Curious fact

  • The Holy Shroud of Jerez de la Frontera.

    Authenticated copy of the Shroud of Turin. Basilica of La Merced. Jerez de la Frontera.

    This is undoubtedly one of the topics that most captivate the attention when it comes up during the guided tours I do in my city. Even today, there are many mysteries surrounding this relic, carefully preserved in the Basilica of Our Lady of La Merced. Let’s start unraveling the details of this enigmatic Shroud.

    The relic.

    It belongs to one of the few authenticated copies in our country.

    It is a drawing with a sort of orange paste on it, believed to serve the purpose of protecting it from abrasion.

    This copy may be somewhat coarser than the others, a sign that could indicate greater age than the rest. Its dimensions are similar to those of the original from Turin:

    • One meter and twenty centimeters wide.
    • Over four meters in length.

    In one of its corners, there is the authenticity proof in Italian writing: ‘D. Girolamo Nasy. Custodian (…) I bear witness to the Holy Shroud, having made a touch (…) with my own hand from the original Shroud. Turin, August 20, 1682.’

    Nevertheless, there are those who believe that the copy may have been made in the French city of Chambéry, where the original was located, around 1532. And others assert that it could have been created earlier, starting from 1506 when Pope Julius II granted permission to copy it.

    How does it arrive to Jerez de la Frontera?

    We go back to 1571 when it is said that Father Francisco de Hinestrosa, born in Jerez de la Frontera, traveled to Flanders in search of relics for the Mercedarian temple. This Father was the Procurator General of the order, Vicar General of the Italian provinces, and also in the Curia of Rome.

    In the late 18th century, the historian Bartolomé Gutiérrez tells us that the copy arrived in Jerez by order of a bishop the following year, but it was intended for the Indies. It seems that the bishop passed away shortly after arriving in Jerez with the relics, including the Shroud, so ultimately everything remained in the Basilica of La Merced.

    The ritual.

    From the 19th century until the 1930s, the Jerez Shroud was displayed to the faithful at specific moments during the year, such as Good Friday, Holy Thursday, and August 15th (the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin).

    In the sanctuary, deacons and acolytes would unfold the shroud held by two rods. When the time came, the faithful would approach to venerate it, often passing objects over it to receive blessings.

    Later, the Shroud was placed in an exquisite reliquary, crafted in the 17th century. To open it, three keys were required, held by three different individuals. It rested there without public exposure for 80 years.

    The last time the relic was displayed to the public was in 2018, on the occasion of commemorating the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Mercedarian Order.

    An interesting fact…

    We have already mentioned the authenticity seal that confirms the writing in one of its corners. Well, in that same corner, another piece of fabric is sewn on top, the origin of which is unknown, although some speculate that it might be a fragment of the original.

    As you can see, a truly astounding mystery…

    Don’t forget to comment and share if you’ve enjoyed this. Unfortunately, I can’t show you this relic, but I can show you the Basilica, the city, the province of Cadiz, and its surroundings… Get in touch!

    THANKS!

  • Our lady of Mercy, patroness of Jerez.

    Our Lady of Mercy Crowned. Jerez de la Frontera.

    The day has arrived when the city of Jerez dresses up in celebration of its patroness, so I have set out to dedicate a post to share with you her history, origins, and interesting facts about this widely revered Marian statue.

    Where does the Marian devotion of Our Lady of Mercy come from?

    In the 13th century, the Moors, taking advantage of coastal raids, captured many Christians to be enslaved in Africa, living in deplorable conditions.

    It was then that the merchant Pedro Nolasco decided to use his wealth to embark on the mission of liberating them, with the help of others who shared the same vision and values.

    These men managed to free many captives, but as resources dwindled for their mission, they decided to form fraternities to raise funds.

    Although this worked for a while, eventually, the funds ran out, and Pedro Nolasco had no choice but to seek the favor of God. Legend has it that it was the Virgin Mary who appeared to him and inspired him to establish a congregation dedicated to the redemption of captives. And thus, the order of the Mercedarians was born, knights in the service of Mary’s redemptive work.

    Devotion and Attributes.

    The Mercedarian devotion provides relief to faithful Christians in their most severe tribulations.

    The grace of the Virgin is a reflection of the great devotion she is revered with in different places around the world:

    • Europe: Spain and Italy.
    • America: Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, and Brazil.
    • Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Central America, and the United States.

    The name itself, Merced, means mercy, and its day is marked on the calendar on September 24th.

    The Virgin and the city of Jerez.

    The legend goes that the Most Holy Mary of La Merced was acclaimed as the Patroness in 1272, and the city swore allegiance to her in 1300.

    According to the chronicles, the wooden statue was found unharmed and uncorrupted during the excavation of the foundations of the Merced convent, inside a brick and tile oven.

    Analysis of the image.

    The Virgin is crafted from dark wood.

    The raised carving depicts the Virgin holding the Child Jesus, also with a dark complexion, portrayed standing at her side. Her right hand blesses the people, and her left hand holds a globe.

    The original Child Jesus is not part of this image; it is housed in the sacristy of the Basilica.

    From the original Virgin, only the head remains, displaying a frontal rigidity, a sharp profile, and an archaic smile, all characteristic elements of Gothic sculptures. The rest of the carving was later covered with silver for its preservation.

    The Miraculous Virgin

    Tile of the Virgin of Mercy and her Miracles. Jerez de la Frontera.

    The devotion to La Merced became deeply rooted in the 16th century when the city entrusted itself to her divine intercession to end the drought that was plaguing the city in the late 16th century. The Virgin answered their pleas with abundant rains for the dry fields.

    The efforts of the Mercedarian order helped strengthen the devotion to the patroness. So much so that in 1410, the municipal council began making donations to support the order in its work, a campaign supported by the city’s knights who joined in the effort.

    The devotion endured, as evidenced by the occasions when the image was paraded in procession to seek her help during droughts, famines, or epidemics, despite the prohibition against taking her out of the temple. Furthermore, she was also carried in processions for other reasons, such as during the illness and death of Queen Isabella the Catholic.

    Throughout the 16th century, various miracles were recorded during these processions, including the healing of a plague epidemic in 1569, the recovery of the infirm, and in 1589, when the image remained in the Jerez Cathedral for 9 days to pray for rain. Interestingly, on the third day of her stay, it rained in the city.

    The celebration and the temples.

    Procession of the Virgin of Mercy through the streets of the city. Jerez de la Frontera.

    Initially, her feast was celebrated on April 30th. Later on August 15th, a day of the Virgin par excellence. Finally, it was moved to the current date, September 24th.

    As for the temples, she was venerated for a time in the church of Santiago on two occasions, due to the French invasion and the expulsion of the friars of the order resulting from the Mendizábal confiscations.

