An Andalusian Experience

 

Fancy Footwear
Valverde del Camino is the place to go for your Spanish boots of Spanish leather

Leather boots from Spain are celebrated the world over, and no place is better known for the quality of its footwear than Valverde del Camino, in Huelva province.
Strategically located in the center of the province, equidistant between some of Huelva’s best-known attractions - the mountainous Sierra de Aracena park, the Columbus sites of La Rabida and Palos de la Frontera, and the Doņana national park - it is a favorite stop for those seeking quality leather goods, in particular boots, known here as botos.

Valverde is a youngster as far as Andalusian towns go, for it is "only" a few centuries old. It arose around a roadside inn which stood on this spot midway between the port of Huelva and the mineral-rich mountains of the north and, this being terrain ill-suited to farming or grazing, has always dedicated itself to trade and industry. The town became an important logistic center in the heyday of the Riotinto copper mines, and was the hub of the railway line connecting the mines with Huelva.

Local families had always supplemented their income by fashioning rustic footwear for use by farm laborers, but designs eventually became more elaborate and sophisticated. It was in 1873 that a local cobbler won a gold medal at the International Exposition in Vienna, Austria, launching the town’s reputation. Valverde has become synonymous with cowboy boots (botos camperos) and the longer botos rocieros (Spanish riding boots), used in the famous Whitsuntide El Rocio pilgrimage. Some two dozen shops produce these items and other footwear, and a number of craftsmen make custom boots to order, for instance for polo players and show jumpers. A good quality pair of cowboy boots can cost as little as $90, while made-to-order boots, hand sewn with waxed hemp, can fetch prices in the region of $500. It takes three to four days to make a pair.

A new museum, installed in the former Riotinto line director’s mansion, traces Valverde’s history and crafts tradition, which also extends to wood (the town is a major producer of furniture). Valverde is also home to the last workshop in Andalusia dedicated to making cowbells. Artesania Bermejo fashions cowbells of a dozen different sizes, from miniature bells used for ferrets to giant clangers worn by steers. Made with copper-plated iron, each size has a different tone, and most of the sales are to professional herdsmen all over Spain, as an aid in locating and identifying their animals.

CONTACTS
Patronato Provincial de Turismo
(tourist promotion board) - E-mail: buzon@diphuelva.es Website: www.diphuelva.es
Museo Etnografico y de las Artesanias (Ethnographic and Craft Museum) - Casa de la Direccion, 21600 Valverde del Camino (Huelva), Spain. Tel. 34 959 508 306. Fax 34 959 553 341.

Nearest airport - Seville (55 miles, 90 km)

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Copyright Š 2000 An Andalusian Experience. Text by Mark Little - A Freelance Spain production

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Copyright © 2000-2006 Mark and David Little & J.D. Dallet