On 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.