97 imagesSantiago de Compostela is the Camino de Santiago last stop for millions of tourists and pilgrims, but few explore the Galicia, a Spain’s Ireland where the landscape is often a puzzled mix of rain and sudden fog and the wind swelling the rias, the fjords, gives back to the Atlantic his rough face, as in the days of the legendary Celtic king Breogan. According to an ancient Irish manuscript the king built a high tower from where his sons Ith and Bile saw a land so green, Ireland, that decided to go there. An intricate Irish saga along the Celtic Atlantic looking more a road than a liquid border, but this forgotten history surface on unexpected places like Sabucedo, a village where the Celtic feeling with the horses revive every July. The Rapa das Bestas, the Taming of the Beasts, is a homemade rodeo declared in 2007 a Festival of International Tourist Interest. The “aloitadores”, the fighters, gather the “garranos”, the last wild horses of Europe who live free on the mountains, shave and brand them in a “curro”, an enclosed corral, using only their skill and body. For anthropologists the Rapa das Bestas is the survival of ancestral rituals celebrating the man's power over nature, for animal lovers is a barbaric ritual, for the “aloitadores” is the soul of Sabucedo. At the southern border of Galicia the cathedral-fortress of Tui towers the river Minho, dominated by the “castro” of Santa Tecla, a scenic fortified Celtic village perched on the mountain. In the backcountry the old Jewish houses of the ghetto of Ribadavia reflect in the Avia river, not far from the Ribeira Sacra, the "Sacred River", a narrow gorge like a water snake. The Celts and Santiago share the mountain village of O Cebreiro, the Celts left the “pallozas”, round huts with thatched roofs, the saint the oldest church of the Camino de Santiago, Santa Maria la Real. Menhir stones materialize near A Coruña, at least metaphorically because the “Menhires por la Paz”, the Menhirs for the Peace, were erected in 2001 to commemorate the falangist massacres of the Civil War. Further south Castro of Barona, the most spectacular and least known Celtic village of Galicia, reign over a promontory overlooking the sea.
58 imagesEvery summer the Rapa das Bestas, The Taming of the Beasts, is a popular festival which dates back to the 18th century, declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest in 2007 and consisting of gathering the wild horses living in the mountains. A specific feature of La Rapa das Bestas in Sabucedo is the bajada, when the horses are brought down from the mountains. The Rapa das Bestas was primarily done for cropping and branding, for the maintenance of the horses hygiene and for keeping track of the herds. The young men drive the horses in a curro (a corral which retain the horses) shaving them, branding them and then freed again. The “curro” in Sabucedo, held every year in the first week of July, is the most famous and its unique feature are the aloitadores, charged with holding the beasts, they only use their skill and body without the help of ropes, sticks or other devices. Two aloitadores place themselves at the head of the animal, and one more at the tail. One of those at the head tries to mount the horse while the one behind tries to imbalance it. Then, the second aloitador at the head tries to do the same, in a real body-to-body fight where horses are forced to the ground, wrestled and have their manes and tails clipped. For Michel Touriño, one of the most famous aloitadores of Sabucedo, «The Rapa das Bestas is the soul of this village, the horses unite us because the collective tasks revolve around horses. If we are able to save their environment we shall have horses, tradition and contact with nature. There is certainly a contrast with the animal-rights activists because there is a fight but in Sabucedo we try to respect the horses, is a struggle between two spirits, the wild horses of the mountain and the equally savage inhabitants of this village». Instead for many animal-rights activists this tradition terrorize hundreds of horses in a corral causing great distress for the animals and the branding should be gently handled using humane chutes.