Cultural and Ethnographic Heritage

Water Landscapes (or Waterscapes)

Traditional uses are directly linked to the maintenance of biodiversity, therefore, they have been called the intangible or cultural component of biological diversity or "cultural biodiversity." This is understood as a set of relationships between man and the rest of the components of biodiversity, key to maintaining an important element of it.

The territory described houses a large human population that carries a legacy of knowledge passed throughout time; knowledge resulting from the interrelation between different human groups with their environment and the biodiversity.

A detailed study conducted by Cultural Collective María Castaña collects a significant part of this cultural biodiversity taking as a unifying axis its watercourses. Through this conductive thread this research goes forward and we are able to discover traditional uses, buildings, legends..., associated with streams, rivers and rivulets that drain this area until they come together, for the most part, in the Miño river, backbone of this territory. In this way, we discover the various elements and uses associated to them which include the following:

  • “Caneiros” are small craft buildings that date from the Middle Ages, built transversely to the course of rivers. Its function was eel fishing by driving water into the gear where they were captured.
  • Gear appropriate to the species and conditions of rivers. These include the redotes, trammel, rateles... used primarily for fishing eel (Anguilla Anguilla), trout (Salmo trutta), chub (Leucisius cephalus) and Iberian nase (Chondrostroma polylepis polylepis).
  • Grain mills, saws, forges, hones... driven from the driving force of the water. The large number of rivers and rivulets that bathe these lands provide strength to move turning wheels of the mills, and indispensable in countless other times in the grain economy of the recent past and the ecological and tourist wealth that bring hope for the future.
  • “Batuxos”, traditional small boats used as a means of crossing between the shores of both people and goods. They were also used for fishing.
  • The systems for crossing streams are numerous as few trips can be done without crossing any of them. Among these are the paths, stones put in the river or brook where it is narrow, destined to the crossing of people, ports or fords, areas of shallow river to cross on foot both people and animals, and even carts; pontellas, works of folk architecture, most of the times are slabs of slate or wood arranged on supports and bridges, more technical constructions made with arcs or false arcs.
  • Between decks and forges of Terras do Miño, Santa Comba stands out, located by the river Chamoso. It is a pre-industrial complex working thanks to the power provided by the river water. The hydraulic deck is formed by a dam which supplies water to a mill and the deck itself. The hydraulic deck consists of two forges in which 30 blacksmiths who used to work on it heated iron or steel so that it could then "stretch" and turn it into rods with which to make tools. Once heated, the material was stretched in the deck which, through a series of gears makes a circular lever movement that brings down a lever of 100 kg on the material. As an auxiliary structure there was a sharpened stone, also hydraulic, which helped them to sharpen the tool and still had strength to operate a saw and irrigate an adjacent meadow. Blacksmiths would find coal for the forges train machines, in Lugo, from here to Laxosa carrying bags needed to reach Laxosa and then they would throw them down and then they came down, often with the train running.
  • The deck was specialized in the preparation of material for the subsequent production of fouciños (sickles). In the 60s and 70s, marketing began for electric hammers which replaced the traditional deck, giving autonomy to the blacksmith and lowering production costs. To the screw jacks we must add the increasing use of mowing machines which slowly move away the use of fouciños.
  • Reconstruction of the Deck of Santa Comba. Source: María Castaña Archive.

  • Reconstruction of the Deck of Santa Comba. Source: María Castaña Archive.
  • Until recently there were numerous washing places and bathing areas on the banks of rivers, as there was no running water in the houses.
  • Irrigation techniques, using small surface channels or regos to bring water to farms.
  • Forms of traditional use of pasture, firewood, honey...
  • The man-nature co-evolution has led to a selection for thousands of years of crop varieties adapted to these particular conditions: varieties of wheat, rye, local varieties of fruit trees, vines, turnips... and livestock breeds: Galician mountain horse, hen of Mos...

Along the rivers a rich oral tradition was passed down for centuries from father to son, which needs a listener to remember so as no to fall into oblivion. It is manifested around rivers in the form of ballads, legends, tales, chatter, riddles, proverbs and sayings.

  • Legend of the “Home- Peixe" (Fish-Man): "At an unknown place located in the Miño river, apparently in Lugo, a Fish-Man crossed daily the current riding an ark wearing a red cap on his head..."
  • Legend of the Cobra: "I do not know if it is possible as a legend, but if it is true that in the City Council of Outeiro de Rei, near the river, there is a corral that the people call the Tuxo and I know that a big winged snake lived there. It used to leave the area of Raxul (slightly above the Piago) and come flying over the river to Santa Isabel, after, it remained in the Tuxo, and the children who passed by with the cows were a bit frightened. Later, we were told that this was a story that somebody called Manolo had made up, and he also said that he used to catch eels of 5 kilos. We believed that because is was wiser, but now 30 years later we find other people that tells the same story of the winged snake which leads us to think that this legend existed and its origin must be quite old."

This is one of the ways to transmit "traditional knowledge", which have evolved and proved its value over time. Particular forms of "know-how-to" have been transmitted and adapted to these places and have shown their validity over time.

The "man-river" relationship is also reflected in the prose and poetry dedicated to the river: "A river with the beauty of the Miño, passing by Lugo, with that wide and solemn curve between green meadows, with small dams playing to form pools and anger the water, with alder sinking their roots on the stream, with willows barely stroking the surface..." (Jorge de Vivero, from the article The Miño and the Ducks, El Miño y los patos).

Moreover, in the many local fairs, one can enjoy traditional cuisine, crafts, and meet their varied craftsmanship, such as basketry, pottery and traditional clothing made from vegetable products like linen, and animal products: wool, leather. The batáns were constructions made by some decks, driven by the force of flowing water, served to beat wool fabrics made on the looms.

These uses and traditional elements have allowed the preservation of natural wealth associated to them, allowing the coexistence of different forms of life, animal and vegetables, while a rational and sustainable exploitation was done.

It is due to the progressive abandonment of this cultural component of diversity when it starts to decrease the biodiversity mainly due to the changes in land use started in the middle of last century, the decade 1940-1950. The traditional management model is no longer valid in a changing society, in which new life forms appear.

This is why the will to collect all the good that still exists and put a spin on a misunderstood development generator of impacts to show, distribute and transmit that a human development in line with nature is possible. In this sense, the study of ethnography provides insights into the past as a starting point to construct the present, and encourage self-esteem on these popular values and experiences that can sometimes be associated with a poor past life.

To make these ideas available to the population it is necessary to transmit the vision, the conviction that this is possible, for this we must implement initiatives leading to this objective situation.