Pasiegos - History and Cultural Relations

As far as is known, the Montes de Pas were populated about A.D. 1011 when Sancho, Count of Castile, granted the Monastery of San Salvador at Oña (Burgos) a privilege allowing herders in its extensive dominions to pasture animals there. Herders' entry into the Montes apparently was gradual; permanent settlements are known only later, and for centuries Pasiegos—as the Montes' inhabitants came to be known—depended in civil and religious matters on established centers in the territory of Espinosa de los Monteros. For example, they had to carry their dead over the mountains for burial in Espinosa's territory. Three parishes were established in the Montes in the last half of the sixteenth century, and the three centers were given independent civil and juridical status in 1689. These acts followed a long series of court actions whose records are the principal sources of early Pasiego history. Thus, while Pasiegos are culturally and historically Spanish and do not consider themselves ethnically different from other Spaniards, they have shared a history of marginal statuses and separate legal actions as well as a situation as herders in a remote enclave; these shared experiences have brought them a distinctiveness that is accentuated by the exigencies of transhumant herding. As they emerged into public notice, both as peddlers in the marketplaces of the realm and with the appointment in 1830 of one of their women as wet nurse in the royal household, Pasiegos became the object of writers' curiosity. Considered "too different to be Spanish," a few surmised that Pasiegos must be descended from Moors or Jews. This conjecture spread and Pasiegos came to be viewed, along with such other northern Spanish groups as the Maragatos (León), the Vaqueiros de Alzada (Asturias), or the Agotes (Navarra), as foreigners on Spanish soil. Of these others, the transhumant cattle-herding Vaqueiros de Alzada have the closest cultural, dialectic, and occupational affinities with the Pasiegos.

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