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Home / Don's Travels / Reflections on Spain / February, 2004

Reflections on Spain

Los Amantes de Teruel

For St Valentine's Day I would like to tell you of a wonderful Spanish tale of unrequited love.

On the western edge of the Maestrazgo Mountains is the fascinating town of Teruel. Because Valencia and the Mediterranean Sea are on the other side of the Maestrazgo range, Teruel has been a strategic location populated by Romans, Moors, El Cid, and the many political refugees.

Tragically much of the city was demolished during the Blizzard of 1937 in one of the most horrendous battles of the Spanish Civil War. But the town is resilient. Its stately Medejar Towers stand tall with their glistening ceramic tile inlays and patterned brickwork. The winding streets of the Old Quarter retain a haunting Moorish flavor.

It was along these narrow streets in the early days of the 13th Century, that a knight named Diego de Marcilla neared the end of a five year odyssey. He was exhausted from making the tortuous trek across the craggy mountains, yet he was filled with joy: His journey had earned him the right to marry his beloved: Isabel de Segura, and soon he would be in her arms. In fact, he heard wedding bells ringing as he approached his home town. He could hardly wait.

Diego and Isabel had been in love since the played together as little children. But when they matured into two young people deeply in love, Isabel's father, a wealthy merchant, was reluctant to bless their proposed union because Diego, as the second son of a noble family, did not have the funds necessary to maintain his daughter in the style to which she had grown accustomed.

Isabel's father finally relented on one condition: the two can marry when Diego proves his noble lineage as a valorous knight, and returns with enough wealth to give Isabel the life she deserved. "This all must be accomplished within exactly five years," he warned -- "no exceptions. At that time, if you meet the requirements," Isabel's father pledged to Diego, "you can have the hand of my daughter Isabel in marriage. But if you fail, I will see that my daughter marries well into a prominent noble family."

The five years have passed and Diego is returning to Teruel in the prime of his youth -- strong, handsome and wealthy. He is honored throughout the land for his courageous victories in many battles against the invading Moors. Confidently he awaits his reunion with his beloved.

But being the usual impulsive young man, he has not kept track of the time. The very day of his triumphant arrival in Teruel is the day the deadline has expired. Soon he learns from his friends that the wedding bells he hears are not for him and his beloved Isabel; they are for her marriage to another. Prudence and the enthusiasm of a very eligible (and noble) suitor prompted Isabel's father to delay not even one day before giving his daughter in marriage to Pedro Azagra, Lord of Albarracín. He had arranged a good marriage indeed.

Brave Diego was beside himself -- filled with mixed feelings of disappointment and rage. But he realizes that it is his error -- Isabel's father had kept his word. Crestfallen, he approaches his beloved Isabel and tearfully tells her he must leave her and the town of Teruel forever. All he asks for is a farewell kiss. But it was not to be, for Isabel cannot grant his wish (and her desire) since now she is wed to another man. The full force of what has happened confronts Diego, his heart literally bursts, and the brave knight crumples to the floor, dying of a broken heart.

Now the wedding chimes are tolling mournfully. The next day, as the grief stricken families and friends are processing with Diego's body to the church, a young woman, her face veiled, slips out from the file of mourners and silently approaches the fallen knight. She goes up to him and places a kiss on his cold mouth, the kiss that she had denied him in life. At that moment Isabel faints and expires in her lover's arms.

The place most visited in Teruel continues to be the place where the two lovers are buried side by side, their hands reaching out to one another. The monument, carved by Juan de Avalos is revered by lovers throughout Spain, indicating the enormous significance of the tradition that they died of love. The legend is based on fact. Juan Martinez de Marcilla was the actual name of Diego.

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Tu amigo,

Don

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COMMENTS

"Just found your sidebar with a bookful of stories from Spain; can't wait to read them all. Thank you for reminding me of this glorious country!"
Sally Fine, Charleston, SC

"I am glad you liked what I wrote. You can get a whole bookful of my essays and pictures. It is called Heart of Spain. I think you will like it a lot. Don"

"Buenos dias, Don! Your story of how La Tienda evolved is inspirational! Wish I had thought of it! I was so excited when I discovered La Tienda 7-8 years ago! I have identified with your history and love of Spain ever since and love to read your articles about the out-of-the-way places and the wonderful Spanish people. I began my love affair with Spain and its people in 1965 too, studying with a program from Mary Baldwin College. At that time the only college programs were Dartmouth, Smith, Middlebury and Mary Baldwin, so we were quite a novelty - they could spot us anywhere! We each lived with a family and were totally immersed in the culture and daily life for over a year. My Spanish family told their friends that I was "mas espanola que una espanola, y que tenia el alma espanol!" After college I came very close to marrying a Spanish lawyer. It took me a long time to readjust to my world in the U.S. because I missed Spain so much.I went on to teach Spanish for several years and have returned to Spain about every other year for the last 40 to see my best friend from college who still lives in Madrid. Our husbands and kids became good friends and over the years we have explored those out-of-the-way places you write about. Two of my favorites are Cuenca and Patones. I have been collecting pottery from every region in Spain since college, and I LOVE to cook Spanish food! So I definitely need your products! I used to try to bring back jamon, manchego, etc. but that got to be impossible. My college friend who lives in Madrid, is from South Boston, VA, and she got all the food for a huge fundraiser there from your store in Williamsburg! It was easier than trying to bring it over! Best to you and your family! Keep up the good work!!Ann Gillenwater"
Ann Gillenwater, Bristol TN/VA

