going back a bit to our stop between Santo Domingo and Agés, we find ourselves in the town of Belorado. inhabited since Roman times, its location in a narrow pass between cliffs made it strategically important to Alfonso I in the 12th century as it sits on the frontier between Castilla and La Rioja.
after the Reconquest, many Muslim families chose to stay behind in towns like Belorado, working as farmers or in building trades. as a result, these towns had four quarters — one made up of Francos, one of Christian Castillians, one of Jews, and one of Muslims. during the Middle Ages, most Jews and Muslims were exempt from paying taxes and instead were obliged to maintain one of the town’s defensive towers in good repair.
when we arrived, some sort of noontime celebration in the church was letting out and a group of girls in traditional dress filled the plaza in front of the church. later that evening, out in search of some kind of meal, we saw a performance of the girls — this time in the main plaza in front of a different church. divided into age groups, each performed a set of dances with various props — the youngest group of girls used boughs of some sort while the slightly older group used castanets. I’m still investigating what, precisely, occasioned the costumes and performances (saints day, perhaps?) but whatever the cause it drew quite the crowd on a weekday evening.
apparently, in the 1610s, Belorado became a dance capital and the inhabitants pride themselves on the incorporation of dance into their local and cultural identities. since the 1600s, dance has played an important role in village festivals. I couldn’t find anything as to whether May 12 is a holiday or in some other way special, but it stands to reason that such a strong tradition could render a Tuesday night in May worthy of dance, or perhaps the girls were just presenting an annual recital.