Hurdes - Culture - History
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From the sixteenth century, several interventions took place. These were directly related to the so called "exterior superior" as regards the "powerful èlites" in administrative and political matters.

On a second level, the "cultural èlites" of the region became a kind of conscience of the exterior-superior first level. They tried to change this society by using moral speeches. However, the honest intentions in human interaction were also usual.

In the first half of the seventeenth century, the bishop Vicente y Cebrián reduced the two levels of intervention. He tried to put the farmhouses together and create a few urban settlements. He only continued his predecessor's project, Porras y Atienza's. This project came out in a time of senorial power, which weakened the mechanisms of the senorial administration in the territory of villa and land of Granadilla.

This process was similar to the one in the rest of Spain. The strengthening of the absolutist Bourbon monarchy had an influence on the senorial regions. The proposals for a moral and material regeneration meant a new attempt to reorganise the urban space.

However, the inhabitants from Las Hurdes rejected the bishop Vicente y Cebrián's project. What was the reason for this rejection? The inhabitants refused it because it had been elaborated out of the region. Because of this, heritage and the rights to "graze" the region did not exist.

The project did not take into account the inner regional "tempus" and the social, economic and rational rythm in Las Hurdes. During the eighteenth century and nowadays, the reorganisation meant to lose the history, the traditional settlements and the immaterial aspects on the part of its inhabitants.

The following outstanding step of the exterior-superior took place in the first half of the nineteenth century. It was the intervention of the liberal bourgeois State: the disentailments of the ecclesiastical and civil possessions - after Mendizabal and Mandoz's Laws.

Mandoz's disentailment was one of the most important ones in the region because of its characteristics: general objectives, procedure and immediate effects. These specific aspects demonstrated the "blindness" of the exterior-superior methods in Las Hurdes. The bishop Vicente y Cebrián's regrouping to achieve some material and spiritual improvement seemed not to be preposterous.

This "individualised" proposal emerged after the evaluation of the general conditions of the region. It was a part of a specific intervention plan which ad a series of inter-regional objectives. On the contrary, the civil disentailment was a part of supra-regional, indiscriminate and non-specific politics. It had multiple objectives, which were economic, political, social and so on.

The nineteenth century disentailment meant a kind of "outrage" upon the territories of communal use. Because of a wrong characterisation of the proper's properties (lawfully amortizable) and the common's (non-amortizable), the hills of the municipalities were put up for auction. These hills had been a place for agricultural use (goats, beehives and cleared ground).

Perhaps, the legal ambiguity of the disentailment was related to the fact that the common properties were assessed as uncultivated appropriated lands. That is to say, before the nineteenth century, they were municipal areas that were considered as proper ones.

Their rents were directed to pay for determined municipal expenses. However, at the end of the eighteenth century, the documentary sources show that there were no real own properties in any of the three councils (Pinofranqueado, Nuñomoral and Caminomorisco). The only exceptions were found in a small "prairie for pasture" in Pinofranqueado and "six puddles" in Caminomorisco.

Apart from this fact, in the first half of the nineteenth century, some documents show that the apparently proper disentailed territories were really properties collectivelly exploited by the farmers. These territories were free except for the money used to pay some municipal expenses.

The inhabitants from Las Hurdes had the right to use the uncultivated mounts placed in the other councils of the "community of villa and land" of Granadilla. In the middle of the nineteenth century, a limited number of rustic properties were considered as rustic ones.

Regarding Pinofranqueado, for example, a circular sent as an answer reveals that the farmers paid 1300 reales to use a few common pieces of lands. Equally, there was another answer to a question about the uncultivated land and the pastures for the ox : the town hall described the territory as "wild hills that only produce heather and strawberry trees". One thousand and six hundred land measures belonged to the community and were rented by the farmers annually.

Something similar happened in Caminomorisco. A series of properties within the limits of the council publicated, in 1855, the existence of a small area of "male pinewood" in Cambroncino hills. Its size was "about 200 feet between middle and small ones". Besides, it could be read that "the sharp hills in Las Hurdes, without trees or pasture, were for common use".

The consideration of common territories was important as regards their use. Taking into account the contents of the Real Audience of Extremadura", the inhabitants from Pinofranqueado and Caminomorisco could border the hill on. Generally, the inhabitants could use these areas freely. The civil disentailment would obviously limit that traditional right in Las Hurdes.

Up to that date, the inhabitants could border the territory on; that is to say, they could burn and sow in any appropriate place on the hills. Thus, the cattle could enjoy and the land was also used. The difficulties would appear after the disentailment that assessed the limits again by changing them into the proper's properties.

