El Judio in Santiago de Compostela, Spain - 2005

By Trevor Fox
November 8, 2008

Standing in the sun in the great Plaza do Obradoiro in Santiago de Compostela my wife saw a street actor wearing medieval costume and wearing a false hook nose. He had a small sign around his neck that said “ Tome su foto con El Judio” ( have your photo taken with The Jew). A real-life Borat. Tourists were paying 2 Euros to have a photo taken with El Judio. I offered to stand in for him so at least they could have their photographs taken with an authentic Jew in shorts and sunhat but my gesture was rejected.

Returning from northern Portugal we stopped at Ribadavia which is on the Spanish side of the River Mino in the heart of the Ribeiro wine region. Before 1492 Ribadavia had a substantial Jewish community that had grown prosperous as a result of the wine trade. We wanted to see the ancient Barrio Judio or Jewish Quarter.

However we arrived in the middle of the Festa do Historia or the Festival of History. When we walked into the narrow cobbled streets of the Barrio Judio it turned out that this Festa was nothing more than an excuse for hundreds of Spanish youth to dress up in medieval costume and to become excessively drunk on the local Ribeiro wine, resulting in them vomiting and urinating in the streets. When they started throwing empty wine bottles at each other we departed in a hurry. Made any English football hooligans look angelic.

Incidentally the drive on the Autopista das Rias Baixas from Vigo to Ribadavia must rank as one of the great scenic drives in the world, on a par with Switzerland and the Rockies. The road curves through the vineyards, climbs up to 2500 feet, through a 2 kilometre long tunnel at the top before descending with the River Mino far below and the vineyards tumbling down the hillsides.


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