Wed, 10 Jun 2009

Festa de les Trementinaires

Two weekends ago I went to La Seu d'Urgell again, and early on Saturday we drove to Tuixent, in the heart of the beautiful Parc Natural del Cadí-Moixeró, to participate in the Festa de les Trementinaires of the Vansa and Tuixent Valleys. Until then, I didn't really know what a Trementinaire was, so discovering that incredible tradition in place made it a lot more fun.

A Trementinaire was a woman who, in order to bring some needed extra income to their family, collected medicinal plants found around the Vansa valley area, and used them to make remedies, medicines and other valuable goods. The Trementinaire would then leave their house for a few months every year in order to walk all over Catalunya, going from town to town selling these remedies. Some of them were really valuable for the people in the Catalan plain and coast, and thus were expensive and provided enough money to pay the state's taxes to the Trementinaire's family. Their name was derived from the trementina, a substance made from the resin of red pine trees, which was used to make badges against many kinds of pain and bruises.

The Festa program included lots of different activities, one of the most interesting being a botanical tour around the Josa village, which gave us a very practical idea of what plants the trementinaires used and what they were good for. On Saturday evening, we moved to Sorribes de la Vansa, where we attended a talk about women in today's valley, and participated on a long session of traditional Pyrenean song dancing and singing, lead by the amazing Pep Lizandra. I took my time to become convinced about dancing myself, but it ended being lots of fun. Many of the songs had strong sexual content, which makes you wonder why these were acceptable two hundred years ago and are now so surprising, when not offensive.

El xotis de la relliscada

Eren les dotze ben tocades
quan la nineta va arribar,
duia la trena embolicada,
duia les calces a la mà.

Eren les dotze ben tocades,
el seu xicot la va cridar,
vine Roseta cap a casa,
ai que els meus pares han marxat!

La va abraçar es van petonejar
i la cosa aquí no va parar,
una mà aquí i una altra més enllà
i en Marià no es va poder aturar.

La va abraçar es van petonejar
i la cosa aquí no va parar,
i poc després quan ja anaven llençats
ai la marxa enrere va fallar!

Eren les dotze ben tocades
quan la Roseta va arribar,
duia un vestit de núvia blanca
i un ram de roses a la mà.

Eren les dotze ben tocades
el seu xicot ja era a l’altar
Roseta quina relliscada
haurem de dir sí al capellà

Back in Tuixent, we had dinner with some people we met during the dances and unfortunately due to the heavy rain we missed the burning of aromatic plants, but the organization relocated the concert and dance inside the town's bar so we had our second share of dancing for hours.

On Sunday morning, there was a market of herbal remedies and natural products and a guided visit to the Museu de les Trementinaires. The museum is a must see if you visit Tuixent, they have managed to capture the conditions of life in the valley before this job and tradition extinguished only thirty years ago, when the last trementinaire left her house to walk all over Catalunya, or as they said, anar pel món.

Industrialization and a quick and progressive depopulation of the Pyrenean areas were critical for the survival of a very localized tradition, which now struggles to not fall in oblivion thanks to the interest of the people of the Vansa and Tuixent valleys. It's sad to see how such valuable knowledge can be lost forever when all the women who did it have died...

The Festa de les Trementinaires is something I definitely want to enjoy again. Hopefully next Spring! If you are around the area, you'll discover a new world that resembles the Middle Ages, but happened only a few years ago, and will be welcome by the people of the valley, who show real interest in passing their culture to the next generation, even if the traditions are not so much in practice nowdays.