The Tagus gancheros, history and tradition of a forgotten trade

From the 16th century to the mid-20th century, many of the Spanish rivers were fundamental for transport the wood logs from the felling of forests and pine forests. Five centuries in which a profession, that of the hookers, was fundamental for the lumber industry. The logs were transported by flotation led by gancheros gangs, a profession that has disappeared today, but is remembered every year in Castilla-La Mancha in the festival of “The Gancheros del Alto Tajo”. “The lords of the Tagus” led the wood to Aranjuez, Toledo, and Talavera de la Reina. In this festival, they appear again on the waters, with their traditional equipment, the boat hook and period clothing, grouping, and leading the wood.

The event is held on a rotating basis on the first Saturday in September in one of the villages immersed in the bowels of the Alto Tajo Natural Park and it seeks to recall and pay tribute to the old traditional trade of the gancheros, who for centuries transported, from the nearby mountains, the timber through the waters of the Tagus to the logging factories in the Aranjuez area.

The festival is complemented by other acts of an eminently popular nature, such as the tasting of typical local dishes, the exhibition of log cutting in various modalities, and the celebration of different traditional games, all accompanied by the sound of the dulzainas.

Asset of Cultural Interest

The Official Gazette of Castilla-La Mancha has just published the resolution by which initiates the file to declare an Asset of Cultural Interest, with the Intangible category, “Los Gancheros del Alto Tajo”, in the municipalities of Priego, Cañamares, Cañizares, Beteta and Santa María del Val de Cuenca, and Peralejos de las Truchas, Taravilla, Poveda de la Sierra, Zaorejas and Peñalem de Guadalajara as reported by the Board in a statement.

Recently, the Ministry of Culture and Sports has requested the adhesion of Castilla-La Mancha to the candidacy to Unesco as Intangible Heritage of Humanity of the “Gancheros del Alto Tajo”. The specific candidacy is that of Timber Rafting -transport of raft wood- as Unesco intangible heritage of humanity. It is a candidacy in which several countries will participate, led by Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Latvia, and Spain. In Spain, in addition to our region, Navarra, Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia have joined.

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