Pas life

Peculiar cultural traits, territories and traditions of more than five hundred centuries of generations.

The most striking, differential trait of Pas people is mountain appropiation for their individual use and management, followed by the creation of “terrazgos” with their respective cottage and divided by wide pastures. The cottages are for Pas people work centres, where livestock stabling and breeding is done. They keep the seasonal nomadism of their traditional way by doing “mudas”, which is intrinsic to weather demands in the valleys and livestock feeding needs.

Costumbres vida pasiega
La agricultura en la vidad pasiega

The process of Pas change and differenciation has been going on since 16th century, thanks to an important degree of product, meat cattle and milk commercialisation. Individual production and territory use began. The integration in Spanish market and the commercialisation of high quality and price products meant the definitive push to the system. Most of the population lives in the centres (Miera, San Roque de Riomiera, Selaya, Luena, Vega de Pas and San Pedro del Romeral, leisure and service referents), where the traditional pattern of population is organised around the “plaza”.

The Pas cottage is the main heritage element of the area. There are around 10,000 in total in the valleys, symbolising a way of life, occupation and use of pastures, dating the oldest ones from 18th century and still in use. The cottages usually have a rectangular floor (11 x 6.70 metres) with wooden doors, spans and front. During 19th century appeared also the portals next to the front to be used as woodsheds. Inside, the cottages are distributed in a higher floor to be used as a haystack and a lower one for stabling. The living cottages, not the most usual, have a bigger floor, a wooden balcony and a more functional division of space.

La vida pasiega
More about life in the Valleys

Pisueña cottages answer in good measure to generic characterisation in Pas spaces. Selaya is without a doubt the valley municipality in which one can find the most interesting, extense and dense cottages. Even so, inside the municipality, the transition of landscapes towards those more common in interior Cantabria can be seen when going South to North through the valley.

The areas of biggest density are located near Pisueña, on the left river margin: El Tujo, La Lama, Guzmazán, La Empresa, Monte Las Piedras o El Abedul are the most important goups in this area, and in them can be seen the most singular, ancient buildings of the valley. Many cottages still keep their residential use and that factor means a differenciation from other communities.

In Miera Valley the following cottages, going down the valley, La Brena, Bernallán, El Ahorcado and El Toral show a construction evolution justified by the intensity of residential and farming uses in the different valley altitudes. The oldes buildings are from centuries 12th and 13th, and are located in Bernallán or La Brena. Most recent appear in El Toral, mostly from 19th century, answering to the “vividora” canon, with balconies and windbreakers.

Finally, in Pas Valley, one can find a great number of buildings. The number of them distributed between Vega de Pas, San Pedro del Romeral and Luena is more than 6,000. In Vega de Pas there is three types of groups: those at the end of the valley, like Pandillo, Portilla, the “plaza” of Vega de Pas, Candolías, Riolangos, La Gurueba, El Burnalón, La Cotera or Viaña; then the “vividoras” groups in medium-hill height like Bucimprún o Guzparras and, finally, the “brena” cottages in high altitude areas of exclusive farming and seasonal use, like La Vara, Lelsa, Colina, El Rostro, La Marruya or La Mesalcarro.

La Vida Pasiega

The “muda” is surely the most identifying aspect of traditional shepherd culture in the Pas world. It is a singular process of transhumance, characterised by seasonal, short distance movements, usually inside a few kilometres. The Pas family moves between pastures and cottages to achieve a rational benefit of their pasture resources, that is coherent with seasonal development and the grass. Each shepherd has a high number of pastures and cottages (four or five at least) distrivuted along the different altitude levels of the valley.

The mowing is one of most frequent work techniques, requiring a certain hability, strength and capacity to maneuver the different tools. During the year, traditional mowing for green consuption is done with a “dalle”, a handheld scythe with wooden handle and grip with a wide, curve and pointy blade.

The modality that offers more work for the shepherd in the traditional model is the mowing at the end of spring for a dry consumption in winter. This is known as “alzar la hierba“, which means mow and cure the grass or dry it under the sun by turning it to then keep it in “payos” in the cottages. The weather plays an essential factor in this process; if it is sunny and warm, the “parva” only needs to be laid down and turned around once, before the “empallado”, which is the distribution of the grass so it occupies the smallest possible space. If the grass gets wet during the process, then one must “hacinar”, which is divide the grass in groups to dry out the water and limit humidity, lay it down again, turn around and end the process

The movement of dry grass to the “tascón” depends on the distance between the mowing and laying down places. If the cottage is on the same plot, it can be carried on in a wooden “basna” or “rastra”, which is a dragging system that uses ropes instead of wheels and takes advantage of the inclines; other way is “la belorta”, which consists on moving the groups of dry grass using a flexible hazel branch of more than two metres, that then is carried on the farmer’s shoulders.

