November was and is the favoured month. Each and every Spaniard might not have the money required for the senior of the house to own a good hat or the wife have more than one frock for the year’s seasons. But, every family owned a pig. It was a rule as widely accepted as being Catholic. Whether you lived in the “campo” or in the pueblo, you owned a pig. He was kept in close proximity to the kitchen so all scraps could be shovelled his way. Oinkers were never given pet names or rendered thoughts of fondness. They were stark investments for a survival economy.
The main fiesta day was the actual killing of the pig attended usually by the two owners and maybe interested cousins learning the trade. Blood sausage had to be made and the pig cut up for their meals that day along with what would be given away or traded. Lots of vino was consumed but never in a frivolous manner. The “mantanza” was serious business. The women bothered themselves preparing migas, salads, and other compliments. Rarely were smiles exchanged on this most solemn of family occasion. Pleasantries would abound during the meal along with boisterous reminisces of past “matanzas” or weddings, baptisms, anniversaries, and birthdays.
Our initial outing to such an affair was luckily a very private occasion with just our two families. We drove our car as close as we could get and then walked up hill to Luis´ cortijo. He told me the cortijo had been there for more than 400 years. The centuries of collected rubbish we trod through getting up to it indicated as such, tins of sardines, tuna, tomato paste, but mostly plastic bottles. The site commanded a good view but had no water, electricity, nor sewage facilities. Within seconds you knew you were right back there in history, four hundred years ago.
We came through the small doorway and stepped upon a floor of earth well trampled and solidified. It was very dark inside. We were offered to sit which meant squat as there wasn’t any furniture of any type. As our eyes adjusted slowly we observed an apparition spread eagled in the corner. It slowly spun on a short chord with the image of a cross holding him open. Mr Pig was the banquet. Thank God I had carried up a crate of beer as conversation could only be morose.
A small fire was started in the centre of the room and constantly poked until it burned fiercely then calmed down. We were then issued a plate and a knife each. We were to cut off any part of the pig we wanted, squat back down on our haunches, and cook it shish-kebob style in the fire. Somehow the affair seemed rough and barbaric rather than quaint and homely. The day was saved as the wife had cleverly brought a large bag of potato crisps.