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 to begin at noon, when the official caravan meets at the top of the braña and leaves with the wedding party on horseback. For many it is the most opportune time of the year to 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.
Where is the Vaqueira wedding celebrated?
The Vaqueira wedding is possibly the bridal link with more authenticity than those celebrated in Spain. An event with a lot of anthropological flavor that every year calls hundreds of people the last Sunday of July at the height of Aristébano, between the councils of Valdés and Tineo. In this braña, relatives, relatives and curious in general practice one of the capital pilgrimages of the Asturian summer around the Chapel of La Divina Pastora.
Requirements to celebrate a Vaqueira wedding
For its celebration it is necessary that a member of the couple has roots cowgirls, form a heterosexual couple and accept marriage by the Catholic rite.
What are the Vaqueiros?
Jovellanos defined them well three centuries ago: «They call themselves VAQUEIROS because they commonly live by raising cattle; and of ALZADA, because their seat is not fixed, but they raise their dwelling and residence, and migrate 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 preparing a kind of guide on a lineage that together with pasiegos, maragatos and chuecas constitute cursed towns, and whose common denominator was social marginalization to which they were subjected by those who deprived them of voice and vote. The caciques of the time dictated 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 go over in the church a place marked by a wooden beam, as existed in the church of Naraval, or a legend engraved in the stone: «the vaqueiros do not pass from here », As is 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: rtve.es 2018