The Pasiego Valleys
An amazing landscape
Its origins are geographically isolated and somewhat inbred, with large doses of selfless work, sacrifice, adaptation to the mountain and its demands, ingenuity and, despite what may be expected, the area also has an innovative and industrial character of independence, freedom and pride, a land of masters of dealing and bartering.
Man and nature
the cultural landscape of the Pasiego Valleys
What makes the Pasiego area special, in the context of the economies and societies of Cantabrian mountain ranges, is the origin of its cultural landscape, probably the first of the modern landscapes in the world, based on the unique human impact on the area.
During the last five centuries, the insistence on a livestock model of close migration, intensive use and a focus on working with dairy breeds, created a landscape of very human characteristics. It is shaped around two essential elements: fields as a habitat, and cabins as a basic element of scattered populations.
around the Pasiego Valleys
Pasiego cabins are the most renowned heritage elements of the region. Almost ten thousand of these buildings remain, symbolising a way of life, occupation and use of pastoral space with five hundred years of history.
The cabins are eminently functional, sealed, with few openings, to shelter and comfort the cattle. Their structure is elementary: stone and wooden supports and a ballast-pitched roof, in rolled sandstone. Their interior is rudimentary, distributed over two floors of low height, the lower with lateral stables and a section for the cattle; the upper one, an open space to store dry grass, sometimes including some modest furniture for the shepherd.
The Pasiego world retains rich anthropological and ethnographic expressions, which are not always framed in the mountain traditions. Amongst them, for example, the most striking and documented of the mountain costumes, the traditional pole and the nanny pannier as a unique accessory; pastoral expressions of independent migration and commerce like the move between huts, the so-called change of fire; jumping and launching sports (with or without a traditional pole) such as Pasiego bowls; the games of calves; an artisan tradition transformed into a rich cast of implements, where the locals show off scythes and plough clamps, sandals, small baskets, deep baskets with lids, wooden tubs, troughs, churns…they even have their own dialect, a Spanish which is rich with archaisms and certain corruptions.
From the traditional farming model
to the dairy industry
The traditional Pasiego economy has almost entirely revolved around dairy farming. For centuries, Pasiego ranchers developed knowledge about genetic selection, prioritising the reproductive role of mothers with good dairy capabilities. The small and slender, hazelnut coloured, Pasiego cows, whilst not a paragon of productivity, offered a milk of excellent fat constituents which was at the origin of the commercial hustle and bustle of the Pasiego people’s cheese and butter.
The arrival of the Nestlé manufacturing plant in the Pisueña valley changed the livestock model of the 20th century in the region, favouring the introduction of a variety of cow which boasted greater daily productivity, the Dutch Friesland, which suitably adapted to the Pasiego climate and pastures.