The term «Aldeology» It could well fill a gap in the academic lexicon. Studying the villages is not a simple matter or a lack of meaning. It is, nothing more and nothing less, than to know the gear of the peoples, to understand their past, to analyze their future and to forecast their future.
Studying the villages is also a matter of method. Two brothers from the rural nucleus of Asiego (Cabrales), Manuel and Javier Niembro, they combine theoretical and statistical knowledge, with the full experience of living in the town. Both have studied Geography at the University of Oviedo. Javier and Manuel, since the summer of 1999, have engaged in an initiative worthy of praise. Now they live in Asiego. And they bring and take from the beautiful mountainous area of Cabrales a bag full of ideas. They have turned their village into a laboratory full of knowledge possible for the visitor. The small dairies, the pomades, the wineries, the stables, the caves, the erias, the caleyas, the houses, the mountains and the men are their object of study. They have approached him in several ways: documenting, chatting with older people, but above all they know him because they live there since they were children and there they develop their economic activity around rural tourism. They also have enough semantic tools to tell what they see, what they hear and what they read. And they tell it while they walk, talk and pour a "culín" of cider to their guests-friends.
The itinerary starts at eleven o'clock in the morning or seven o'clock in the afternoon. You visit a modern cheese factory, inside an old house rebuilt according to the aesthetic canons of the Asiego of always. There, with attentive eyes, the guests follow the explanations of how a Cabrales cheese is made. And they are interested, they ask, they want to know every last detail. «And why you can get to chop the milk» «And what is the rennet» «How to recognize a good cheese».
The farmhouses, the hórreo, the sheepfolds ...
Once again outdoors, take a short walk around Asiego to show the hallmarks of a territory and of step to erase some topic between which they do not know. With his hand pointing to the horizon of his municipality, Javier Niembro, the geographer, explains what are the councils, the parishes, the villages, the agrarian terms. Then he focuses on a house, and from that house he picks out a detail. The small windows, for example, "are small because of the lack of glass at that time, but there are also some who say that they are the necessary size, that of a chamber pot". Smiles "A farm is a set of granary, meadows, and a house built with endogenous materials, the limestone of the Picos de Europa and the wood of the forests, with a corridor always focused to the south to give the sun and dry crops » "The roof has stones to resist the wind." "The hórreos were constructions antirroedores and humidity". It also explains some social change. "In the 50 years everyone went to the cities, in the 70 many built in Asiego for summer and they did away with the architectural criteria proposed by the environment." «The soot kitchens were replaced by the tiles, the clay tiles by the uralitas and the slates». Now, explain the villagers, it seems that people return and there is more second home construction. The new houses are more respectful of the essence than the previous ones. But the people who come back are also of age; people who left as a girl. The rate of aging of the towns is high and it is growing little by little.
Leaving the village proper amounts one up the erias, traditionally "the cereal areas", in the words of Manuel Niembro, the eldest of the brothers. The erias were subject to private property. But in November, when the cows descended from the high pastures to the low ones, in months in which they did not cultivate, walls collapsed so that the cattle could move at ease and the land became communal. In February the masonry works returned in common. "In short, the cycles of the economic activity of the people," summarized Manuel after a clarifying talk.
Las Llosas they are the high zones that surround to the erías. A more extensive land to be used by the community. "In a village the collective feeling prevails over the individual, dominates the sense of the public," says the young geographer. Two zones exist in the Llosas: the coastal pastures and the port. Several ports, even today, are exploited jointly, such as Asiego-Carreña, Asiego-Porrúa. And in the ports are the sheepfolds, the scattered huts for the shepherd's lodging during the light summer transhumance. «Many are now demolished, abandoned».
Cabrales Cheese Cave
And the ancient symbiosis of man with his environment is still explained. Now, 8 in the afternoon, it's the turn of a cave where cheese is still being cured in a traditional way. And the cave, according to Manuel, can be seen that it is alive and that it brings its whole being to cheese. There is the penicillium fungus, the lichen on the walls, the acid waters and a constant but imperceptible flow of the karstic skin. In the middle of the cave a topic is also broken. "No, Cabrales cheese does not heal in manure or have worms." Faces of satisfaction among some, some disappointment in the most romantic. Manuel comforts the last ones, "if they had worms it would not be bad, we already know that avant-garde gastronomy is that of insects."
Microorganisms, places and men continue to live together on a route through the laboratory. The "aldeología" advances walking "per les caleyes". High. A livestock farm. "Here, in Cabrales, the liter of milk is the most expensive in the region, after the designation of origin and the creation of the regulatory council, Cabrales cheese can only contain milk from cows that graze in the regulated area."
The pumarada and the llagar of cider
Back to the village, leaving behind the rumor of the milking machine and the heat of the stables, when it gets dark, an ointment is examined, its production is explained and that of other crops, mowing. And it is summed up at the end of the talk: «They are the seasons, the natural cycles on which agriculture depends». Then you walk towards the goal of the trip a craftsman's winery in the heart of rural. "This is home cider, no additives are used here to correct the fermentation, it is not gasified, the apple is crushed with squeeze or counterweight dams." «Cider + chestnuts in autumn = amagüestu». «In the spring the first spigots are made». "No, no, it's a lie that you have to throw the half inside and the half outside, it's done so that you can turn it around, so that it breaks."
The espicha in the wound
In the wine press, the guests of the Niembro brothers take some culines and praise the liquid element, and homemade. The didactic is finished with a espicha practice. Cheese platter, cabbage mayau, boiled eggs, corn tortillas, chorizo with cider, picadillo with potatoes, cod omelette, potato omelette, honey and more cider. Friendship.
"Here there is quality of life, people and the environment are pampered," says a married couple from Vilanova i la Geltrup (Barcelona). And the integration formula proposed by the Niembro brothers is assimilated by their students. "After these explanations one is more prepared to make popular tourism, without anyone to mark the agendas," maintains the Madrid native Jesus Real.
The greatest of the Niembro, Manuel, explains the virtues of a method they have invented for rural Asturias. «People are interested, they pay close attention, and it is desirable to satisfy this interest for the good of the peoples. If the ethnography interests the village it will recover its details and part of its life of yesteryear, "he maintains.
Asiegu has become a laboratory for rural development.
More information Cabrales TourismText: © Ramón Molleda for desdeasturias.com
Information of interestApproaching Carreña de Cabrales, from where a local road starts that takes us to Asiegu in just 10 minutes.
The itinerary starts at the Casa Niembro Bar. To sign up you must make your reservation in advance, by calling 985 84 50 01 or by contacting House of Village Pamirandi.