    The Virgin returned to her Basilica after three years. However, the friars did not return until 1940.

    The beloved Patroness receives the veneration of numerous devotees year after year, first during her novena, then in the preceding solemn mass to renew the 1300 vow, and finally in the procession that fills the streets and squares of Jerez with the scent of tuberoses.

    A beautiful procession in which traditionally, the flamenco singers from the San Miguel and Santiago neighborhoods sang “bulerías”: «¿A dónde va usté? / ¿A dónde va usté? / ¡A vé a la Virgen de la Mercé!» (‘Where are you going? / Where are you going? / To see the Virgin of Mercy!’)

    Our crowned Lady of Mercy.

    Coronation of the Virgin of Mercy. Jerez de la Frontera. 1960.

    On May 28, 1961, the long-awaited Canonical Coronation of the Patroness took place in the city.

    Years earlier, triduums were celebrated in different temples throughout the city in preparation for the grand solemnity held at the Minor Basilica of the Virgin of Mercy.

    Our Lady arrived at Alameda Vieja to be welcomed by the youngest Jerezanos, and then she was transported to the Cathedral, which was still a Collegiate Church at the time. On May 28, following the Pontifical Mass officiated by Cardinal José María Bueno Monreal of Seville, as evening fell, the Canonical Coronation took place in the same Alameda, in the presence of moved citizens.

    Curiosities.

    A Coronation that gave rise to a Jerez neighborhood

    As per the Mercedarian fathers’ wishes, all secular events related to the grand occasion were canceled.

    The funds initially allocated for these events were instead used to provide housing for those in need.

    Cardinal Bueno Monreal laid the foundation stone for the new neighborhood, which was named ‘La Coronación.'”

    Patroness of Jerez de la Frontera...

    It is generally assumed that the Virgin of La Merced has been the Patroness of the city since the 13th century, sworn in by a vow of the City Council.

    Furthermore, there are official records in the Cabildo minutes indicating that the City Council already attended her festivities and procession in 1410.

    However, the patronage did not become official until it was declared by Pope Pius XII on June 27, 1949.

    The other theory regarding the arrival of the sculpture…

    In 1369, during the conquest of the Benimerines of Algeciras, a Christian soldier managed to escape from the city with the sculpture of the Virgin to keep it safe.

    The man eventually left it in a monastery in Jerez, that of La Merced, promising to return for it.

    The monks in the monastery would talk among themselves, asserting that the image emitted flashes of light at night, leading them to believe that, thanks to divine providence, the image had appeared in their monastery.

    However, the soldier never returned, and the image, considered as the Virgin of La Merced, led to the construction of the current temple.

    And this tribute to the Patroness of my city comes to an end. As always, if you liked it, please comment and share. If you want to attend the beautiful procession and get to know the city a bit more, I’ll be happy to guide you. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

    THAKS!

  • Sherry and its different types

    Sherries. Domecq winery. Jerez de la Frontera.

    In the previous entry, we saw in detail the production of Sherry wine (if you haven’t reached that point, please stop and go back one entry so you can fully understand what I’m discussing here).

    We start with the initial classification where the lighter, sharper, and more delicate wines were classified as Fino, and the rest as Oloroso.

    Now, it’s time to talk about the aging process.

    Biological aging.

    Biological aging barrel. Argüeso winery. Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

    When we classify these first-press juices with delicacy as ‘Fino’ and fortify them to 15 percent alcohol, a biological evolution begins once they are placed in the barrel.

    In this case, the barrel cannot be completely filled, but rather filled up to 500 liters of its total capacity of 600 liters.

    Over the course of days, a sort of veil starts forming on the surface of the wine, some describe it as resembling cream, and here on earth, we call it the ‘Flor del vino,’ which translates to ‘Flower of wine’ in English.

    This is a type of yeast, a member of the bread yeast family, ‘saccharomyces,’ which, as a living organism, rises to the surface in search of oxygen to breathe, thus forming this unique flower-like veil.

    Characteristics:

    • Color: Clear golden. This is because the yeast acts as a protective barrier between the wine and the air chamber inside the barrel, preventing oxidation.
    • Aroma: Bread, yeast, and fruity notes.
    • Taste: Dry, with a sharp aftertaste.
    • Pairing: Tapas, Iberian products, olives, nuts… All kinds of fish and seafood, especially those with a pronounced salty flavor and raw preparations.
    • Temperature: Very cold (6-8 degrees Celsius).
    • Storage: Once opened, it should be consumed within a short time and kept in the refrigerator. After a few weeks, it may undergo changes (oxidation and flavor variations). It can still be consumed or used for cooking.

    And what about Manzanilla sherry wine?

    Manzanilla has its own aging place, the beautiful Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Along the banks of the Guadalquivir River, the perfect climate for biological aging with Palomino grapes allows it to develop salinity and native yeasts that distinguish it from Fino.

    The closer we get to the sea, the more salinity we can perceive in the biological aging process.

    The best way to experience this is to enjoy a Fino in Jerez, a Fino in Puerto de Santa María, and a Manzanilla in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, always well chilled and accompanied by the previously mentioned pairings.

    Oxidative aging.

    Oloroso sherry glass. Emiligo Hidalgo winery. Jerez de la Frontera.

    The rest of the wines, with their alcohol content raised to 17 degrees, will age without the veil of flor, as the alcohol concentration is too high for the yeast to survive.

    As a result, Oloroso, without the flor, remains in constant contact with oxygen, developing a character completely different from Fino.

    Characteristics:

    • Color: Mahogany.
    • Aroma: Highly aromatic, with hints of vanilla, oak, and nuts.
    • Taste: Round and full-bodied.
    • Pairing: It can be enjoyed with appetizers and pairs perfectly with red game meats, meat stews, and braised dishes. It also goes well with mushrooms and very aged cheeses.
    • Temperature: 12-14 degrees Celsius.
    • Storage: Once opened, it can be enjoyed for about 3 months. If the bottle remains sealed, it can be stored for several years.

    Between biological aging and oxidative aging lies the Amontillado.

    Starting with biological aging under the flor yeast, it can happen, for various reasons (climate, chemical reactions, etc.), that the yeast begins to fall, inevitably leading to oxidative aging. This is how Amontillado is born when the wine undergoes ‘amontillado,’ or oxidizes.

    Characteristics:

    • Color: Amber.
    • Aroma: Nuts and vegetal notes.
    • Taste: Gentle, with balanced acidity and a dry finish, with a prolonged aftertaste.
    • Pairing: Aged cheeses, oily fish, spicy dishes, and vegetables like asparagus and artichokes.
    • Temperature: 6-8 degrees Celsius. Storage: If the bottle is unopened, up to 1 year. Once opened, up to 1 month.
    • Storage: if the bottle remains sealed, one year. Once opened, one month.