The inhabitants from Las Hurdes knew the prejudice that the disentailment meant. Thus, in a document written by the town hall and the inhabitants from Pinofranqueado to the governor of the province, the following quotation could be read: " all the land in this council, apart from those of particular use, are of common use for these inhabitants from ancient times".

The purpose was to recognise the territory as a common one in order to keep out of disentailment; on the contrary, "the well-known poverty would reach an unbearable level". The inhabitants related the potential pastures of the common territory to the development of the agriculture of small family orchards.

So, agriculture and cattle raising were complementary and essential for the economy of Las Hurdes through history:

"The orchards, the main source, are placed on a poor land; they need a lot of fertilizer. If a land's buyer wanted to give importance to his pastures, people could not continue raising goats. As the agriculture was scarce, it would disappear. Then, what would happen to these unlucky inhabitants?"

However, the inhabitants' asks were ignored and the common lands were auctioned. The inhabitants, not only those from the low Hurdes but also from the High Hurdes, reacted to this threat by creating some societies of buy and exploitation of the lands to achieve their own. They had to pay a lot of money.

From the disentailment, the functional destiny of the common territories was shaped and strengthened. But the main Halls directed their administrative guardianship. The up-to-date predominant role of the "common" was considerably reduced as regards its management.

Finally, the last intervention of that exterior-superior we above mentioned took place in the twentieth century: In 1940, the afforestation of the hills took place in the region. The afforestation caused the recalification of their condition. They became of public use.

Firstly, the main Halls directed their public use; secondly, a national body took the direction (The National Stock of Trees of the State-Icona). The afforestation broke some historical rights and gave a new orientation of the productive process in the region.

The new speciality of the soil (forest, wood) disturbed the traditional cattle use (bees and goats) which, through history made the traditional customs impossible. Besides, the afforestation created a new awareness of "pillaging".

To sum up, after more than four centuries of historical configuration of the society in Las Hurdes, it can be stated that the region has been considerably influenced by the exterior.

This influence has been different depending on the different ages and circumstances. The inhabitants from Las Hurdes have been creating a way of collective answers that have been always characterised by the influence of the proper.

Through these centuries, Las Hurdes have tried to achieve the integration in the superior that could give them the survival. This integration fought against the "refusal" on the part of the exterior power. The region had to live between the openness and the isolation.


The architecture in Las Hurdes strongly identifies its villages and inhabitants. It has remained intact through the centuries. Arriving in Las Hurdes means to observe the splendour of its vernacular architecture. Its constructive typology reclaims many ancient cultural origins.

This reveals that the villages came out as a consequence of the natural union between Man and Nature. The abrupt irregular soil has established a pattern of small simply - shaped house.

The simplicity of its materials, stone and slate, brings life and beauty to austerity. Its either round or square ground is in accordance with the roof outside, which is covered with slate. In ancient times, these characteristics made possible the configuration of villages that mixed with the landscape.

So, the bioclimatic house appeared as a consequence of its adaptation to the surrounding natural environment. Inside, two different areas can be found: on the one hand, a domestic area, which is composed of a bedroom and a slate kitchen; on the other hand, an area for animals. Both, inside and outside, the objective is to achieve usefulness.

The houses in Las Hurdes are low because of the hostility of the ground. They have a few spaces on the outside. With the passing of time, the number of gaps will be higher related to the creation of new heights. The roofs are made of slate, without chimneys, to use the inner smoke as a way of drying the house inside. The balconies will appear after having restored the inner part of the house.

Stone benches occasionally interrupt the outside wall. The house is semi - detached to make better use of the ground. There are many blind alleys; some of them are so narrow that they can only be used to separate one house from another one. Everything as a whole represents the typical house from Las Hurdes.

These make us understand that "knowledge does not only consists of looking, but also of feeling the background as an attempt to understand what our curious eyes see".


To take care, preserve or protect are synonyms of loving something that has become a part of our lives; a kind of cultural heritage from ancient times that we must keep alive.

We must be conscious of the fact that, if we lose what we have and identify us, we will forget what we are. That is to say, we are the people who build our own future by hand. Technical media are now multiple, the same as the methods to increase the output of the land. Because of these, the old and new buildings must keep the original image of Las Hurdes. The black stony slate landscapes create its villages.



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Picture yield by: Maurice Legendre. "Las Jurdes: Etude de Géographie Humaine".

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