…..
Source : "La LLum Elèctrica a Xàbia" by Antoni Espinos
Xàbia : Facts and Anecdotes - Did you know ...that in 1960 the population of Xàbia was only around 6000 inhabitants ?
Precise statistics on demography are only available since 1857, so the earlier centuries´ population count is only approximate. In Moorish times there was no urban nucleus and Xàbia consisted of little „alquerias“ (clusters of houses) „in valle yxabee“ (in the valley of Xàbia - quotation from a document written in 1258 ). After the moors were subjugated in 1244 the Valencian coast was exposed for centuries to attacks by pirates and Berber corsairs coming from the Kingdom of Granada and the Maghreb. There was a great need for protection. So in the 14th century a tower with fortifications was built. This was extended over time to become the fortress-church of San Bartolomeu .These 14th C. fortifications were the beginning of a nucleus which grew over the centuries to become the town we know today. In the 16th and 17th centuries the population seems to have grown from approximately 1000 to 2000 inhabitants. The population continued growing so that by the end of the 18th century it was over 3000. By the 1860s, there were already around 6000 inhabitants and it remained in that range for a hundred years.
The population count started to rise more rapidly when tourism discovered Xàbia in the 1980s. From about 10.000 then, it rose every year until 2013 when the maximum count was 33.000. Since then it has gradually reduced. Today we are almost 28.000. What is interesting is that the population is almost equal in both sexes : there are only nine more women than men !! And by the way, we have six people a hundred years old and older, four women and two men !
The proportion of foreign residents living in Xàbia is an incredible 43% i.e. 12.000 inhabitants. The British make up the greatest group of 4.500 ( despite BREXIT !), followed by the Germans and the Moroccans.
Today, cosmopolitan Xàbia shows how open-minded and welcoming it can be, and is an example of how harmoniously the peoples of the world can live together.
Did you know……….that there are traces, even today, of a centuries-old rivalry between Xàbia and Denia?
This phenomenon is often seen all over the world between neighbouring towns - or even countries, for that matter. Nearer home, we also see it between Ondara and Pedreguer and between Gandia and Oliva.
In Roman times, the lands of Xàbia were part of the ager de Dianium, the only municipium that existed between Valentia (Valencia) and Alonis (La Vila Joiosa). Centuries later, in the Islamic era, it also formed part of the territory of the big city of Daniya. With the conquest of Jaume I, the Vall de Xabea, where there were several alquerìas, was included in the general municipality of the castle of Denia. The subsequent creation and rapid development of what we know as the old town of Xàbia (from the late thirteenth century), soon spurred its inhabitants to dissociate themselves from Dénia and to want their independance from it.
It was only in 1612 that King Felipe III conceded Xàbia the title of „Villa Real“, just months after Denia had been proffered the title of „ciudad“ by royal privilege. So now at last Xàbia achieved its independence from Denia. However, this only complicated the relationship between the two towns. In the ensuing 200 years lawsuits over several issues abounded between them, but especially over the delimitation of their respective territories. The bone of contention for centuries was the St. Bartolomé Valley, with the alqueria of Benissa de Vi, later called Jesús Pobre, and the delimitation line on the Plana del Montgo.
The rivalries between the two towns were not only due to territorial disputes. There were also ideological and political differences. A clear example of this is during the War of Succession. When King Carlos II died without an heir in 1700 there were two claimants to the throne : one was the Archduke Carlos (of the House of Habsburg, Austria), and the other was Felipe de Anjou (of the House of Bourbon, France). Denia sided with the Archduke, whereas Xàbia with Felipe. So when Felipe V ascended the throne in 1710, he gave Xàbia (1713) the dignity-title of „Villa Lealísima“ in appreciation of its loyalty to him.(That also gave it the privilege of using the fleur-de-lys in its coat of arms, which is still there to this day).
Today a healthy rivalry can be felt in more subtle ways. Although it can hardly be noticed by outsiders, the inhabitants of the two towns both know it is there.
Here are some examples :
Denia celebrates "fallas“ in March, as does Valencia. The Junta Central de Fiestas de Xàbia announced not long ago that the June fiestas shall be called "fogueres“ de Sant Joan. Xàbia does not celebrate "fallas“ (god forbid !), but "fogueres“ !!
And don´t the Javienses feel indignant when Denia talks of the "gamba de Denia“, referring to the high quality shrimps caught in the waters of Denia and Xàbia ?
Or : Javienses are convinced that after seeing the success of the Festival de Jazz de
Xàbia, its rival started competing with its own several years later…….
And anyway, who has the better beaches. And who the prettiest view of the Montgo ?!
Of course the list can go on and on…….