The history of a people and a way of life.

monte teleno - maragatos

Origin of the term Maragato

The term Maragateria is to be found as a topographic denominator in the XVIth century, before then the term "La Somoza" was used.
The term maragato refers to those who inhabit the province of León.

Origin of the Maragato people.

It is believed to be of Maghribian origin. Today the most accepted origin is that they are a special population of Asturian origin.


The Maragatos are travelling people, for them it is a custom to travel around Spain, selling craftworks.

Julio Caro Baroja said in his book "The People of Spain, vol II", on referring to the province of León, "it would be hard to find another region in Spain where the elements of modern culture are in such degree of harmony with the data of a remote past".

Maragato Gastronomy. "Cocido" Maragato

The regional gastronomy attracts thousands of people every year with the special dish being the "cocido maragato". In its day this dish would feed the field workers in a single meal preparing them for a hard day of work. The ingredients of a Cocido Maragato are: soup, cabbage, chickpeas, and seven types of meat. This dish has a funny thing, you start from the end. First the meat and then the soup. This tradition is thought to come from the Napoleonic troops who not knowing when they would have to go into battle, would begin with the meat, just in case.

Up to 10 different types of meat

It is made with up to 10 different kinds of meat: chorizo, pigs´ ear from the previous year's killing, chicken, baicon, smoked beef, shoulder of ham, knuckle, cow rib, bones and pig's tongue, without forgetting the filling made of beaten eggs, a bit of chopped ham and chorizo, bread crumbs and "pico de pardal" variety, small with a sharp end, the most savoury ones being those from Valdeviejas, although those from Quintanilla are also well liked. Today the cultivation fo chickpeas is done all over the region, always in small quantities. As for the soup, it must be with thick noodles or country bread and it must be so thick that the spoons leaves a mark.

It is usually followed by natural desserts like custard or maragaton roscon, although in the homes there would also be other desserts like bollos de burro, homegrown apples or chicharrones offered in butter biscuits.

More information on the cocido maragato.


The popular architecture is another feature that characterises this region of León, where large and luxurious houses coexist with more modest ones that look like celtic edifications. The typical maragata house has a large gate that opens unto a central patio where the the carriages could be parked. The living room is on the top floor next to the bedrooms.

Music and popular suit

The music, the popular suit, are other cultural manifestations that give it proper entity.

The rituals that stand out the most are "La Covada", La Boda, La fiesta del arado" etc... "La Covada", is a custom whereby, the mother during childbirth or immediately after, gives up the bed to the father. In many societies this custom reaffirms the role or the legitimacy of the father and it is associated with matriarchal societies.

All on the culture of the Maragatos.

The "Maragatería" is situated to the west of the province of León. It is made up of the following towns:

  • Town of Brazuelo
  • Bonillos
  • Combarros
  • El Ganso
  • Quintanilla de Combarros
  • Rodrigatos de la Obispalía
  • Veldedo
  • Luyego de Somoza
  • Pradorrey
  • Requejo de Pradorrey Municipality of Astorga

Maragato cart in Castrillo

  • Castrillo de los Polvazares
  • Murias de Rechivaldo
  • Santa Catalina
  • Valdeviejas Municipality of Santiagomillas
  • Morales del Arcediano
  • Oteruelo de la Valduerna
  • Piedralba
  • Valdespino Municipality of Val de San Lorenzo
  • Lagunas de Somoza
  • Val de San Román Municipality of Santa Colomba
  • Andiñuela de Somoza
  • Rabanal del Camino
  • Turienzo - Arganoso
  • Foncebadon - La Maluenga
  • Pedredo - Manjarin
  • Prada de la Sierra
  • Rabanal Viejo
  • San Martín de Agostedo
  • Santa Marina de Somoza
  • Tabladillo
  • Valdemanzanas
  • Viforcos
  • Villardeciervos Municipality of Luyego
  • Priaranza de la Valduerna
  • Quintanilla de Somoza
  • Tabuyo del Monte
  • Villalibre
  • Villa Municipio de Lucillo
  • Chana de Somoza
  • Molinaferrera
  • Boisán
  • Pobladura de la Sierra
  • Piedrasalbas - Busnadiego
  • Filiel

Expansion througout the Patagonia...

The maragatos were the first settlers of the Patagonia in the XVIIIth century. They founded various cities, such as Carmen de Patagones, Mercedes de Patagones (today called Viedma), San Julián and Puerto Deseado.
They also extended to Uruguay where they founded the city of San José de Mayo. Today the people of San José de Mayo are called "maragatos".

