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Do you know the origins of esparto handicraft? Find out more about this tradition from Alicante

Did you know that esparto grass is a plant which has been used by man for centuries to make all kinds of tools, clothing and equipment? It’s mainly found on the Mediterranean coast, both here in Spain and in Italy and North Africa, and today it’s very present in handicrafts from Alicante. This grass from the gramineae family grows in very arid, dry areas. In our country you can easily find it in areas such as Alicante, Murcia, Albacete, Granada and Almeria, which are the main producers.

The esparto grass tradition in Alicante

Esparto grass played a very important role in the economy of Alicante and allowed many families to obtain income on top of that obtained from agricultural activities.

Harvesting took place in summer when the plant was already grown. At this point, the leaves can easily be picked without fear of breaking the plant. Harvesting was done on a piecework basis and by weight. 

In order to harvest the esparto grass, a wooden stick was used, which had to be attached to the wrist and was called a palillo. For many years, the manufacture of this plant has been an important part of everyday life and the economy in Alicante.

Pilar de la Horadada

During the Middle and Modern Ages, esparto grass was an essential resource for manufacturing everyday tools and garments, which were then also sold. The collection, preparation and elaboration of ropes was an important part of the economy, particularly in the area of Pilar de la Horadada and San Miguel de Salinas. This area was known as “Campo de Salinas”.

Thanks to this product, farmers could earn extra income. The place chosen for selling products was the port of Cabo Cervera, near the town of Torrevieja.

Some products made with esparto grass typical of the area 

We’re going to show you some of the most representative handicraft products from that period, made of esparto grass and very typical of our area, which you can buy in any of the many souvenir shops in Benidorm.

Espadrilles

If there’s one product which esparto grass is famous for, it’s undoubtedly the espadrille or esparteña, made by sewing and plaiting this plant. It’s a light shoe, typical of our country. As early as the 13th century, their virtues and resistance had been discovered, as they were worn by the foot soldiers of the King of Aragon. This item is very popular especially in the warmer months, so when you come to visit Benidorm, you can’t leave without buying the most typical footwear of the area.

Blinds

The esparto grass blinds are also representative of the area and very effective at protecting from the heat. In addition, they also provide protection against rain and in both cases they can withstand wear and tear caused by the weather. They can be placed either outdoors or indoors and are a highly appreciated decorative element due to the rustic feel they offer. You can also find them in Benidorm’s souvenir shops.

Baskets

The espuerta basket is a concave, flexible container with two small handles on each side, which was used to transport rubble, earth and other waste items. 

Large baskets

In agriculture, these implements were of great importance, as they facilitated the transport of the entire harvest. Here are some of the most representative ones:

⦁ Aguaderas. Aguaderas are made up of four sections (cujones), which are the size of a jug and were used to transport water. Thanks to its structure, each pair of compartments fell on different sides of the animal carrying them, thus balancing its load. 
⦁ Serones. These are small esparto baskets that were used to transport manure to the fields. They could also be used to transport melons or watermelons, when there weren’t too many left to transport.
⦁ Sero. This was used to transport olives during the harvest. Its upper part had a sewn lid which was closed with a rope. It had a capacity of around 50 kg.

As you can see, Alicante has a centuries-long craft tradition which makes it extremely interesting and constitutes a small piece of our province’s identity. When you come to visit, we guarantee you won’t be able to leave without visiting one of Benidorm’s many souvenir shops. You’ll undoubtedly find authentic artisan treasures which will always remind you of your trip. We’re waiting for you!

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