"Dear Ann, What an absorbing story you tell! We are obviously"soul mates" and must get together -- what fun that would be. Come to Williamsburg -- we have a store in a centuries old potter studio. Of course I love Cuenca. We experienced a profound Semana Santa there this year. I will have to check out Patones next year. Thank you for your suggestion. Tell me about traditional pottery/ceramics. I might want to expand beyond Talavera/El Puente del Arzobispo in Toledo. We have tried some from Granada but it was very heavy and coarse in execution. Have you checked out my book: The Heart of Spain? It is full of reminiscences and personal snapshots. I think you would love it. Do come see us. Abrazos, Don"

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Reflexiones en Español

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Los Amantes de Teruel

Queridos Amigos, para el día de San Valentín, quisiera contarles esta maravillosa historia de amor Española.

En la frontera occidental de las montañas Mastrazgo se encuentra el fascinante pueblo de Teruel. Por encontrarse Valencia y el Mar Mediterraneo al otro lado, y por estar estratégicamente localizada, la población de Teruel ha sido de Romanos, Moros, El Cid y de muchos refugiados políticos.

Trágicamente, la mayor parte de la ciudad fue destruida durante una de las batallas más horribles de la Guerra Civil Española, el Temporal de 1937. Pero el pueblo es resistente. Sus majestuosas torres Medejar se mantienen altos con sus brillantes baldosas de cerámica y diseños de ladrillos. Las calles del viejo cuarto mantienen su sabor moruno.

Fue en estas estrechas calles, en los primeros días del siglo XIII, que un caballero llamado Diego Marcilla terminó su odisea de 5 años. Estaba cansado de la ardua caminata por las montañas, pero felíz: su viaje le había dado el derecho de casarse con su querida Isabel de Segura, y pronto estaría en sus brazos. Incluso oía las campanas nupciales cuando se acercaba al pueblo, estaba deseando de llegar.

Diego e Isabel estaban enamorados desde que eran niños y jugaban juntos. Pero cuando maduraron y crecieron, y seguían profundamente enamorados, el padre de Isabel, un negociante, dudaba en darle la mano en matrimonio porque Diego, el segundo hijo de una familia noble, no tenía los recursos suficientes para ofrecerle a su hija en el estilo de vida al que estaba acostumbrada y en el que había crecido.

El padre de Isabel finalmente cedió pero con una condición. Se podían casar si Diego probaba su linaje como un valiente caballero y regresaba con suficiente riqueza para darle a Isabel la vida que ella se merecía. "Esto debes conseguirlo en 5 años exactos", le advirtió -- "sin excepciones, en ese momento, si cumples con estos requisitos" le prometió el padre de Isabel a Diego, "te concedo la mano de mi hija Isabel en matrimonio." Pero si fallas, me aseguraré de que mi hija se case bien y en una familia noble y prominente."

Los 5 años pasaron y Diego regresó a Teruel en lo mejor de su juventud -- fuerte, guapo y rico. Le honraban en su tierra, por sus valientes victorias en las batallas contra los moros. Confiado esperaba su reunión con su querida Isabel.

Pero como siempre, Diego que era un joven impulsivo, no mantuvo la trayectoria del tiempo. El mismo día de su llegada era el día que expiraba la fecha. Sus amigos le comunicaron que las campanas nupciales no eran para el y su querida Isabel, sino para el matrimonio de Isabel con otro hombre. La prudencia y el entusiasmo de un noble admirador hizo que el padre de Isabel no atrasara ni siquiera por un día el otorgar la mano de su hija en matrimonio a Pedro Azagra, Lord de Albarracín. El padre de Isabel hizo un buen arreglo matrimonial para su hija.

Diego estaba confundido, con sentimientos de desilusión y furor. Pero reconocía que fue su error, el padre de Isabel cumplió con su palabra. Se acercó a Isabel con lágrimas, cabizbajo y le dijo que tenía que dejarla y marcharse para siempre de Teruel. Lo único que le pedía era un beso de despedida. Pero esto no podía ser, Isabel no podía concederle este deseo (y el de ella) ya que estaba casada con otro hombre.

La fuerza de lo que estaba pasando confrontó a Diego y su corazón estalló literalmente y el valiente caballero cayó al suelo y murió al romperse su corazón.

Las campanas tocaban tristemente. Al día siguiente, mientras los amigos y familiares llevaban tristemente el cuerpo de Diego a la iglesia, se acercó silenciosamente una joven con velo. La jove besó al caballero en su boca fría, el beso que le había negado en vida. En ese momento Isabel se desmayó y murió en los brazos de su querido Diego.

El sitio más visitado en Teruel sigue siendo el lugar donde están enterrados los amantes dándose las manos. El monumento por Juan de Avalos es admirado por enamorados de toda España ya que indica el enorme significado de la tradición "morir por amor." La leyenda está basada en hechos. El nombre de Diego era Juan Martinez de Marcilla.

¡Felíz Día de los Enamorados!

Tu amigo,

Don

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