    Pedro Ximenez sherry.

    It is said that during the Second World War, a German soldier who was in this region brought a new grape variety to the Sherry region, a grape that was named after the soldier, Peter Siemens, which in our language eventually became Pedro Ximénez… I find this story somewhat unreliable, but after years of research while working for many wineries in the region, it’s the most commonly mentioned one…

    We saw that the Pedro Ximénez grape variety, like Palomino Fino, is white and harvested at the same time as Palomino Fino. So far, so good… Once harvested, we observed that Palomino Fino grapes were transported to the place where they are crushed, destemmed, and pressed. However, Pedro Ximénez grapes, after being harvested, remain in the vineyard for a few days before undergoing the same process as Palomino Fino.

    Asoleo o soleo process.

    The process to which Pedro Ximénez grapes are subjected involves placing the grapes on esparto grass mats in a designated area of the vineyard.

    Over the course of a few days, the grapes gradually dry out, meaning that water evaporates, and the sugar becomes concentrated.

    After a little over a week, the grapes undergo the same process as Palomino Fino: pressing, fermentation, fortification, and aging in barrels.

    Characteristics:

    • Color: Brown, with a dense structure.
    • Aroma: Highly fragrant, with notes of raisins, figs, dates, honey, licorice…
    • Taste: Velvety and unctuous, very sweet.
    • Pairing: Best enjoyed on its own right after a meal, or with chocolate and ice cream. It can also be used as a salad dressing or for cooking meats.
    • Temperature: Room temperature.
    • Storage: If the bottle is unopened, it can last for years. Once opened, it should be consumed within 1 year.

    A Sherry made to suit the English taste…

    Summarizing what we’ve already seen to keep things clear: Sherry is made from Palomino grapes, classified as Fino and Oloroso, and from there, we have biological aging (under yeast) and oxidative aging (without yeast). Amontillado falls between these two aging processes, aging under the flor yeast and then, upon losing it, through oxidative aging. These are the dry Sherries.

    On the other hand, we have Pedro Ximénez wine, made from the same grape and the same process as Palomino Fino, except for the sun-drying process, as we’ve seen. This is the sweet Sherry.

    Fortifying the Wine.

    It’s impossible to talk about Sherry wines without thinking of the English market. They are big consumers of our wines, so much so that the designation of origin includes the word “Sherry,” which is what they call our wines.

    In the 19th century, many people from England came to this region to learn about Sherry production, establish their own wineries in the city, and export these precious wines from here.

    The English palate is unique, not accustomed to dry wines, but also not necessarily fond of sweet ones.

    As a result, they decided to create a wine to their liking, fortifying or blending Oloroso with Pedro Ximénez, giving rise to Cream Sherry.

    To obtain it, a common practice is to blend 70% Oloroso wine with 30% Pedro Ximénez, creating a blend that balances dry and sweet wines, the English way.

    Characteristics:

    • Color: Dark chestnut mahogany.
    • Aroma: Pronounced notes of Oloroso with hints of raisins.
    • Taste: Round and sweet.
    • Pairing: Pairs well with fruits like melon and orange, as well as all kinds of pastries or ice creams. It’s also suitable for blue cheeses and foie gras. As an aperitif, it can be enjoyed on its own with ice and a slice of orange.
    • Temperature: 10-12 degrees Celsius.
    • Storage: When unopened, it can last for years. Once opened, it’s best consumed within a year.

    With some things left unsaid, I’m bringing this entry to a close because I believe we’ve covered the main types, aging processes, and variations. However, if you enjoyed it, I’d be happy to explore the remaining varieties and share some curiosities in a second part… Don’t forget to comment and share!

    THANK YOU!

  • Elaboration of Sherry wine

    From Grape to Wine.

    “Now that we know the setting and the history that gives rise to Sherry wine… AND IF NOT, STOP READING AND GO BACK ONE ENTRY! We are ready to delve into its production process.

    We could summarize the steps through which the grape goes until it reaches our table bottled as Sherry wine in these six stages:

    • The harvest.
    • Crushing and pressing.
    • Fermentation.
    • Classification and encabezamiento (vinification)
    • Aging.
    • Soleras and Criaderas.

    The harvest.

    The harvest in the sherry triangle.

    At the end of August or early September, when the two grape varieties mentioned earlier, Palomino Fino and Pedro Ximénez, reach their optimal level of ripeness, the grape harvest takes place.

    Traditionally, it is done by hand, and this method is still mostly used today because human hands are more attentive to plant care and more skillful than machines.

    The Palomino Fino grapes are quickly transported to the location where crushing will take place. In contrast, the Pedro Ximénez grapes will remain in the vineyard. We will see the process that this grape goes through when we discuss the different Sherries.

    Crushing and Pressing.

    Grapes crushing process.

    The next step is to pour the grapes into the hopper, a type of screws that, when turned, promote the breaking of the skins. As for the stems, they can be removed before or after crushing in the destemming machine.

    Now it’s time to press the grapes. By exerting low pressure, we obtain the first juices, which are more suitable for biological aging wines. These juices are known as the first must. By exerting even more pressure, the next juices are the second must, which will be used for the rest.

    Fermentation.

    Fementation tanks.

    The must is poured into temperature-controlled metal tanks to allow the natural transformation of grape juice sugar into alcohol. This process is rapid at first, and then the rest gradually transforms into alcohol, until the end of November, or the feast of Saint Andrew, because as the saying goes…

    “Por San Andrés, el mosto vino es” (“On Saint Andrew’s day, the must turns into wine.”)

    Classification and vinification.

    Sherries. Diez Mérito winery. Jerez de la Frontera.

    And by the end of November, we already have that new year’s wine, the must, which contains about 12 degrees of alcohol after the fermentation process.

    This is the moment when the wisdom and skill of the winemakers, knowledge passed down and learned from generation to generation, come into play.

    Through sight and smell, the wise winemakers, along with the oenologists, classify the wine into two main groups that will undergo the two main aging processes, fino and oloroso.

    The clearer, more piercing, and delicate wines from the first must are classified as fino, while the rest are categorized as oloroso.

    Once classified, it’s time to increase the alcohol content, in other words, fortify the wines. For this, wine alcohol from the same Palomino Fino grape is used.

    Fino is fortified to reach up to 15 degrees of alcohol to facilitate its biological aging. The rest, classified as oloroso, has its alcohol content increased to 17 degrees to achieve oxidative aging.

