October 27, 2020

a literary artifact willing to recover the lost words of our rural environment


It is estimated that there are currently about 5,200 animal species in danger of extinction. In 2019 alone, twenty-four were officially declared extinct. Climate change and the deep footprint of human beings threaten the destruction and fragmentation of their habitats. And the disappearance of a species often produces a domino effect: many of them play a vital role in their respective ecosystems. If one disappears, others follow and, in the long term, entire ecosystems vanish.

"The stories of 'rural terror' do much damage to the countryside, why is it not talked about urban terror?"

“The stories of ‘rural terror’ do a lot of damage to the countryside, why is it not talked about urban terror?”

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Something similar happens with words. In the last century, 2,800 words of our language have disappeared from the dictionary. Many others never appeared in it and one day they stopped being said. When a word disappears, when the last person who used it passes away, it is also a concept, a way of defining a reality. And with it that reality, in the long term, also disappears.

María Sánchez, a field veterinarian who currently works with native breeds in danger of extinction, knows this well. Also a writer especially concerned with the rural environment, its realities, the interrelationships between literature and the countryside. Now just post Almáciga: a work halfway between the glossary and the illustrated book that militates against the forgetting of words in rural Spain.

More than a book: a multidisciplinary project

“It is an idea that I had been cultivating for a long time and that Land of women I started to count, “explains María Sánchez to elDiario.es.” In my day to day working in the fields, I heard many words that I had to stop to ask what they meant. And I wrote them down in a notebook. I was obsessed with searching and finding words that people I knew in rural areas did not want them to be lost. ”

María Sánchez posted Field notebook (The Beautiful Warsaw), his first collection of poems, and Land of women, an intimate and familiar look at the rural world (Seix Barral), an essay on women and rural areas. But her work goes far beyond her literary production.

Three years ago in Baños de Río Tobía, a town in La Rioja, the author was invited to a festival called Bañarte in which creators of all kinds carried out projects that involved residents of the town. There she presented Almáciga, an installation made together with the artist Francisca Pageo. On it, they hung placards with words on one side and their meaning on the other. Many people did not know the nicknames chosen, others used them in contexts other than the one indicated on the cards. There, the writer set up a blank notebook where people wrote down words that they thought were out of use or one step away from disappearing. “That day she was born Almáciga“, Explain.

“From that moment, wherever I went, people who knew me brought me their words. Then I discovered that a word is what it is, but they are also stories of a life and a bond to the earth. In a very concrete way of working that It does not matter in the system we are in. A system that pollutes and generates precariousness, that does not have life at its center and in which these trades are not profitable “, reflects the author. “And this is added to the contempt for the knowledge of the peasantry that Miguel Delibes denounced in her speech to the RAE. Thus you discover that gathering words is also talking about a whole life that is behind them: a relationship with the community, with.

“Words can serve as an indicator of where we come from and where we are going,” says the writer. And if we no longer say them, do not write them or do not recite them, it is clear that we are not going to a world in keeping with the rural environment. opposite direction.

Determined to reverse this mechanism, the Geoplaneta publishing house has just published María Sánchez’s multidisciplinary project in book format. The result is much more than a glossary of terms to use: it is a collection of texts, between the essay and the self-fiction of poetic cadence, in constant dialogue with abundant and evocative illustrations by Cristina Jiménez.

A nursery book with seed words

A mastic is by definition the place where the seedlings are planted and then transferred to the garden. And the new book by María Sánchez wants to be exactly that: a meeting place between readers and speakers willing to plant a new word in their lives, in their usual use of language and speech. And then grow it.

“I have done this for everything behind these words. Now that we talk so much about climate change, sustainability, food sovereignty, putting life and food production at the center… I use those words in my day-to-day life and also in my texts. And I do it to be a speaker and to make my reality known in the different rural areas in which I work and in which I move, “he argues.” I also tell you: I find it very poor that with all the wealth and beautiful words that we have, let the rural areas fall into oblivion or use more Anglicisms every day. What if instead of using English for anything, we used a word in Basque, Leonese or Castu? Words can be adapted to the new times, we can reinvent them and give them new meanings “.

“The words it contains Almáciga they are windows to our territory for me. We have them there … and we are letting them die. And those same windows, many times, tell us where we come from. If we let them die we will be forgetting where we came from. ”

A small seedbed to start with

Here we highlight some of the words that Almáciga intends to plant in us, in line with the will of a work that knows something more than a book. That it reads and feels like an exercise in memory for any reader, forced to recognize himself in the roots of a rural environment from which we all come.

Before making the furrow in the ground, you must first aricar, plow shallowly and carefully to make the first trench. And depending on when the task is performed, one word or another is used. In Sanabria, the action of plowing in May is said vima.

When it is in a dry season and you have to plow twice to leave the site clean for planting: this double task is called binar. In Candeleda, to add, there is a word that refers exclusively to the time in the morning when the heaviest work in the field is carried out in summer, before the sun begins to set: jañiquín.

There is a word to refer to the time in the morning when the heaviest work in the field is carried out in summer, before the sun begins to set: ‘jañiquín’

And when the ground is rough and does not allow you to work it comfortably, we could use cudrial or cubrial to refer to him. A word for that hard and very compact terrain that makes life difficult for us. If it is possible to make a furrow, we can use other words to refer to that wake that divides the terrain in two. In Basque, for example, the gap that we create when carving is called errenka. And to sow, in this language is used txola: the act of grabbing seeds with the hands and throwing them to the ground so that the sowing grows.

In Basque, the gap that we create when carving is called ‘errenka’. And to sow, in this language the word ‘txola’ is used: it is the act of grabbing seeds with your hands and throwing them to the ground

One day the seeds start to grow, but so do the weeds. In Catalan it is said eixarcolar to remove them, and in the northern sierra of Seville, the action of removing them with gentle blows of the hoe is told snap. Furthermore, in some towns in the western mountains of León, the weeds are called xirunxos. Also used wine or maigar in Huesca to the act of digging slightly without delving into the earth.

“But there are seed words that become favorites”, writes María Sánchez in Almáciga, words that “beat even more when we don’t know who wrote them in the notebook, who decided to transplant them onto paper”. The writer says that “I have looked for this word in other places, I have talked about it and I have only come across emptiness and silence. But it’s a beautiful word: seher, is used to call the morning wind, which is believed to help plants develop and grow ”.

The word ‘seher’ is used to call the morning wind, which is believed to help plants develop and grow

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