For some it is the most Asturian way of getting married. A couple who wants to marry by this ancestral rite should apply to the Vaqueiro Council, who will give or not, its approval for the dream to come true. Only one couple will be the lucky one. From here, preparations begin.
One of the most important events of the Vaqueira culture has always been marriage. In the Asturian West, the mixed marriages of Vaqueiros and villagers were rare. That the Vaqueiros married each other was very logical, because it was a community of pastoral and transhumant sign. The groom's father went to the bride's house and there determined, with haggling included, what each spouse had to contribute to the marriage. The day of the wedding, the procession formed by the bride and groom, sponsors and guests, was preceded by trousseau carried in a country car pulled by two cows. In it was carried an ark or trunk with white clothes, surrounded by sacks of wheat and the belongings that made up the trousseau. Above all, the matrimonial bed jutted out, and the horses galloped and rode with horses to the rump, and from their mounts they shouted cries of joy and celebration.
Much of the canons of this tradition are still recreated today. The day continues beginning at noon, when the official caravan meets at the top of the braña and part with the bridal procession that goes on horseback. For many, it is the most opportune time of the year for show off cavalry and festive costumes. The godmother's basket, adorned with bows containing bread, butter, eggs and sweets, adds more picturesque notes to the spectacular retinue. The wedding couple, today as always, continue to be the undisputed protagonists and they are entertained with a retinue of bagpipes and folk groups. In front of the outdoor improvised altar the arras are exchanged and the kiss that seals the commitment is given. Next, it happens a popular banquet, a picnic in which there is no lack of chosco, cooked ham, frixuelos, cider, whipped cream from the own brañas and vaqueiro coffee.
Instead of the bridal dance and the typical orchestra that entertains after dinner at the weddings that we usually use, in the vaqueira, what counts are the improvised tablados, the songs and romances of the most vivid brañeril flavor. Folklore groups perform traditional Vaqueira dances, a choir contest is called; dressed for the occasion, typical instruments are played, such as the "payetsa", which is a pan with a very long handle that is beaten with an iron key, and in the middle of the excitement, representatives of the traditional council deliver accrediting diplomas and proclaim the vaqueiros of honor of the year. Throughout this colorful day, it is easy to identify with a mixture of rebellion and resistance characteristic of the vaqueiro spirit.
Jovellanos defined them well three centuries ago: «Call yourselves VAQUEIROS because you commonly live on the raising of cattle; and of ALZADA, because their seat is not fixed, but they raise their residence and residence, and emigrate annually with their families and cattle to the high mountains ». Much has been written about the Vaqueiros since then. Scholars such as Acevedo Huelves, Uría Ríu, Canella, Cabal, or Caro Baroja have been making a kind of guide on a line that together with passages, maragatos and crooks constitute cursed towns, and whose common denominator was the social marginalization to which they were subjected by those who deprived them of voice and vote. The caciques of the time ruled the rules and imposed their laws both socially and economically; the clergy deprived the vaqueiros of the right to be buried in coffins or to overcome in the church a place indicated by a wooden beam, as it existed in the church of Naraval, or a legend engraved on the stone: «here the vaqueiros do not pass », As still seen in the temple of San Martín de Luiña.
A continuous discrimination that explains even better the rebellious spirit of its ceremonies, and the fact that the vaqueiros practiced a strong inbreeding; essential for the survival of a minority and marginalized group. Inbred marriage became basic to the perpetuation of the group and strengthen its identity.
Photo report: Ramon