    All these terms may seem a bit confusing, but if you continue to follow this blog, you’ll surely get a better understanding as I address and develop each point (and if you have any questions, feel free to comment, and I’ll clarify).

    Sobretablas.

    Andanas.

    At this point, we have the wine ready to transfer it to barrels, or as we say in Jerez, ‘botas,’ for a period of 6 months, at the end of which we will check again if the wine follows the evolution established in the initial classification.

    It’s important to consider that Sherry wine is a living entity, subject to many factors such as climate variations, chemical reactions, and other elements that can alter its evolution.

    The ‘bota’ is also a crucial factor since it will be the vessel where the wine spends a season or many years.

    The Jerez ‘bota’ is made of staves (planks) of American oak wood. These are joined and shaped using fire. Metal rings are used to hold them together and give shape to the ‘bota.’

    American oak wood is ideal for Sherry, given its porosity and durability. It must endure over the years while allowing the wine to oxygenate and the alcohol to evaporate, that perfume that fills the cellars when we visit, better known as ‘the angel’s share.’

    Soleras and criaderas anging process.

    Solera and criadera system.

    After six months in the ‘bota,’ the wine reveals its character and is finally ready to age in the ‘botas.’

    One of the processes that makes our wines unique is our aging system, the Solera and Criaderas system.

    When we visit a winery, we can observe that the ‘botas’ are grouped or stacked in three or four rows, one on top of the other, forming a pyramid-like structure. This pyramid is called an ‘Andana’ (see photo above).

    Starting from the ground, the row of ‘botas’ closest to the ground is called the ‘solera’ (which derives from the Spanish word for ground, ‘suelo’… ‘solera’). The rows above the ‘solera’ are called ‘criaderas,’ with the first row directly above the ‘solera.’ So, in a typical ‘andana,’ we see the ‘solera,’ the first ‘criadera,’ the second, and the third.

    In the ‘solera,’ the oldest wines are stored, and as we move higher, the wines are younger, with the highest ‘criadera’ containing the youngest wines in the entire ‘andana.’

    How does the process begin? Well, it starts with the ‘saca,’ when the wine is ready for bottling.

    The ‘saca’ involves drawing wine, always from the ‘solera,’ and specifically one-third of the ‘bota’ (of those with a capacity of 600 liters, although in some cases, the ‘bota’ is not completely filled, and a space is left inside, as we will see later…).

    So, we extract one-third of the wine from the ‘botas’ in the ‘solera,’ which continues its process for bottling. Now, the one-third that we have taken from the ‘solera’ is drawn from the row of ‘botas’ above it, the first ‘criadera,’ and it is poured into the ‘botas’ of the ‘solera.’

    Following the same method, we reach the last row of ‘botas,’ usually the third ‘criadera,’ which is topped up with one-third of the new wine from the last year.

    As you can see, the wine that ends up in our glass is the result of blending many harvests…

    Clarification and Bottling.

    Bottling process.

    When we remove the wine from the barrel, it’s necessary to clean it of impurities so that it reaches the bottle, and consequently, the glass, clear.

    Clarification is done today in large metal tanks where the wine undergoes a cold process to induce the settling of any impurities it may contain at the bottom of the tank. In the past, this process was not mechanized and was done differently, which I will also mention later (so stay tuned).

    Finally, the wine goes through the bottling process, to the storage, to the store, and to the consumers.

    With all that said, I believe we can conclude here the Sherry production process and continue with the types of wine and their pairings.

    Please comment and share if you’re enjoying this.

    THANK YOU!

  • Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and manzanilla.

    Sherry wine denomination of origin.

    Many people ask me when they arrive in Jerez about the vineyards, and it depends on the route you take to the city whether you will see the vineyards or not.

    These vineyards are located in the area known as the “Marco” or “Sherry triangle.” This triangle is formed by the three main cities where this designation of origin is produced: Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. Some additional vineyards or towns near these three main municipalities are also included.

    Before I continue, I must mention the Regulatory Council, as Jerez wine is protected by a designation of origin known as “Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla.” Therefore, the Regulatory Council is the institution that was formed to protect the wines of this region, oversee their production, and promote them.

    If we take a look back in time, due to its constant comings and goings, “sherry” began to be sold as such in different places.

    This is impossible for many reasons, including those that arise in the area due to its geographical location…

    Geographic characteristics.


    Illustration of the Jerez triangle or sherry region.

    The Jerez region enjoys an average temperature of 18 degrees Celsius throughout the year, with hot and dry summers and mild and humid winters. Rainfall is typically concentrated between the months of September and March.

    This region, located near the Bay of Cádiz and the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, is affected by two prevailing winds: the hot and intense “levante” winds and the cooler “poniente” winds.

    The soil in the triangle varies between “albariza,” clay, and sand, with the latter being more abundant near the coast. Albariza soil is crucial for Jerez production—a white, chalky soil rich in silica. Albariza has the essential characteristic of retaining rainwater and dew, which is vital in this drought-prone region. Its white surface aids in grape ripening by reflecting the sun’s rays.

    The grapes.

    Sunset in the Jerez vineyards.

    The grape varieties allowed by the Regulatory Council are all white: Palomino fino, Pedro Ximénez, and Moscatel.

    The Palomino fino variety is grown in albariza soil, while the others are cultivated closer to the coast, in clay and sand.

    For Jerez, the Palomino fino variety is used as the base grape, and the Pedro Ximénez variety is used for “fortification” to obtain sweeter types. 100% Pedro Ximénez wine is made exclusively from this grape.

    The Moscatel grape is used in many wineries in the region to make wine from this variety. The wine cellars that produce Moscatel wine in towns like Chipiona are very famous, where you can taste different varieties.

    The grapevine.

    Grapevine at Bodegas Real Tesoro, Jerez de la Frontera.

    The grapevines in the vineyards have this V-shaped form. Currently, the plants are grafted with American rootstocks, which are vital to prevent phylloxera, a disease that devastated most European vineyards in the mid-19th century, causing complete ruin for many companies in the industry.

    The pruning system is also unique, called “Vara y Pulgar” (Cane and Spur). It involves alternating the growth of the cane and spur (each end or arm of the vine) each year to control vine growth and direct energy towards the stronger and healthier shoots.

    If you’re enjoying this, please comment, share, and stay tuned for the next post where I will begin discussing the production of Sherry.

    THANKS!

  • Harvest festival of Jerez de la Frontera

    Grape harvest in Jerez region.

    The grape harvest festivals, also known as autumn festivals, take place every year in the city of Jerez de la Frontera during the first weeks of September.

    It is a celebration to commemorate that the grapes are ready for harvesting, thus beginning the process of making the renowned wines of the region.

