Cervera/Càlig Rivalry

One reader posed several questions about the chapter on the Juez de Cervera, who was killed in 1907, as he passed through Càlig.  The village stood behind the culprits  and proclaimed that all the village had killed him (much as in the Lope de Vega play, Fuenteovejuna).  What kind of judge was he?  Were there any pictures?  Do you have a map to show where Cervera is?

While I was in Càlig in June, I wanted to go to Cervera del Maestre, to see what information I could get.  Cervera is  a beautiful village on an abuttment with restored stone houses and a castle towering over the village.  A dry river bed of silvery stones circles around part of the rocky ledge.  One friend who visited me in Càlig years ago called it Shangri La when he caught a glimpse of it on a hike around the Ermita of  Càlig. Only 7 kilometers to the West, it seemed like a pleasant excursion for four of us who ventured out one late June morning a little after 12:00.  

The cotxet vermell (little red car) with Fabián driving took us along a narrow two lane road with olive, carob, almond, and orange groves on either side.  Roads veered off, leading to an occasional  house or  farm, and one led off  to the site of Roman ruins where, below huge olive trees, was a kiln for clay jars which were used to ship olive oil to Italy.  Then the road dipped down past a medieval olive oil mill and upwards toward Cervera.

When we reached Cervera, we went  straight up a narrow street to the Ayuntamiento (town hall).  We parked a few streets away and entered shortly after 12:30—it would close at 1:00 for the day.  The mayor came bustling out of his office and asked what I wanted. I tried to quickly explain my mission saying I was interested in learning more about the Judge of Cervera. I added that I was from Càlig thinking he would be more accessible if he knew I lived in the area.

“We don’t know anything,” he exclaimed.  I asked one more quick question: “What kind of judge was he?  A Justice of the Peace?” “Yes,” he said, and handed me a guide to Cervera where there was a good map.  I muttered that I had written something on the incident and asked if he would like a copy.  He gave me his e-mail address as he rushed out the door.

I then realized that by saying I was from Càlig, I had lost my opportunity to ask for photos or talk to any descendants. Càlig still remains the arch enemy of Cervera because now a  waste disposal plant has been built on land within the boundaries of Cervera but owned by Càlig residents who have been very vocal.  In addition to financial loss, there are ecological concerns.

The 1907 incident is still in the minds of citizens of both villages.  Recently the ex-mayor of Càlig referred proudly to the role his grandfather, the mayor, had played in the demise of the unfortunate judge.  The current Cervera mayor apparently bears a grudge against Càlig.

Despite the age old rivalry between the two towns, Cervera is a lovely area to explore.  We spent several hours walking up and down the winding streets, enjoying tapas in the plaza near the town hall, and then driving around some of the olive groves nearby where we could look down at the meandering rambla (dry river bed) and up at the castle being rebuilt where Iberians, Romans, and Arabs had once dwelled.   The past pulsates beneath the stones, new and old.

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