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Old machine will become part of the exhibition at the Ruirau d'Arnauda

Friday 21st March 2014

javeamigos.com | JAVEA HERITAGE

A reminder of Jávea's heritage as a major producer of raisins has been donated to the 'Museo Arqueológico y Etnográfico Municipal Soler Blasco de Xàbia' - the municipal museum - in the form of an old machine which was used to select raisins. Constructed from wood and iron and standing almost three metres in height, the machine is an interesting piece of history and one of the latest to be preserved in the region. It has been donated to the museum by Agro Gata SL which was created from the old 'Cooperativas Agrícolas Sindicales (CAS)' established in 1960. After cleaning and renovation, the machine will become part of the exhibition at the Riurau d'Arnauda in the Parque Montaner in the trees above the Plaza de la Continue in Jávea.

The machine was built in the early 20th century in the Borrell workshops in Dénia and it was used for various tasks in the process of handling of raisins. It was also used in recent years to strip bunches of raisins and had several interchangeable screens allowing the selection and grading of raisins. The process was very simple: raisins, loose or in bunches, were poured into a hopper at the top of the machine which collected in a cylinder before falling through a series of large rectangular screens which separated them. The machine was powered by an electric motor, although may have originally been steam-driven, which shook the sieves by rotary action by means of straps and wooden wheels.

The machine will eventually be located at the Riurau d'Arnauda in the Parque Montaner. The long arched building is an iconic symbol of the Marina Alta and the region's history as a former major producer of raisins. Originally built in the second half of the 19th century in the Roig area of Jávea between the old town and the port, it is 56 metres long and has thirty arches, one of the biggest in the Marina Alta. Under threat from urban development after the land on which it was standing was subdivided into plots, and despite its deteriorated state, it was deemed worth saving after the Riuraus Vuis heritage association warned that there were very few examples left of its size. With the support of the Català family who owned it and was once one of the major producers of raisins that were exported to England, it was moved stone by stone to its current location almost five years ago. The town hall arranged for its preservation with the help of 90,000 euros of investment from the 'Plan Zapatero' which was designed to boost economic activity. At the time, mayor Eduardo Monfort said that the project "has saved an architectural piece that is a sign of identity for Jávea and the region".

The function of the ruirau was to protect the drying grapes from rain or dew as they lay on bamboo cane mats called 'cañizos' after the scalding process. Generally made of stone with a roof, one side was usually open generally facing south with a series of half-circle arches extending the whole length of the building. Sometimes they were attached to a farmhouse or cottage, others were built independently.

Although raisins had been produced in the area since the time of the Moors, Jávea's economic boom in its production began in the early 19th century, soon after the Peninsular War of 1807-1814, part of the Napoleonic Wars. The town was soon trading with countries as far away as the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada and the town grew as the exportation of raisins increased rapidly. The industry was controlled by a handful of families who relied on labourers and smallholders to produce the goods that would largely be sent overseas. Large storage warehouses were built close to the port, supplying steamers with merchandise which was transported to cities such as London, Liverpool and Bristol as well as other northern and central European countries and across the Atlantic to North America. The town changed dramatically during this period. The old walls were pulled down between 1869 and 1875 as new streets and building spread out from the centre, built by the wealthy merchants who were growing rich on the raisin industry. However, in the late 19th century, faced with foreign competition from the likes of Greece, Turkey and the western United States, the raisin industry began to decline in Jávea. The spread of grape phylloxera in the early 20th century, the Great Depression and the Spanish Civil War virtually put paid to the activity in the town, the industry only continued by a few private individuals.

Finca La Seranda in Gata de Gorgos is one of those private enterprises and every year they open their doors to the public to demonstrate the traditional method of making raisins. They also encourage everyone, young and old, to help them. Click here to view a video of the process.

javeamigos.com | RIURAU D'ARNAUDA

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