    Harvesting…

    Throughout history, many civilizations around the world have celebrated the harvest with rituals and ceremonies in the months following summer. Through these rituals, thanks are given and the fruits of the earth are blessed.

    Origins of these Jerezan festivals…

    As for those in Jerez, some suggest that the grape harvest festivals are among the oldest on the peninsula, dating back to the 16th century.

    If we examine the oldest sources, it appears that the festivals, as they are celebrated today, began in 1948, initiated by a group of young poets from Jerez.

    The grape stomping…

    Grape stomping. Jerez de la Frontera.

    The opening ceremony of the festivals is the traditional Grape Stomping, an ancient method in which the grapes, after being transported to the winepress, were crushed by the winery workers with their feet to extract the grape juice.

    The perfect setting for the ceremony…

    Opening Ceremony of the Harvest Festival. Jerez de la Frontera.


    This ceremony takes place in front of the main façade of the Church of San Salvador, that is, the Jerez Cathedral, an ideal setting for the blessing of the first grape juices, while reminding us that thanks to the taxes imposed on Jerez wine, the Cathedral church was able to secure the necessary funds to complete its construction.

    The 2023 festival

    Harvest festival 2023 poster.

    To help you get acquainted with the festivals, I’m providing you with the official program of activities, and I encourage you to follow this blog in the coming days to learn more about the local wine.

    https://www.jerez.es/ciudad/fiestas-vendimia-jerez-2023

    And if you can and feel like visiting the city, I’d be delighted to personally guide you through the city center and raise a toast with a glass of Jerez while explaining its production, types, and pairings.

    Please remember that the visits…

    • Start at the octagonal tower of the Alcazar.
    • You can choose either morning or afternoon, at 11 am or 7 pm.
    • Include a wine tasting.
    • Have an approximate duration of 2 hours.
    • Come at a special price of 12 euros per person during the festivals.
    • Require advance reservations, so…

    If you’re interested or know someone who might be, please share and contact us to make your reservation:

    CONTACT

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    💌 Info@dejateguiarporcarolina.com
    🕸️ @dejateguiarporcarolina
    🕸️ Déjate guiar por Carolina

    THANKS!

  • A 19th-century palace with a sherry atmosphere.

    Stately Home María Luisa. Calle Tornería 22. Jerez de la Frontera.

    This exquisite Jerez palace house serves as the backdrop for a very recent advertising spot for a well-known television program (you can watch it at the end of this post, in case you missed it…)

    Because Jerez is always in style…

    Do you want to learn its history? Keep reading…

    A palace with character.

    Behind the doors of Seville, the “crème de la crème” of the sherry wine industry gradually settled in what was originally the Jewish Quarter.

    This location has seen a procession of numerous entrepreneurs and the upper bourgeoisie from the golden age of the city, remaining in the realm of buying and selling for 200 years.

    The first generation of the Rivero family of entrepreneurs acquired the building in the late 18th century. They are also remembered for leading the oldest wine exporting company in the city, the “CZ” company.

    The Rivero family sold it to a French merchant who owned the “Dastis y Soles” company in the 19th century.

    The Frenchman sold it to the famous “Paúl Hermanos,” and they later sold it to another wine entrepreneur, José Antonio de Ágreda.

    In the 1950s, Juan Bautista Dubosc López de Haro from Sanlúcar set his sights on it and purchased it. Dubosc was associated with the founder of González Byass, Manuel María González Ángel, and they both ran “González y Dubosc.”

    The property was inherited by Eugenia Jackson, Dubosc’s wife, after his death. Eugenia transferred it to the family of her late husband’s partner, the González family, specifically to the wife of Manuel María González Peña, in the 1970s.

    The González family remained in it for half a century, after which it was acquired by another prominent winemaker, Juan Pedro Domecq y Núñez de Villavicencio, in the 20th century.

    At this point, the palace house dissociated itself from the wine trade when it was purchased by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Jerez.

    In the 21st century, it housed the headquarters of the Casino Jerezano.

    Its current transformation into a hotel is thanks to Doña María Luisa Cuñado Azcárate, its current owner.

    Overlooking Rafael Rivero Square, a classic facade of exposed brick, stone, and wrought iron rises, adorned with wine-themed decoration by José Estevez, during the time of the González family.

    Within the premises, in the backyard garden, another neoclassical stone facade stands, crafted by Aurelio Gómez Millán in the 20th century.

    Casa Palacio María Luisa.

    At the end of 2018, this splendid 5-star hotel opened its doors. It boasts 21 exclusive rooms, each one different, with a classic contemporary style, as well as common areas, a garden, restaurant, and a pool.

    When you visit Jerez, see for yourself the beauty it holds inside, and don’t leave without enjoying a good Jerez wine on the terrace of its gardens… And if you don’t want to experience an “X-File” like the famous protagonist in the aforementioned commercial, don’t worry, I’ll guide you.

    Hence the advertising spot…

    DO NOT HESITATE, CONTACT!

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    🌐 www.dejateguiarporcarolina.com
    💌 Info@dejateguiarporcarolina.com
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    THANKS!

  • Monuments to Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca.

    Monument to Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in Houston, Texas, United States.

    After the five entries I have dedicated to my fellow countryman, in which I have briefly covered his life, it seemed to me that as a final touch, I should speak about some of the monuments erected in his honor across the face of the Earth.

    Let’s start with the one in the image that opens this entry…

    Monument installed in the centenary gardens of Hermann Park’s McGovern in Houston, Texas.

    Acquired by the City of Houston in 1986, the work of Pilar Cortella de Rubin.

    It’s a bronze bust of the explorer, depicted wearing chest armor and a helmet atop his head. He is portrayed as a bearded man with long hair flowing down his shoulders.

    On the granite base, it reads in Spanish and English: “Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (1490-1560). Modern Texas history begins with this Spanish explorer, who lived here from 1528 to 1536. This sculpture has been donated for the occasion of the visit of Their Majesties King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía of Spain.”

    Commemorative plaque of the discovery of the Iguazu Falls.

    On it, it reads: “To Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Tribute from the General Administration of National Parks and Tourism. In memory of the discoverer of these waterfalls, Mr. Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who after fierce struggles with nature and the unknown, in his daring journey from the Atlantic Brazilian jungles in search of a route to the Rio de la Plata, discovered this wonder of the world in the year 1541.”

    Monument in Ciudad Juárez.

    In it, we can see on a mound the slender figure of the explorer, dressed in loincloth where he carries a dagger, with his left hand on his forehead in an attitude of scanning the landscape, and his right hand holds a stick resembling a staff, which ends in a cross shape. He appears to carry a sort of bag slung across his chest and a pendant.

    The monument was erected by Juan Carlos Canfield Zapata on April 24, 2001.

