The Book Village

11/11/2023 11:14

Urueña is a unique town, not because of its well-preserved medieval walls or for the views it has over the Valladolid plains of Tierra de Campos, but because of the particularity that its barely two hundred inhabitants have more bookstores than bars.

From the hermitage of La Anunciada, a Romanesque jewel located on the outskirts, Urueña looks like a great impregnable fortress, with the castle on the right and the stretch of walls extending towards the other end. The walkways of the wall allow you to take a walk around almost the entire town. There are still two gates, the Azogue and the Arco de la Vila gates, connected by Real Street and some palaces; near Azogue doorway is the parish church, a Gothic-Renaissance structure that was built between the 16th and 18th centuries, it is Santa María del Azogue. Today its streets are perfectly paved but in old photographs you can still see when they were dirt and the rains turned them into a quagmire.

But returning to the uniqueness of Urueña, this lies in the fact that it was declared in 2007 as the first Book Village by the Provincial Council of Valladolid, as a proposal to foster cultural tourism, inspired by other European towns that took the same initiative: Hay-on-way, in Wales, Montolieu in France, Redu in Belgium, Wigtown in Scotland, Montereggio in Italy or Bredevoort in the Netherlands. On the walls of Urueña there are inscribed quotes, fragments of texts and calligraphy that can appear on any corner and, of course, bookstores, almost a dozen, each of them with a thematic specialty.

Crossing the walls through the Arco de la Villa and taking Lagares Street to the left along the inner face of the wall, you soon reach El Portalón, which takes advantage of the sill of one of its windows to support half a dozen of volumes. A few steps further and also attached to the wall, El Rincón del Ábrego offers second-hand paperbacks, also vinyl and children's and youth books. The next is Páramo, which in addition to taking its old and out-of-print books to the streets also exhibits the typewriter machine Olivetti Pluma 22 that Spanish writer Francisco Umbral used. Following the perimeter of the wall but already in the northwestern corner of Urueña, is the Miguel Delibes e-LEA centre, a space for reading, writing and their applications, which houses a library and offers its exhibition and conference rooms, it also exhibits old machines such as an old Minerva printing press or a showy 5 Meteor linotype machine. Practically next door, on Costanilla Street, is the Museo del Cuento, the Tale Museum, with the collection of Rosana Largo Rodríguez, and El Grifilm bookstore, specialized in works related to movies, mixing in its name that of the mythological creature, the griffin, half-winged, half-feline beast, and film, in reference to its specialization. Now, at the end of Costanilla Street, appears next to an isolated house on the corner and which is more than just another bookstore, the Boutique del Cuento, almost logically dedicated to children's and youth literature, where, on one of its facades characters from the works of Andersen or the Brothers Grimm have been painted, and that corner, with two benches surrounding a magnolia tree, has been called Andersen's corner.

In the centre, in the wide corro de San Andrés that serves as the main square, is Alcaraván, the pioneer - it opened in 1993 - and specialized in Castilian themes, some volumes by the Valladolid writer Miguel Delibes fill one of its shop windows. Almost closing the circle, in a corner of the corro de Santo Domingo, near the castle, there are two other bookstores, Libros K, specialized in comics and manga and Primera Página, run by Tamara Crespo and Fidel Raso, journalists and, therefore, dedicated to literature related to the profession, photography and travel. Among the shelves, in addition to books, there is an Iraqi helmet, one of those from the time of the Gulf war that is more affected by the passage of time than, in its day, by shrapnel. Just around the corner is Alcuino Calligraphy and Art, which focuses on graphic arts, but with varied materials and products than the Taller de Encuadernación Artesanal on Calle del Oro.

Other museums are the Joaquín Díaz Ethnographic Centre, which occupies an 18th century building known as the Mayorazga and which preserves an important library and sound library, and the Luis Delgado Museum of Traditional Music, which displays half a thousand instruments.

© J.L.Nicolas

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