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December 25, 2004
The view from the trough

GRANADA DEL RIO TINTO (JNS) _ The water pours from the ground and is guided through a covered clothes washing shed made of brick with individual stalls.
That wasn't there when we lived here, my father says.
He points to an even older stone trough, and says that's the one he remembers.
It's hot and dry, the summer sun still baking us at 8 p.m. Everyone except my father takes off their sandals and dips their feet in the cool water in a third trough with a cross at one end. It's been nearly 70 years since he left and my father can't remember what the third trough was used for.
The next day, a street cleaner, drinking water from a spout filling a similar series of troughs in nearby Aracena, explains the system.

The first is filled by the spring water that comes
from the ground, usually through a brass pipe set in stone or concrete. That is where people filled their cantaros, large clay jugs used to bring water to their houses, holding them under the pipe to get the clear, cold water as it poured out. In the house, my father says, smaller unglazed jugs called picherins or piporros, which had two pouring spouts, were used to serve the water. They were unglazed so the water seeping through the ceramic would evaporate and keep the jug cold.
The second trough was used to provide water for livestock, and the the third for laundry, the street cleaner says as golondrinas dart in and out of round nests hanging from under the eaves. Sometimes, the second and third were in a row, and sometimes they were parallel to each other, or one could be divided down the middle with laundry stalls on one side and a livestock trough on the other.
The landscape is much drier here in the hills above Huelva and Sevilla, but there are plenty of springs. The water is healthier than the chlorinated city water, the street cleaner says.
"Es ma sano, no tiene nada de esos quimicas," he says in his heavy Andaluz accent, dropping the "s" from ``mas.''
We are here because my grandfather, Francisco Dominguez Muriano, was a miner in Rio Tinto, the oldest known copper mine, dating back to the Romans. He went for a while to West Virginia, where he met my grandmother and my father was born in 1931, but became ill and returned to Granada del Rio Tinto, where he died a few years later.
That prompted the move to Asturias by my grandmother in about 1940.
She sold the house in Granada del Rio Tinto before they left. Women normally didn't buy or sell property then but Manolo de la Posada, who had been buying a lot of the land in the village, bought my grandfather's house and property from her anyway. That wasn't his real name, but that's what he was called, my father said the day before as we stood by the troughs.
"When my father died they took us out of the house and brought us here so we wouldn't see that. The coffin came from Narva," he said, pointing at a scrubby nearby hill past which the town must lie.
"In those days they delivered the coffins strapped to the back of
a donkey. I remember standing here and seeing the donkey come down the road."

Posted by Alex at 09:27 PM