Pasiegos - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices . Pasiegos are baptized Roman Catholics whose communities are served by parish priests. The three villas have parish churches but there are fewer chapels in outlying sectors than in denser, more settled populations. Church attendance is highest in the villas; barrio people have less easy access to church and priestly services. Aside from weekly mass, family-observed sacraments, and life-crisis rites, formal religious life is centered on one major fiesta per year and the services of Holy Week. Personal devotions to particular saints are pursued independent of these dates and of the priests, but the occurrence of personal dedications is variable and characterizes only a small part of the community. The Virgin of Valbanuz, celebrated in Selaya on 15 August, is the object of many personal devotions and also of a large regional celebration that attracts many Cantabrians who are not specifically her devotees. Outsiders call the Virgin of Valbanuz "the Virgin of the Pasiegos," but there is no strong basis within the Pasiego community for this claim. There is argument within the community about such things as the efficacy of curses, the truth of superstitions, and the power of witchcraft. Witchcraft is associated exclusively with magical curing practices; there are some known practitioners in the region, including cities, but not in the Montes de Pas.

Arts. The difficult conditions of the herder's life have not inspired many material products beyond the industrial arts. Song or verse and dance (mainly accompanied by tambourine) are as much regional as local but are not highly developed or much performed in public in this part of Spain. Costume and architecture, except for the cabaña, are also as much regional as local in style. In Cantabria, the stone cabaña is considered uniquely Pasiego, but similar structures are in use in other herding zones—in the Pyrenees, in Asturias, and elsewhere.

Medicine. The Pasiego towns are served by resident doctors, local and regional pharmacies, and a major hospital in Santander. The nation's socialized medical system encourages people to seek professional medical care, and most do, though local women sometimes assist each other at childbirth. Veterinary services are crucial to the herding population and have long been available.

Death and Afterlife. Death is dealt with in Roman Catholic tradition. Burial follows within a day, if possible, following a funeral mass. Many emigrants who have lived as adults in the Montes de Pas, left children there, or died unmarried away from the zone are returned there for burial. The cemeteries thus give a sense of the strength of the ties that surmount distance. Funerals were once followed by banquets, one of various traditions once widespread in northern Spain, discouraged by the church, and now mostly in disuse. There are no particularly strong traditions regarding the dead or afterlife that distinguish Pasiegos from other lay Spaniards.

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