    And in Jerez de la Frontera, his hometown…
    Monument to Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Jerez de la Frontera. Cádiz.

    In his hometown, in addition to a street and one of the best institutes, where I had the privilege of studying half of ESO and Bachillerato (high school levels), we find this beautiful fountain with his monument.

    Located on Calle Ancha, in Santiago Square and in front of a section of the old Arab wall that once surrounded Sherish Saduna, stands the figure of the explorer on foot. He is depicted in bronze, cutting through the dense jungle that covers his nudity, except for his left leg, as he is represented wearing only his helmet and holding an axe in his right hand.

    Behind him, as a backdrop, four indigenous figures are also represented in bronze, dressed with bows and arrows.

    The fountain, resembling a pond, receives water from two sources, one on each side, with the one on the left closest to the front corner and the one on the right towards the back. Under the indigenous figures, a waterfall is formed, which may remind us of his discovery of the Iguazu Falls.

    On the commemorative plaque, it reads: “Jerez to Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, explorer of Florida. Adelantado of the Río de la Plata. April 27, 1991.”

    With this, I consider the review of my daring fellow countryman’s life concluded, although I don’t rule out writing again about some of his adventures in the future…

    And if…

    1 You know of other monuments, recognitions, and tributes to this native of Jerez, leave them in the comments!

    2 You feel like visiting it in person, get in touch with me, and we’ll organize your visit.

    CONTACT

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    🌐 www.dejateguiarporcarolina.com
    💌 Info@dejateguiarporcarolina.com
    🕸️ @dejateguiarporcarolina
    🕸️ Déjate guiar por Carolina

    THANKS!

  • Itálica

    Diana, Roman goddess. Italica. Santiponce. Sevilla.

    This is another emblematic Roman site, found at 104 km from the city of Cádiz, in the Sevillian town of Santiponce.

    Origins…

    Located in the Lower Guadalquivir between the Roman cities of Hispalis (Seville) and Ilipa (Alcalá del Río), very close to the routes that connected to the mining area of the northern mountains of Seville and Huelva.

    This favorable location made it renowned during the High Roman Empire in all spheres of the empire, a fact that was reflected in the 52 hectares of land it came to occupy.

    The foundation…

    In the year 206 BC, the Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio “The African,” after proclaiming victory in the Battle of Ilipa (which occurred during the Second Punic War), was in need of a place for his recovery and of his men.

    To achieve this, he established a detachment of legionaries on the Saint Anthony hill. This area was inhabited by a pre-existing Turdetanian population since the 6th century BC.

    Over the years, as usual, the population eventually Romanized. In this way, Italica turn into a residential city for his veterans.

    The name…

    It is said that since most of the men troops of “The African” were Italians, it was decided to name the settlement in honor of their homeland as Italica.

    The first Roman Hispanic colony…

    Soon, in the second half of the 1st century BC, it receives municipal status.

    During the Augustan period, a significant development took place. From this period are the two large Roman gathering spaces: the theater (possibly dating back to the time of Caesar) for 3,000 spectators and the amphitheater, one of the earliest in the Empire with splendid seating capacity.

    Cradle of great emperors and senators…

    Emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Italica Museum. Santiponce. Sevilla.
    • Marcus Ulpius Trajan (53-117), emperor from 98 until his death. He was the second of the Antonine dynasty. A successful soldier, emperor of the greatest military expansion in Roman history up to the time of his death, and a significant philanthropist.
    • Publius Aelius Hadrianus (76-138), emperor from 117 until his death. He was deified as “Divus Hadrianus.” A member of the Ulpio-Aelian dynasty, the second of the emperors born in Baetica. A great enthusiast of Stoic and Epicurean philosophy.

    Under Hadrian, Itálica becomes a Colony, which administratively equated it with the metropolis. Additionally, he expanded the city, creating the “nova urbs,” one of the most modern and advanced cities of the time, complete with a sewage system and services. Under his rule, the monumental and residential district of the patricians and nobility, along with the baths, grew. In addiction, he also erected a temple dedicated to his uncle Trajan.

    Between the 3rd and 4th centuries, a collapse occurred in a large part of the public buildings, infrastructure, and domus erected during the period of the greatest development.

    This was brought about by the decline of the Antonine dynasty, followed by the decline of powerful families in the Lower Guadalquivir, exacerbated by the rise to power of Septimius Severus. Italica lost political importance compared to Hispalis or Corduba.

    The truth is that, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the city remained in use until the Muslim period when it became a quarry for materials, then known as “Old Sevilla” or “Sevilla la vieja.”

    The route

    Views at the entrance of the Roman city of Italica. Santiponce. Sevilla.
    City walls:
    • The walls encompassed an area of 50 hectares and were built in different phases.
    • Currently, they are marked by a row of cypress trees.
    • They were 1.5 meters thick, with a concrete core covered by ashlar stones. Every 20 meters, a square tower measuring 5 meters in height was erected.

    Sewers:

    • The main sewer, located beneath the entrance gate to the new district, ran beneath the main thoroughfare.
    • An aqueduct was constructed from the sources of the Guadiamar River, later supplemented by springs near Huelva.
    • Through lead pipes, water was channeled to baths and public fountains, with only a few domus being able to afford water supply.
    • The sewers evacuated excess water and consumption waste outside the city walls.

    Domus of Exedra:
    • “Colegium” or Country Club, with baths, focused on worship or a guild.
    • Stone bench attached to the wall with openings (latrines), beneath which a water channel runs to carry away waste.
    • Beside them, they placed buckets with brushes, sponges, and wooden handles for personal hygiene use.
    • The mosaic depicts scenes of Pygmies fighting against cranes.

    “Opus sectile”:
    • One of the most prized floorings in the Roman world.
    • Made from finely crafted marble slabs with geometric designs and regular shapes.
    • The choice of marbles, decoration, and chromatic elements could increase its value.
    • In this case, the marbles are mostly imported, highlighting the social status of the owner.
    • It is adorned with 15 geometric emblems with consistent colors and motifs in each row.
    • Furthermore, the walls feature traces of reddish-colored stucco.

    Neptune Building, thermal area:
    • Possibly, one of the largest constructions in the city.
    • Within the thermal area, a heating system of two rooms is preserved, along with a portion of the frigidarium corresponding to the mosaic that gave the building its name.

    The mosaic:

    • Presided over by the god of the sea on a chariot pulled by sea horses, surrounded by mythological marine figures.
    • Other elements include a conch shell, sea bream, crustaceans, and gilt-head bream.
    • On the outer part, scenes of fishing and battles between pygmies and cranes are depicted. Additionally, there are elements of Egyptian influence such as the hippopotamus and crocodile.

