Sue Burke (mount_oregano) wrote,
Sue Burke

A day in Buitrago

History has buffeted the little town of Buitrago de Lozoya. I wrote on Friday about vacations and fiction writing. My husband and I visited Buitrago on Saturday. There's more than one story there.

The town was founded in Roman times 75 kilometers north of Madrid on a bend in the Lozoya River, but not much in known about it until its reconquest in 1096 from the Moors. Its location near a strategic mountain pass made it important beyond its business of sheep and cattle grazing. Either during Moorish times or soon after, it had fine defensive walls.

In the 15th century, it belonged to the Marques of Santillana, one of the most important men in Spain. He built a fine castle as a summer residence. Buitrago grew rich on trade and the wool industry, and the royal family visited often.

But slowly the economy faded. Napoleon's troops, in their retreat in 1811, burned homes, the castle, and decimated the population. Over the coming century, the economy got even worse, and the population dropped below 500. The town stood on the front lines during the Civil War in the 1930s, and the church, hospital, and many homes were destroyed or badly damaged.

Starting in the 1970s, things picked up. Buitrago now enjoys official status as a Place of Historic-Artistic Cultural Interest. The church and other buildings were rebuilt or restored, but not the castle, though a bullring was installed within its ruins in the early 20th century. It's now used for concerts and cultural events.

Recently, a walk has been installed on the walls. There are pretty parks and plazas, and good restaurants. The town holds a medieval fair in September and a live nativity scene in December, and many residents, who now number 2000, participate. The scenery surrounding the town is striking. The municipal hall hosts an interesting little Picasso Museum.

Tourists are welcome. It's a very small town, good for a day trip because you can easily enjoy it all in one day. But a lot happened there. As an American — from Wisconsin, at that — I'm used to towns that were founded in the 1800s at the earliest and grew, and that's about all that ever happened, except for maybe a tornado. Towns like that inspire different fiction.

When we were leaving, we couldn't find any real souvenirs, so we bought some local cheese. It was delicious.

— Sue Burke

Tags: spanish, writing

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