When it rains fish will appear, 27

Door San Daniel gepubliceerd in Verhalen en Poëzie


The asequia is a waterway that runs through our farmlands. We owe the network of irrigation canals to the 'moros', (Arab rulers) who let slaves cut out miles of canals to irrigate drier areas. Each area was given a water board and then we are talking about irrigation works that were accomplished from the 8th century on and administrative forms that were highly developed.

Spain was dominated by the Moros for 700 years, roughly from the year 700 to 1492. Arab mercenary armies crossed the strait near Gibraltar and carved out caliphates that reached deep into southern France, Narbonne to be precise. The South of Spain became the caliphate 'El Andalus', today's Andalucia.

Fighting from village to village, the Spanish pushed the Moros back until the final battle in 1492 (Granada) which concluded the Arabic domination of Spain. Historical literature has a wonderful standard work on it, the verses of El Cid.


El Cid gathered people around him in the battles against the moros and was a great strategist who won battle after battle against the oppressors. He was recognized as a great general by both warring parties.

The Moors called him El Cid (Spanish pronunciation: [el̟θið]), which meant: the Lord (probably from the original Arabic al-sayyid, السيد), and the Christians called him, El Campeador, "the warrior who stands out on the battlefield."

After his death, he became the celebrated national hero of Castile and the protagonist of the most important medieval Spanish epic poem, El Cantar de Mio Cid.

The story that truly elevated El Cid and his intrepid war horse Babieca to legends, would have happened after the death of the hero during the siege of Valencia. El Cid was killed and the moros were glad that their arch enemy had died.


Based on his almost supernatural reputation, the legend says that his men attached the fully armored body to Babieca's saddle, and raised his right arm in the air, grabbing Tizona (his broadsword). The moros who heard that the campeador had been killed gathered to conquer the city.

Babieca understood what was expected of him and led the knights of El Cid with a thundering attack that scattered the enemies in a blind horror, assuming he had risen from the dead and so Valencia was saved.

Moros were not loved in Spain at the time and this has continued until today. Let's just just say that a country or a village has a 'long' memory. Something like 75 years after the war, when Germans are still being referred to in English-speaking countries as 'krauts' (from sauerkraut).

The Moros, however, did bring a lot of culture to Spain. They were astronomers, mathematicians, poets, architects. Gordoba (in Andalucia) was for a time even seen as the cultural capital of the whole of Europe and apart from their domination and subduing the population, they gave a huge boost to the Spanish peninsula.


Those very same Moros had waterways built at a time when Delft (university famous for water management) did not yet exist. For example, a dry area was veined through with irrigation canals that were cut out by hand and melting snow coverted into water spread into areas that thereby turned into fertile areas.

They brought the trees and plants that have now made Spain famous, the olive, the almond and the fig tree and, remarkably enough, they also introduced the grape vine.

The asequias are a blessing in our area, but require a lot of maintenance and the time of slavery is well behind us. The principle is easy, from a water point, be it a high-altitude source or melting water or whatever, and due to gravity, the water finds its way to the lands, which have water rights through a complex system of canals. Anyone who needs water at a certain moment will report this to 'the pozero', the well man, and he will ensure that the water reaches your estate by way of the right channel. That is no easy task, you open your lock, and dam the 'asequia' past the lock. The water comes violently crashing down, 120 000 liters per hour and the lower fields are flooded, a bit like the wadi idea in India.


In our case, the water comes from an underground lake that is located high up. But from the higher embankment, soil always slides into the asequia during the rainy season, or branches fall in that block the waterway and heaps of dead leaves blow into it every fall.

So it was with mixed feelings that I, sitting in the Shandy, heard the president of our water board announce that a team would be formed of neighboring farmers to clean up the asequia. Our part is 2 miles long, and with pickaxe and shovel you work the distance meter by meter and with a scythe you shorten the growth next to the waterway. In the meantime, the sun belts down on you and punishes you mercilessly.

to be continued.

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06/04/2019 18:14

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