Puerta del Wool

trashumancia madrid shepherdNovember 2, 2014: A shepherd helps drive a flock of two-thousand sheep through the Puerta del Sol, in the heart of Madrid. Every year since 1994, shepherds exert their right of way on Spain’s capital city, in memory of a centuries-old pact between the powerful Mesta organization of wool merchants with the King of Spain, which allows them passage along established routes from summer pastures to winter refuges. The shepherds still pay a ceremonial amount of money (100 copper coins called maravedíes) as tribute, and Spain’s biggest city must accept. Automobile traffic is stopped by police, 36 different bus lines are rerouted, pedestrians and cyclists give way, and the sheep pass though the very center of one of Europe’s biggest cities. Photo ©Mike Randolph

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3 Responses to Puerta del Wool

  1. Nolly November 21, 2014 at 18:15 #

    Que divertido! Is this part of the transhumancia – are the shepherds exerting ancient rights to pass through the centre of what was once quite a small settlement?

  2. Mike Randolph November 21, 2014 at 19:08 #

    Yes, that’s it. There are paths all over northern Spain where shepherds still have right of way. Wool was the basis of the economy in the middle ages. Spanish Merino wool is the finest (softest) of any domestic sheep. Centuries ago, anybody trying to smuggle live Merinos out of the country would face a penalty of execution. Eventually, of course, the Merino sheep finally did leave Spain. In New Zealand, for example, Merino sheep farming was the most important agricultural activity in New Zealand for most of the 20th century and wool was the country’s single most valuable export until relatively recently.

  3. Daniel November 26, 2014 at 15:47 #

    I enjoyed reading this very much

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