“Los cuévanos” are of frequent use. This is a basket made with hazel wood stripes (less frequently made with willow wood stripes) intertwined, bound to twisted stripes used as clamps to carry the weight on the back, that has many uses: carrying material, grass, wood or cheese, move babies as a cradle.

Etnografía Pasiega

Since September 16th 2015, “el palu” and its modalities have been considered Local Ethnographic Inmaterial Interest Good by Cantabrian Government in municipalities of Vega de Pas, Selaya, San Pedro del Romeral and San Roque de Riomera. The primitive function of “el palu” was to jump over the stone walls between pastures or the mountain obstacles during the “mudas”. The principal tool is a white hazel straight and flexible branch, chopped off in the mountain during January’s waning moon, made to be a quarter longer than the carrier. The base has a “casquillo” to which a nail is connected, in order to grip the floor. They were Pas people who started Pas jumping competitions‘El salto pasiego’ consists in grabbing the brach on one end with the predominant hand (like in pole vault jumping).

“Andar el palo” is a great difficult modality, to which one needs great hability and a very developed technique, since it is based on controling and coordinating the balance between body and brach. Once the brach correctely grabbed, it is leaned on the floor and put in vertical with an inpulse during which the jumpler gets “on” it, moving with small jumps by stretching and shrinking their legs coordinately with their arms.

Bowling games are another traditional aspect of Pas culture that has kept a good activity leven. There are two modalities in the region: Pas bowling and “palma” bowling. The former is the most extended and the one that has a higher number of fans. The bowling alley is an element of our towns. One of our local heritage icons, that on top of being a sport centre also plays the role of meeting and socialising point.

In the game, the goal is to knock down as many bowls as possible (out of a total of 9) while following some technical conditions. The balls are made of holm oak wood. From the throwing are to the central plank there are around 10 metres and at a 3 metre distance there is a line, the “fleje”, which can not be crossed until the ball hits the plank or the bowls.

The Pas costume is the most representative and better documented out of Cantabrian traditional costumes; the informative labour of restless Pas merchants, and especially the tradition bonded to wet-nursing, are the base of this high regard and knowledges. Wet-nurses were young mothers, between 19 and 26 years old, nursing their second or third child, and in good health, that would go work in the court as wet-nurses since times of Ferdinand VII, in the beginning of 19th century. Not all wamen reaching court were Pas women, but the name became popular to the point that, as Fraile Gil signaled, “Pas woman came to be synonym of wet-nurse in our language dictionaries”.

Traje Pasiego

Our Lady of Valvanuz in Selaya

Valvanuz Sanctuary is an obligatory reference point in Pas culture. Each 15th of August it is there celebrated their festivity, regarded as of Regional Touristic Interest. The devotion for the Virgin of Valvanuz is very deep in the Pas region. The festivity has as its high point the parade of the Virgin, accompanied by mass during the day and leisure and sport events that focus on Pas culture, like the jumping contest.

Saint Vincent in Lloreda de Cayón

Each September 1st the neighbours in Lloreda de Cayón celebrate the festivities of Saint Vincent Martyr. The festivities count with a mass, a parade followed by traditional dances, sport activities (such as Pas jumping exhibitions), horse races, bowling competitions, regional parades and expositions. Finally, there is a procession of floats. At the end, a jury chooses the winning floats, that earn a cash price.


La Perola in Vargas

Each January 20th, the town of Vargas celebrates “La Perola”, whose origin is at the beginning of 16th century, a stage full of plague in the coast and central areas of the region. According to tradition, each year the neighbours would invite every person in need that went to the town, with the promise of each neighbour giving field fruits and their workforce in order to make a stew. It was cooked at the Church’s entrance and with the bells’ ringing the neighbours would start bringing their stews made of legumes, sausage and potatoes, accompanied by wine and some charity. Nowadays, the festivity is celebrated as a popular lunch in Vargas sport centre.

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