It's anecdoal to say that the gaucho suit is a heritage of the clothes the maragatos wore. The similarity is visible at first glance.

Why were there muleteers?

Until the XIXth century the network of roads on which wheels could be used in Spain were scarce, practically all the transport of goods had to be done with herds of mules, reaching where carts or carriages couldn´t reach, making muleteers indispensable.

12 days to reach Madrid...

mapa arrieros

The road that crossed the "maragetería" from east to west was called "the royal way", "Galician way", "Royal road" or "Galician road".
In total it was 100 leagues and approximately 12 days to reach Madrid.

The itinerary encompassed these stages:
Betanzos - Portobelo - Otero del Rey - Hospital de Charmoso - Gallegos - Fuentefría - Piedrafita - Trabadelo - Cacabelos - Molina Seca - Foncebadón - Astorga - La Bañeza - Benavente - Villalpando - Villar de Francos - Val de Tronco - Medina del Campo - Arévalo - Adanero - Villacastín - Espinar - Guadarrama - Torrelodones - Las Rozas

For the transport of the fish from A Coruña to Madrid, wells were built and filled with snow during winter, and it would last the better part of the summer. This way they had their refrigerated chambers to keep the fish fresh during the trip.

Then 4 days from Galicia to Madrid

In the XVIIIth century the transport of fresh fish to the royal families was carried out by the maragato muleteers using a mail service (horse delivery) which made it possible for the fish to be in Madrid from Galicia in 4 days.

Railroad = End of the muleteers

When the railroad grew at the end of the XIXth century, the need for muleteers decreased.

The maragatos became bar owners, sellers of overseas productos on a wagon, businessmen in Galicia or fishmongers in Madrid.

Work conditions

  • The work day was normally three leagues a day, that´s approximately 15 kms.
  • Work was from April to December, resting with the earnings for the rest of the year.
  • They would use mules and if it was urgent a horse.
  • The Maragatos transported mainly food products like fish and wine, but later also soap, oils, cloths, money, documents and people.

The Kings and the Maragato muleteers

ordoño primero

In the IXth century, Ordoño I began the repopulation of the Kigdom of León after the explusion of the arabs. This is when muleteering starts to supply food to Castilla.

The first muleteers were from Astorga and surroundings. They would leave for Galicia with their mules to transport the salted fish to the commercial zones that began developping in the cities.

In the time of Henry II, on the 20th of February 1367, the King exempts them from the payment of the Portazgo (a tax that all muleteers had to pay on arrival to a city of the kingdom) for their excellent work. This attracted many muleteers from other regions to establish themselves in Astorga and surroundings.

The Crown always gave the Maragato muleteers a special treatment and that is why they were charged with the tax collection and the job of transporting that arrived from the Indies from the port of entry until the Court. For this reason they charged double then other muleteers, but clients preferred the pay the extra cost for the security and trust that they inspired, as they were known for their honesty and fidelity. The Maragatos were famous for defending the goods they were transporting with their life.

A funny anecdote happened when during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, a maragato, Don Santiago Alonso Cordero (The lamb Maragato), was chosen to transport the pipes coming from England for the contruction of the canal for the water of Madrid.
Once the transportation was under way with the pack of maragato mules, the price of barley suffered a sharp increase.
This was the animals' main food so this increase was a hard blow to the muleteer's pocket seeing that the payment agreed upon did not contemplate this increase. He would have been in his right to increase his price but he didn´t do it because "the word of a maragato has to be fulfilled always and even more so if it was given to a lady as is the Queen"..

Adoration of the Virgins

Throughout the "maragatería" there is great devotion to the virgins and saints that represent each village. In Combarros, towm of Evaristo García, these are La Virgen de las Candelas and Santa María Magdalena.

Virgen de las Candelas

Una historia sobre la Virgen de las Candelas

Santa María Magdalena

Pedro Mato

When someone, with no aparent reason, changes his attitude in whatever matter, in the land of La Maragatería they normally describe this behaviour with this proverb: "Pedro Mato is back!." As if to say "He has changed his mind!". It's like saying that someone is "fickle".

Pedro Mato is really a fickle person. It's the name that the people of Astorga gave to the belfry that occupies the apse's turret of the town's Cathedral. It represents a legendary and enigmatic figure that has become the symbol of the town. Up to today, it is still a mystery who Pedro Mato was and what he did that was so important that he has been put in the highest place of all. But there is no documentation that proves his existence.

Ver PDF completo sobre Pedro Mato.
Enlace al fichero original sobre Pedro Mato

Links of interest (in spanish)

Other sections: Main events | Curiosities | Photo Gallery | Arrieros Maragatos | Evaristo García

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