Autumn takes over with the fragrance of wet soil, rain, the smell of the lighted fireplace and roasted chestnuts. The tradition that calls for gathering of people to roast chestnuts is among the most deeply rooted traditions among Extremeños. This is, also, part of the celebrations the festivity of All Saints, on November First. The tradition is locally called by different names: the calbotes, the calbotá, or the magusto.
This popular celebration has been instituted for more than twenty years and has a very international taste in the town of Eljas, located in the region of Sierra de la Gata, in the province of Caceres of Spain, which is in the North of Extremadura. The Fiesta de Las Castañas (Fiesta of the Chestnuts) or d’as borrallas, in Portuguese, is a good opportunity to promote friendship and brotherhood between Eljas and the neighboring town of Foios, in Portugal. This is a celebration that proves the good relationship between the people of both sides of the Lusitanian border, allowing the festivity to the movable, alternating in both towns every other year. Held during a date close to November First.
This is a magnificent celebration were the Chestnuts are the stars, but not the only regional product. Many of the showcase products during this celebration have a symbolic importance since they were the objects of contraband during many years, between Spaniards and Portuguese.
The international friendship in the region began during the decade of the 1950’s. Because of the continuous traffic between the two countries, people developed a lasting friendship. The thirty kilometers that separate the two towns was not a barrier to the flourishing of love. Many marriages were established between people from the Sierra de la Gata and people from Portugal. Potatoes and olives from this region were appreciated in Foios. Also, the Spanish loved the delicious coffee from Portugal and the beautifully embroidered linen and towels.
Because of this historical relationship during the fiesta d’as borrallas, homage is rendered to the figure of the contrabandist (the macuteiro, in Portuguese) with the presence of authorities from both sides of the border. In Eljas the meeting place is the Parque del Castillo (Park of the Castle).
Thus begins a Fiesta of town twinning with folkloric dances from both side of the border at the Plaza of Eljas. Sometimes, because of bad weather the celebration is move into the town’s sporting facilities.
Firewater or brandy made from various rustic products spices the ambient. The fragrance of burning fire and roasted chestnuts fills the streets of Eljas. Neighboring Foios contributes with 500 kilos of chestnuts and firewater made out grape juice. The people of the Sierra are proud of their vine and their olives and their honey, they also have various types of firewater.
The Fiesta of the brotherhood, around the date of All Saints, continues well into the night. A huge bonfire lightens and warms the neighbors who have never been at odds. The Raya or border has never been a reason to separate these people. On the contrary, friendships, families and couples have grown together during the years.
Eljas is a municipality in Spain of the province of Caceres- This is located in the North of Extremadura. The place was inhabited since prehistoric times.
Original article by Ainhoa Miguel
Translated by Susana Windt
Published in October, 2015