    Neptune Building, domestic área:
    • Remains of the galleries of a large courtyard, peristyle, and rectangular central hall have been documented.
    • On both sides, symmetrical rooms with two interconnected chambers.
    • Some of the best-preserved mosaics are found here: Theseus and the Labyrinth (on the left), the Bacchus mosaic (on the right).

    Hall with Trajan sculpture:
    • “Divus Traianus,” sculpture of the deified emperor.
    • The original is located in the museum of Seville.
    • The “Traianeum,” the temple that Hadrian erected to his uncle, is now a cemetery.

    Cañada Honda:
    • One of the highest points in Italica.
    • From here, you can see the vetus urbs, or old primitive city, now under the houses of Santiponce.
    • This road would have been one of the most traveled, with the “Traianeum” (Temple of Trajan, now a cemetery, on the right).
    • The columns belonged to the Domus of Emparrado, these being from the central courtyard. On its facade, there were several “tabernae,” dedicated to the trade of feminine items such as needles and pins for adornments. Additionally, it had a “thermopolium” or a shop for hot food and drinks.
    • Further on, to the right, the Domus of Hylas preserves an important collection of mosaics.

    Domus of Hylas:
    • Named after Hylas, who becomes ensnared by nymphs while fetching water from a spring, despite Hercules’ attempt to rescue him.
    • This central motif is found in the museum of Seville.
    • The theme is related to Greek mythology, specifically the expedition of the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece.
    • The entrance door of the domus faces the aforementioned Cañada Honda.
    • It features several rooms at different levels around various courtyards.
    • Noteworthy are the peristyle and the main triclinium, with a triple entrance and over 100 square meters of area.

    House of the Rhodian Courtyard:
    • A domus with rooms at different levels surrounding a large peristyle.
    • It contains tabernae open to the street and a small interior courtyard.
    • The triclinium and private rooms are decorated with mosaics.
    • The use of different marbles on floors and walls is remarkable.
    • In the part closest to the adjoining house, there are preserved pools of unknown use, possibly dedicated to a small workshop.

    The House of the Birds:
    • Occupies 1700 square meters.
    • It contains the public area with access for clients and friends, and the private area for the family.
    • The public area was organized around a peristyle with a garden and a well supplied by a cistern that collected rainwater. Around it, there were rooms for daily activities.
    • Facing the house, the triclinium presides over the ensemble.
    • The more private areas are located at the back, around two small courtyards.

    The mosaic:

    • Gives its name to the domus and is located in one of the main rooms around the peristyle and open to it.
    • In the central part, we can discern remnants of a head with long hair and a Hellenistic-inspired headdress.
    • 33 species of birds in various poses such as sparrow, owl, partridge, peacock, duck… Some in profile, others looking at the viewer.

    The lararium:
    • Located in one of the rooms that opened onto the peristyle of the House of the Birds, in the form of a small shrine, adorned with paintings or marble.
    • A small space dedicated to the lares or penates, the protective gods or geniuses of the home, business, and family. Ancestor worship was also conducted here.
    • In addition to bronze figurines of these deities, important family relics were placed in this location, and offerings were made to honor them.
    • They were equipped with an “acerra” for incense, a “salinum” for salt, a “gutus” for milk or wine, a patera for offerings, a “turibulum” for burning incense, and a lamp for the sacred light.

    Private rooms of the House of the Birds:
    • Located on both sides of the triclinium, surrounding two smaller courtyards, the northern one featuring a fountain and a pond with mosaics, among which the ones depicting Medusa and Tellus stand out, symbols related to fertility and family protection.
    • The rooms of the gallery in the courtyard and the side corridor have a more understated decoration, with geometric elements, as was common for decorating transitional spaces.

    The bakery:
    • Highly significant establishments in a Roman city.
    • A place where flour was ground before making bread, the dough was kneaded, and the loaf was baked.
    • They were decorated with molds or stamps for certain festivities or significant events in civic life or the imperial family.

    Domus of the Planetarium:
    • One of the largest excavated areas, occupying half of the block.
    • Built in the 2nd century, extensively modified with new walls and compartments.
    • A domus surrounded by commercial and service establishments.
    • Rooms arranged around a central peristyle, with some being more private around smaller peristyles with an “impluvium.” These rooms are adorned with significant geometric and mythological mosaics.
    • The unexcavated easternmost part may contain the triclinium along with two other rooms decorated with geometric design mosaics.

    The Planetarium mosaic:
    • It contains the days of the week, a tradition of Eastern origin, likely Jewish.
    • The Romans gradually adopted the seven-day week.
    • Previously, they divided the week into eight days, with Constantine in the 4th century imposing the seven-day week.
    • The names are based on astrological observation, formulated in Egypt in the 1st century BC. Astronomers noted that the visible celestial bodies were constant in relation to each other throughout the year, except for seven: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. These gave their names to the days, as they govern the first hours of each new day.
    • Created in the 2nd century.

    The Bacchus and Ariadne Mosaic:
    • Located in one of the private rooms.
    • Bacchus, the god of wine, associated with the origins of theater.
    • The rituals of the god aimed to achieve ecstasy and rebirth, liberated from all social constraints.
    • Bacchus is depicted with Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, abandoned on a beach by Theseus after saving him from the Minotaur. When Bacchus saw her, he fell in love with her beauty, married her, and took her to the Mount Olympus of the gods.

    The Amphitheatre:

    This impressive example of a Roman amphitheater, one of the largest in the entire empire, was constructed outside the city walls to take advantage of the natural space, during the expansion that took place in the reign of Hadrian (2nd century).

    Amphitheatres were technically two connected theaters, hence their oval shape, which allowed for better acoustics.

    It was the venue for games, with a capacity of 25,000 spectators. Since around 10,000 people lived in the “vetus urbs” of Italica, many of those who attended the games in the Italica amphitheater likely came from other places.

    The games were held for free, organized and funded by the Emperor, the Senate, and the soldiers, in order to gain the support of the people.

    The amphitheater hosted:

    • “Munera gladiatores,” or blood games (which usually didn’t end in death).
    • “Venatio,” or hunts.
    • “Naumachiae,” or naval spectacles.

    The seating area was composed of:

    • “Ima cavea,” intended for the “equites,” politicians, and the most important and wealthy classes (close to the spectacle).
    • “Media cavea,” for officials and free citizens (middle zone).
    • “Summa cavea,” for women, children, slaves, and beggars (upper zone).

    The gates:

    • The entrance gate: Triumphalis gate, for the victors.
    • The exit gate: Libitinaria gate, just across, for the deceased and the defeated.
    • Side gates: meant for the spectators, who would head to their respective areas through the vomitoria.

