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La cobijada

10.29.2008.12.17.56.JPGOn our way from Cádiz to Algeciras we made a quick stop on Vejer de la Frontera, a white town squeezed between the Andalusian Sierra and the Mediterranean Sea. With enough time to stretch our legs and get a drink, we walked around the small town center enjoying a beautiful sunny day.

While my husband took pictures of the colorful tiled fountain, I walked in the direction of a church with an unusual niche that I had seen while passing by in the car. The plaque outside identified the church as a 17th century former convent, converted into the Church of Our Lady of Mercy. Next to the main entrance was the niche with a female figure wearing a garment and veil that covered the body and face. I had read in my guidebook that black cloaks were worn by the Vejer women until the Civil War when it was banned due to safety measures (hiding of weapons, men disguised as women). I was curious to know the story behind the niche but the church was locked and my husband was in a hurry to get back on the road.

Yesterday I commented to Annie about this unusual figure. I didn’t know much about it until I searched for information on the Net. I found that the women dressed in black garments are called “las cobijadas”, from cobija, a blanket, and also a short mantilla. I also learned that the garment is made of several layers and the outermost one is pulled over to cover the head leaving an opening big enough to be able to see with only one eye. It is very similar to the burka, and it is a clear legacy of Moorish Spain.

There is an inscription in Spanish around the arch and I was able to zoom in enough to read most of it, except one word that I can’t make out. Here’s the translation:

Even her pretty women
Keep the Moorish pudor
Covered in their veils
To (illegible) their beautiful faces.

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Comments (10)

That is such a fascinating image! She's really got a mysterious feel to her. It is like a cross between a Catholic nun's dress and the traditional Muslim wear. And the arch around her looks Moorish too. Are those little birds down by her feet?

That was a great read. :)

Annie, yes, those are two little birds. I imagine there has to be a meaning or significance for their presence but I couldn't find much information on this mysterious image and why it was placed on the facade of this church. The whole thing is fascinating because the "cobija" seems to be a typical costume of the town of Vejer. It reminded me a bit about those women dressed in black in the feast (Virgin of Almudena?) that Kathy saw in Madrid.

Leslie, thank you! ;)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Maria, this is a wonderful post. It's so interesting to look at your photo of the niche and learning about las cobijadas. Hmm, makes me wonder now about that group of women in black that I saw. Your post has peaked my curiosity. Thanks so much for writing this post. Spain is such a fascinating country.

Jane:

Maria, you make me want to return again to Spain. The mixtures of cultures are so intriguing. I wonder what I was doing in all those "civilization" classes in college when I should have become more aware of the world and its history--definitely not learning.

Kathy, as I mentioned to Annie, I thought of the women dressed in black in your pictures of the feast. I'm very intrigued about the use of this garment which is clearly Muslim but a bit more extreme since there was only one eye left in the open.

Spain is definitely a fascinating country and a meeting of cultures since the Romans and Moors left a big imprint in the Spanish culture and traditions.

Jane, I remember all the civilization classes and how removed and distant it all seemed to me. I still have one of my textbooks and consult it once in a while and get a kick out of reading my notes on the margin.

When did you go to Spain? I read that you're going to Morocco this year. I imagine you'd also be in Spain? We spent a week in Morocco last November and visited Fes and Marrakech. I'll be blogging on our Moroccan adventure next week.

That is so fascinating! The woman looks so mysterious. I love the photos.

I too wish I paid attention during all my history classes. Actually during all of my classes! I only remember enjoying math and Spanish.

It does remind me of those women that Kathy photographed in the procession in Madrid. It's a great mystery!

Anne:

I too find her mysterious, and very lovely. Thanks for a most interesting read, Maria!

Annie and Anne, ;)
I find the story on the cobijadas quite fascinating. I'm curious to know why these women wore a garment that seem more 'extreme' than the burkas worn by other Islamic women. Also, how did these women cope in the summer months when the heat and humidity sets in. A mystery indeed.

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