Expatica news

Spain marks anniversary of famous literary son

17 January 2005

MADRID – Spanish and non-Spanish fans of Don Quixote, the Miguel de Cervantes masterpiece, can celebrate the  400th anniversary of its publication this week.

One way some are choosing to mark this anniversary is to follow in the footsteps of the Knight of La Mancha.

A barren and flat region in central Spain, La Mancha will forever draw tourists looking for a physical connection to the hero of one of the most popular novels of all time.

The hopelessly idealistic knight errant and his faithful servant, Sancho Panza, along with Don Quixote’s horse Rocinante, ambled from place to place during their adventures and, while Cervantes did not specify exactly where they set out from, a clutch of professors recently revealed they had solved the conundrum.

According to the clutch of academics, the tiny village of Villanueva de los Infantes, some 230 kilometres (140 miles) south of Madrid, was the point of their journey’s inception, the “village in La Mancha whose name I cannot recall,” as the tale begins.

The landscape around the area of Campo de Montiel is immediately identifiable to the keen Cervantes and Quixote fan as where the fabled protagonist alternated his jousts with windmills which he thought were giants with nights in old rustic inns.

Such is the enduring popularity of the novel which propelled Cervantes into the pantheon of literary greats, that the Don Quixote Route looks set to become almost as popular as the Pilgrimage Way of Saint James to Santiago de Compostela in the northwestern region of Galicia.

The fourth centenary of the work has afforded the autonomous government of the Castilla-La Mancha region a unique opportunity to showcase the area’s wares and tourists may enjoy a variety of cultural activities along a route divided into ten stages which takes in 145 municipalities.

The windmills, a famous part of the novel, make their appearance at Campo de Criptana, Alcazar de San Juan or Consuegra, the latter home to a summer festival which annually re-enacts the exploits of Moorish Spain.

At El Toboso tourists can see the home of Quixote’s country girl muse, Dulcinea, while no homage to the work would be complete without at least briefly peering in at Argamasilla de Alba, in whose Medrano cave Cervantes was jailed over unpaid debts and where he reputedly began penning Don Quixote.

Parts of the route stretch all the way into the regions of Aragon and Catalonia over in the northeast, though they are not part of the official route as laid down by the Castilla-La Mancha authorities.

The tragi-comic Quixote covered a huge amount of ground as he ploughed on into the Sierra Morena, the northern mountainous fringe of what is today the southern region of Andalusia.

On the third leg of his adventures, Quixote crossed the River Ebro to spend several days mixing it with regional dukes “in the middle of the Kingdom of Aragon.”

Moving on to the port of Barcelona, this was the first time he would see the sea.

But it was for his tilting at windmills that Quixote remains perhaps best known, believing them to be giants ranged against him.

”I mean to engage (them) in battle and slay, and with whose spoils we shall begin to make our fortunes,” he told the startled Sancho Panza.

In Cervantes’ day, there were 34 of these “monstrous giants” at Campo de Criptana, brought over from the Netherlands in 1575.

Ten remain to this day, for the Quixote tourist who wants to  try some jousting of his own.

Cervantes’ own journey began with his birth at Alcala de Henares, a rather quaint university town and World Heritage Site just east of Madrid.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news