MADRID – Not crowds of tourists but crowds of goats and sheep walked through the streets of Madrid today. The 1,200 Merino sheep and 200 Rentinta goats crossed the capital on the occasion of the thirtieth celebration of the Fiesta de la Trashumancia
This century-old Spanish tradition celebrates the seasonal livestock movement and emphasises the importance of extensive livestock farming and biodiversity in the fight against climate change. What made this edition special is that for the first time in history a woman took on the shepherding role.
“Marity González is a symbol of all the women shepherds and farmers who are part of the trashumancia in Spain,” said the proud ‘mayoral’, as the leading shepherd is called. “Women have always been an integral part of this tradition.”
Tradition and modernity
At 10.30 am the cattle left the Casa de Campo. And half an hour later via Calle Mayor and Puerta del Sol they reached the majestic Catedral de la Almudena. People from all over Spain, dressed in traditional attire, joined in the celebration. “This is more than just folklore; this is a heritage that must be preserved,” said a local dance teacher.
A couple from Móstoles, originally from León, joined the group. “We are here to experience the folklore of Astorga, right in the heart of Madrid!” they said enthusiastically to a reporter from Infobae.
Institutional support needed
Paulino Gómez, a veteran shepherd, talked about the importance of institutional support. He said, “if the government does not hinder us, this tradition has a future. If not, it will disappear.” The mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, welcomed the shepherds and emphasised the crucial role of the countryside in urban life: “Big cities would not be the same without them; thanks to them we have a better quality of life.”
Use ’50 Maravedís al millar’
The ceremony concluded with the payment of the traditional ’50 maravedís al millar’, a custom dating back to 1418. The shepherds and their livestock continued their route, expressing their celebration of tradition and diversity at every step.
Where does the tradition of Trashumancia in Madrid come from?
In autumn, herds of sheep and goats in the Madrid region move from mountain areas to the lowlands. This process is called “abajada de los rebaños” and is an important part of Spain’s rural culture.
The Transhumance, as we know it today, was created almost 30 years ago by the association Trashumancia y Naturaleza to help the Spanish House of Representatives pass a law on cattle routes. This would mean that ravines and trails would be recognised as public domain and unique world heritage. Today, the cattle routes are 125,000 kilometres long, cover 420,000 hectares, and are recognised as intangible cultural heritage.