The Marina Alta region, especially the coastal village of Jávea/Xàbia, has its 20th century heritage wrapped up in raisins. Not just any raisins, but the succulent Sultana raisins made from the marvelous muscatel grapes, which brought fame and wealth to the industrious villagers.
Within the Soler Blasco Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum are an important series of artworks by Soler Blasco that immortalize traditional trades, fiestas and legends. One of these impressionistic paintings showcases the process of blanching and drying of grapes to make raisins.
REPORT BY: Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. (www.KarlaDarocas.com)
Xàbia artist, teacher and resident Soler Blasco (1920-1984) became an important local figure because he was the mayor from 1974 to 1979. He was also involved in great cultural projects such as the creation of an archaeological museum and the Municipal Public Library.
Blanching accelerated the drying process. It all started with lighting the oven or fire, "el fogater", then filling a pot with water, herbs, caustic soda and bringing it to a boil. Then the grapes were tossed into the pot for a good 15 minute boil, then spooned out onto a drying mat.
In the back of this painting by Soler Blasco you can see the landmark mountain named "Montgo" and a white building with a "Riurau". During the 19th and 20th centuries, Riuraus flooded the the entire Marina Alta rural landscape. These unique Roman arched constructions were used to dry the raisins when it rained.
The oldest documented sources relating to the production of raisins in the Valencian territory date back to the second half of the 15th century. In the Marina Alta, there is evidence of the production dated 1476, whereby Valencian merchants wrote out billing contracts with Morisco farmers who lived in Dénia, Xàbia, Xaló, Pedreguer and Ondara, for their supply of raisins.
After the expulsion of the Moors and Moriscos in 1609, the grape production disappeared and so did the raisins because the Christians did not know the procedure.
It was actually because of travelers to the Marina Alta and La Safor regions in 1800's who prompted the production of raisins again, especially the English Navy who wanted raisins to combat scurvy and other diseases because of poor diet, but also the miners and textile factory workers wanted raisins to keep in their pockets to fight fatigue.
Each year, the celebration of the "Escaldá de la Pasa" takes place in the village of Jesus Pobre on the last morning of August. The villagers keep their heritage alive by recreating the process of making raisins via blanching. The ritual lasts all morning and ends with traditional dances.
REPORT BY: Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. Fine Arts (www.KarlaDarocas.com)
Register to be invited to Karla's classes, field trips, films, photowalks, lunches and guest speakers...
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER