Campo de Montiel does not suggest an arrival point, a place to go as a tourist destination to spend some days; it can be merely that (as a matter of fact, thousands of tourists visit us every year), but it is much more than that, because Campo de Montiel is a starting point in a crossroads and a junction of stories to go through and to tell; a place for contemplation towards action; the opportunity to start again. This is the way that it was understood by the most important writer in Castilian language, don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, when he made our don Quixote depart from his village at dawn, on a Friday in July, in 15… and something, denying the certainties commonly accepted at his social status; abandoning his stew, his breeches and his sleepers; leaving the limits of his real estate and riding again, like his ancestors did, through the unexplored land that is the origin of every novelty, renouncing to the nobility of his lineage, installed in the self satisfaction, even with the risk of looking apparently mad, to experience the true chivalry on the most ordinary land ever imagined.
Because if it is universally known that the wandering knight don Quixote was from La Mancha, a poor and steppe region, although its wheat is the best in Spain, and its roads are plain and its villages are big and beautiful, what just a few know, or if they knew, they did not want to remember due to “Avellaneda’s influence” it is that the unnamed village in La Mancha, that is Don Quixote’s home village, is located in our Campo de Montiel, one of the poorest among the poorest districts in La Mancha, a land that inspires this website, and in former times, inspired Cervantes with his classic characters.
In fact, even up to five times, Cervantes names Campo de Montiel as the setting of the adventures of the knight of the sad figure, as it can be read in the attached images.
It is a truism that Campo de Montiel is the starting point and the main setting of Don Quixote’s adventures, a district that has been forgotten or ignored for four centuries. This truism starts shining lately thanks to the academic studies of Rafael Peralta Maroto, Justiniano Rodríguez Castillo, María Ángeles Díaz Muñoz, Francisco Parra Luna and Manuel Fernández Nieto, among others. They have studied Don Quixote’s text, have gone along the roads looking for Cervantine traces, they have planned routes and have calculated distances and times to formulate scientific hypothesis that have not been refuted yet.
Albaladejo, Alcubillas, Alhambra, Almedina, Carrizosa, Castellar de Santiago, Cózar, Fuenllana, Membrilla, Montiel, Ossa de Montiel, Puebla del Príncipe, Ruidera, San Carlos del Valle, Santa Cruz de los Cáñamos, La Solana, Terrinches, Torre de Juan Abad, Torrenueva, Villahermosa, Villamanrique, Villanueva de la Fuente and Villanueva de los Infantes, 23 villages included in the Campo de Montiel historic district. From any of these village Don Quixote and Sancho Panza could have started their adventures, as, upon the literal text, Don Miguel (de Cervantes) would not be willing to indicate it precisely, “in order to leave all the towns and villages of La Mancha to contend among themselves for the right to adopt him and claim him as a son.”
But, what did Cervantes see in this land as to imagine Don Quixote upon it?. Could something good supposedly arise from La Mancha and Campo de Montiel? Why was Campo de Montiel chosen and not Italy, Andalusia, Valladolid, the East of Spain or Argelia, all these are places that Cervantes knew very well and which had an important literay tradition and also important legendary characters. The answer to this question is the character of don Quixote de la Mancha, the most radical prototype of the antihero or of the hero of failure of the entire universal literature. How could we imagine don Quixote riding his horse in the byzantine Tripoli, or in the Berber Oran or in the cosmopolitan Seville. For this reason, Jorge Luis Borges said about Cervantes that “ironically, he made up a credulous character, who went mad by reading wonder novels, and decided to look for heroic deeds and spells in such vulgar places such as El Toboso or Montiel”.
Indeed, the lives of Alonso Quijano and Sancho Panza were vulgar, an so the red soil they stepped on Campo de Montiel was also vulgar, until Cervantes set his eyes on it and went right through this land to take the diamond out of the gangue of stereotypes that were present in it.
And this is our proposal in this website: to observe this land and these imaginary or real characters who reflect a better image of yourself, a good place in la Mancha where to shout out LAND HO, LAND HO, and to jump into the water of the daily adventures that life presents us from dawn to dusk, even if they might seem vulgar.
José María Arcas Valero