May 18, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Traditions

Some people are born just knowing they want to be a doctor, others might be certain they’re destined to be a chef, but then there are some Spaniards who grow up just knowing that they would be darn good tree shakers – vareadores that is. In getting to know the Spanish culture, I’ve been blown away and charmed by some of the uniquely Spanish professions here – jobs that tell you so much about where the country has come from and what they’ve valued through the course of time. Sure many of these professions can be found across cultures, but the combination of them sure gives you a clear picture of what this place is all about.

The Panadero
First there is the panadero – the bread man. Who’s not happy to see the bread man, am I right? The panadero is an expert in the craft of bread and even pastries (a true hero if you ask me). Given the importance of bread in the Spaniard’s daily diet (and mine too), many panaderos, like the extinct milkman, deliver bread to people’s homes every day. In fact, when Jacobo was young, his mother would leave a form on the door everyday letting the panadero know how many baguettes to leave. Even these days, I will occasionally see a bag of bread hanging on my neighbors’ doors (just teasing me to take some).

The Vareador
I have to throw in this job, the tree shaker, because it seems like it could have been particularly fascinating back in the day (pre-machine, that is), and well because the video below somehow makes it seem especially awesome. This tree shaker fellow could be tasked with shaking many different kinds of trees, from olive trees, to even oak trees so that the hungry little piggies can chow down on acorns. Apparently, this profession used to entail shaking the trees with sticks (or so says Jacobo), but these days, it seems to involve a peculiar contraption that nearly tickles the tree to death (see video!). I can just imagine myself spending my days with my stick out in the fields shaking trees and then resting under them while I hang out with my pig friends. This is usually where my daydreaming stops though – when I realize that I like to eat my pig friends and that there is a slight conflict of interest. Somehow daydreaming about being a panadera seems a lot more “digestible.” Anyway, I couldn’t find any sort of proper history on this interesting, and yet at the same time incredibly un-interesting job, so with that it will just remain in my imagination as the man with the stick shaking trees in the countryside (oh yeah, and then this clown below too – “Sr. Vareador Profesional”).

The Mariscadora
I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t toyed with the idea of applying for the position of mariscadora – or awesome shellfish digger lady (sorry, it’s the best translation I can come up with). Sign me up – sun, beaches, and working hard for the money! Ok, not exactly. The mariscadora is a job filled by the women of Galicia, Spain’s northwestern province, and it isn’t any walk in the park (err, beach). It’s a laborious task, one which is often passed down from generation to generation, and that requires spending early hours in Galicia’s frequently inclement weather, not to mention lots of staring at muck and rocks hunting for those precious shellfish. On that note, I think I will just stick to eating the shellfish – but cheers to the hardworking mariscadoras!

The Venenciador
With his “venencia” (a wine serving tool), the venenciador extracts wine from the barrel and pours it into the glass from a great height (Benihana-style) in order to oxygenate the wine. Apparently this job, which is considered an art here, originated from the fact that historically, agreements on the purchase of wine were celebrated in the bodegas by extracting wine from the barrels to have a toast. This extraction was of course done by the venenciador, who I assume spends less time these days in the bodegas toasting wine deals, and more time entertaining easily amused onlookers like me at weddings and other events. Hey, it can’t be a bad job when people only admire your work more and more with every pour!

The Afilador
I think I might be saving one of my favorites for last, but really, who doesn’t adore the antiquity of each of these jobs? The afilador is a knife sharpener – but don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this task! You don’t just bring your knives to the afilador, oh no, he comes to you. And when he comes to you, he doesn’t simply park out front and then knock on your front door – he takes what I call a modified ice cream man approach (or maybe the ice cream man took a modified afilador approach…hmmm). That is, he has his own musical sound track that is delivered by his handy harmonica thingy (I know, my descriptive language is mind-blowing). And as if this all weren’t enough, he comes on a motorbike which has his knife sharpening machine built on back. If I weren’t certain that I’d end up chopping off a finger, then well, this might be the darn coolest job ever, largely because it’s just so weirdly charming.

My search for awesome Spanish jobs continues, so to that end, I myself am off to play pastora, or shepherd, this weekend. Yes, I will be running around chasing after sheep in the Spanish countryside. Stay tuned….