Xàbia : Facts and Anecdotes - Fishermen of Xàbia Part III Did you know that Our Lady of Loreto (Virgen de Loreto), who is the patron saint of the fishermen of Xàbia, is actually the patron saint of aviation, builders and construction workers ?
To understand why this is so, one has to go back to the origins of the legend of the Santa Casa (the Holy House), the dwelling in Nazareth (Israel) where the Virgin Mary was born, where the Annunciation occurred, where Jesus lived until his 30th year, and where Joseph died. In the year 1291, when the Moslems definitively expelled the Crusader Knights from Palestine, legend has it that this house was miraculously transported by angels through the skies, first to Tersatto in Dalmatia (Croatia). Then a few years later in 1294, after a few other stops, it was put down by the angels in its final resting place, a laurel grove, (in Latin : lauretanum), from which Loreto is named, near Ancona, Italy. (Another story for the name was that the angels put the house down on the land of a noblewoman named Loreta). Here it stands to this day within the Basilica of the Holy House, one of the most visited Marian shrines in the world.
A version which may be more plausible for us today, is that the wealthy Italian Angeli family had the Holy Family´s house disassembled to save it in the face of the Moslem invasion of 1291. They had it shipped to Italy via modern-day Croatia. The efforts of the Angelis turned into the legend that the angels had scooped up the holy abode. Science has proven that the house is in fact built with bricks that date back to the time of Christ and are of the same substance as other houses in Nazareth at that time.
The „flight“ of the house and its long conservation explains why in 1920 the Virgin of Loreto was officially decreed the patroness of aeronautics and builders.
So how come she became the patron saint of the fishermen of Xàbia ?
Here too there is more than one legend.
One popular story goes like this : in 1850 an Italian ship went aground off the coast of Cap Prim. Some fishermen went in their boats to save whom they could, but found only an icon of the Mare de Deu de Loreto to save.
Another version is based on a document written in the 18th century. In March 1679 a skirmish between a Genovese ship called the „Virgen de Loreto“ and an armada of seven Turkish ships was seen by local fishermen off the coast of Xàbia. Miraculously, the Italian ship won the combat. This prompted the fisherman to pronounce the Virgin of Loreto as their patron saint.
But in actual fact, we do not know when or why the fishermen of Xàbia chose the Virgen de Loreto as their patron saint. What we do know is that there was a chapel already dedicated to her in 1515 near the Puerta del Mar in the eastern part of the town, an area mainly inhabited by fishermen. However, we do not know whether she was revered by the inhabitants of Xàbia generally or whether the fishermen had already chosen her as their patron saint. A document of 1847 describes the chapel as rectangular with a large portico with 3 Mudejar-style naves, supported by 8 columns. The local school was also held here and there was an annex for the teacher´s quarters which was most probably added in 1556. We also know that in the 18th century some fishermen, who had died in a misfortune on the sea, were buried in this chapel.
The chapel seems to have been renovated towards the end of the 18th century. Almost a century later it had again become so dilapidated that it was demolished after a major accident, where a part of the nave fell, killing one man.
Today there is a public garden where the chapel stood. The only element that remainds us of the chapel is the „Jardinet de Loreto“, an edifice with a neo-Gothic style stone cross (1954), and the fountain decorated with a representation of the Holy Family´s House and a figure of the Virgin of Loreto carrying her son Jesus, built in 1923. This square is next to the Restaurant Trinquet and is called Plaza Vicent de Gràcia, in honour of the sandstone craftsman who made it.
Since 1896 the fishermen´s annual fiestas in the Port are held in honour of their patron saint, Mare de Deu or Virgen de Loreto . These begin towards the end of August and end always on the 8th of September, the birthday of the Virgin Mary. (The official day of the Virgin of Loreto is celebrated in most countries on the 10th of December, the day when the Santa Casa arrived in Loreto)
The fishermen´s new church, built in the mid 60s, is also dedicated to the Virgin of Loreto, but that is material for another article ……….
On Wednesday, February 1st, there will be a talk on the Portixol excavations at 7:00 p.m. in the museum's conference room. The presentation will be made by archaeologists responsible for the project.
Here is some earlier publicity:
Oct 22nd 2022
Municipal Museum and University of Alicante to begin archaeological digs on Portitxol island - The latest excavations will be carried out during October and November and will consist of intensive archaeological trials across the entire surface of the island.
Xàbia : Facts and Anecdotes/ Fishermen of Xàbia Part II - Did you know that in Xàbia there are only twelve permanently registered professional fishing boats ?
AMUX visits Xàtiva
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.