    In the center, the arena:
    • visible bestiary pit. In this area, there was the mechanism that allowed the release of beasts and gladiators into the arena.

    Unfortunately, in the 18th century, the Regional Government of Andalusia dynamited the site to extract stone and to build a necessary retaining wall for the Guadalquivir River.

    Detail of the engraving of the gladiators’ feet:
    • Located just past the Triumphalis entrance.
    • Before entering the arena, they had to place their feet on them to ensure that they left the arena as they entered, walking on their feet, and triumphant.
    • Additionally, on the wall, there was a niche with the statue of the goddess Dea Caelestis (of North African origin, goddess of the sky, possessing the divine balance of justice) on the east side, and another with the goddess Nemesis (of Greek origin, goddess of justice, vengeance, balance, and fortune).

    And finally…

    Don’t forget to pay attention to the “tabulae lusoriae” or the famous game known as Roman tic-tac-toe. It’s assumed that the Romans were quite fond of gaming, so they used the floor and wall slabs to carve these boards and play in the middle of the streets to pass the time. To play, you only needed small pieces of glass, marble, or ceramic that you could carry with you to play anywhere.

    It’s said that in Italica, there are 7 “tabulae lusoriae” scattered throughout the Nova Urbs and the amphitheater.

    BONUS: Did you know that…? Itálica is mentioned in the New Testament.

    1. There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian cohort. 2. He was a devout and God-fearing man, as was all his household. He gave many alms to the people and prayed to God continually.

    3. About the ninth hour of the day, he distinctly saw in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.”

    4. And he, staring at him and becoming terrified, said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have gone up as a memorial before God.

    5. Now send men to Joppa and call for a certain Simon, who is also called Peter. 6. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

    7. As soon as the angel who spoke to him had left, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him. 8. After he explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

    Acts 10:1-8. New Testament. The Bible. (The Vulgate)

    Cornelius was a centurion of the Italian Cohort II Italica Civium Romanorum, the Italic Cohort, stationed in Caesarea Maritima, the capital of the Roman province of Judea. The event described in these verses led to the conversion of the centurion by the apostle Simon Peter.

    I hope you enjoyed the tour, and don’t forget to also visit the fascinating museum at the site.

    And if you need a guide… Contact us! (more ideas in the tours and services section)

    THANK YOU!

  • A citizen of Jerez, explorer of La Florida (One)

    Ponce de León’s Expedition to Florida. Engraving 1885.

    Continuing from the previous entry… “And on July 17, 1527, Narváez departs with the fleet for Florida from the Port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda towards Santo Domingo…”


    Well, right from the start, during the course of the voyage to Santo Domingo, the fleet encounters a storm that causes the loss of 60 men and a ship. As a result, upon arrival, 140 men decide not to continue the expedition… Given the circumstances, the fleet decides to spend the winter in Cuba and take the opportunity to resupply.

    Months later, in April 1528, they begin the route towards Florida.

    It’s important to note that Pánfilo Narváez had incorrect calculations, the distances weren’t accurate. So, when they set off from Santo Domingo, they again face a challenging voyage. Despite this, they manage to spot the bay of Tampa, not quite sure where to head.

    From the ships, they spot some structures on a hill by present-day San Petersburgo, and Narváez assumes it must be an important village. Driven by impatience, he orders a swift disembarkation.

    Florida expedition with Cabeza de Vaca and Narváez.

    Venturing Inland…


    When Narváez and his men arrive at the village, they are peacefully welcomed by the natives. They set up camp there and venture to explore the surroundings. As night falls and they return, they are astonished to find that the indigenous people had left.

    The next day, after taking possession of the land for King Charles V, they continued their search, finding another village with no riches or food. It’s here that the natives advise the Spaniards to continue northward to reach the lands of the Apalachees, lands rumored to have gold and food.

    Returning to the camp, Narváez organizes the march in the style of Cortés, splitting the expedition by sea and by land, with the idea of reuniting in the north.

    The patience of the explorers was wearing thin, including Álvar’s, as he feared that with the incorrect maritime calculations and the uncertainty of the terrain, the endeavor was headed for disaster.

    The 100 men who began the expedition by sea were searching for the next inlet of the Tampa Bay, but the reality was that it was located to the south. Meanwhile, by land, Narváez, along with Álvar and the other men, trekked for 15 days through dense vegetation with unfamiliar wildlife and waterlogged swamps. Finally, in a village north of the Vitalcoche River, they were able to eat maize.

    They continued through the lands of the Timucua people, making contact with them, until they reached the Apalachee lands in the summer, but… the “promised land” from the earlier indigenous accounts turned out to be a humble village with around 40 poorly constructed huts, inhabited by fierce warriors.

    Narváez and Cabeza de Vaca exploring the land on horseback.

    Three unbearable weeks passed in the territory of the Apalachees, but despite their efforts aided by three hostages, they found nothing more than the skill of those natives’ bows and arrows. Their effective attacks depleted Narváez’s army, which could do little against the heavy crossbows and muskets.

    At the end of the third expedition, Narváez had no choice but to give up, reaching this decision in the area that corresponds to present-day Georgia. He ordered a retreat to the coast, enduring the harsh attacks of the natives in the marshy lands.

    On the coast, near present-day Tallahassee, they stopped in a village where they could nourish themselves with maize, beans, and squashes. With supplies replenished, they resumed their march following the course of the river they named San Marcos, now known as “Saint Marks,” until they reached the coast.

    Finally, our protagonist takes the reins…

    Cabeza de Vaca and Narváez arrival to the coast.

    The dreadful conditions they arrived in, including Narváez who was gravely injured, prompted our man from Jerez to take command. Álvar ordered the construction of 5 barges, about 8 to 12 meters in length, using the weapons and armor, as well as natural resources.

    During the time it took to design them, they survived on maize, fishing, and finally their horses. To honor their valuable horses, they named the bay “Bay of the Horses.”

    In September, with the barges ready, the 242 men divided into groups of 50 and followed the westward coast in search of what is now Tampico, believing it wasn’t too far away… The truth is, they spent many days enduring storms, hunger, thirst, and the pain of their wounds. Finally, a hurricane caused them to shipwreck two days before reaching the Mississippi River.

    The ships separated, some sank, like the one piloted by Narváez; and others were violently thrown against the shore. The barge that Álvar was on had better luck and was carried to what is now Galveston.

    By November 1528, the Florida fleet that initially set out with 600 men was reduced to 80. Upon reaching the island, they coincidentally referred to it as “ill fate,” because if something was definitely not on their side, it was good fortune.

    And that concludes the first part. What will become of our protagonist now? TO BE CONTINUED…