Manchados de Jabugo: The rare spotted pigs of the Sierra.

Chaparro and some Iberian pigs in communion on the path from El Talenque to Las Cañadas. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Chaparro in communion with some Iberian pigs on the path from El Talenque to Las Cañadas. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

On our countless rides on the paths of the Sierra de Huelva, it is not at all unusual for Chaparro and I to come across herds of black Iberian pigs foraging under the holm and cork oaks of the dehesa. You’ll see the pigs rooting about in the chestnut groves too.

Sometimes we spot pigs of dubious parentage; that is when the wild boar that roam the forests of the Sierra make an “illegal” incursion into a field of sows…

Iberian and wild boar cross piglets at Tierra Amarillo, Galaroza. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Iberian and wild boar cross piglets at Tierra Amarillo, Galaroza. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Very occasionally we’ll see the odd ginger coloured pig with black spots. The first time we saw these was on the circular Roblecillo ride, just to the west of Galaroza. The pigs there belong to Faustino, who is often there with his wife, and who we pass on the path with his mud-spattered white Land Rover.

Riding the Roblecillo path with Chaparro: Faustino's pigs. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Riding the Roblecillo path with Chaparro: Faustino’s pigs. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

I have also seen shy, spotted pigs on the ride over Los Altos de la Dehesa, on my way from Galaroza over to El Talenque and beyond. I had always assumed that these pigs where some sort of mix of Iberian with, maybe, from way back when, some Old Spot or something like that… after all it was English people who ran the mines in the Cuenca Minera of Huelva Province so who knows, they may have brought Gloucestershire Old Spots and Tamworths with them.

Those of you who read the blog will have heard me talk of Francisco’s farm, Navalonguilla. It is one of mine and Chaparro’s favourite places to ride through. One day in September, when we were passing, Francisco asked if I had taken any photos of the piglets.

“No, what piglets? I haven’t seen them.”

“Oh they’ll be round here in the shade.”

So I dismounted and tethered Chaparro to the gate opposite, got my wee camera out and followed Francisco into the southern field where the Sweet Chestnuts grow. And there they were; lovely little hairy piglets, with black spots. Mum was there too and Dad. Francisco picked up a couple to show me and began to explain to me that these pigs were actually a specific breed: Manchados de Jabugo.

Francisco showing off one of his "jara" coloured Manchado de Jabugo piglets. Photo: Jan Nimmo

Francisco showing off one of his “jara” coloured Manchado de Jabugo piglets. Photo: Jan Nimmo

Francisco with a Jara coloured Manachao de Jabugo piglet. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Francisco with a Jara coloured Manchado de Jabugo piglet. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

One of  Francisco's sows with her piglets. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

One of Francisco’s sows with her piglets. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

The breed, along with Torbiscal and Lampiño pigs, is now in danger of extinction; this was made official in 2012 in a declaration by the Spanish Government. While there were numerous Manchados de Jabugo at the beginning of the 20th Century there are now at best only a couple of hundred left, maybe less. The breed was developed by wealthy farmers, D. José Sánchez Romero and D. Manuel García Moreno, on a farm called “El Mayorazgo” in the municipality of Jabugo, around the middle of the 19th century.

With the rise in popularity of ham from black Iberian pigs there was a perception that anything that didn’t have patas negras or black trotters, was of inferior quality – and while this may be true of the intensively farmed, factory pigs it certainly isn’t the case with the Manchados de Jabugo, who while not growing as large as the black pigs, produce excellent meat. However, the pigs cannot be hurried in any way, so are seen as being less “profitable”. The breed was also adversely affected by the Peste Porcina Africana (African Porcine Disease), which was a virus that hit Spain and Portugal in the 1960’s.

Francisco's Jara coloured Manchado de Jabugo sow. Photo: Jan Nimmo

Francisco’s Jara coloured Manchado de Jabugo sow. Photo: Jan Nimmo

The Manchados can be either red (Retinta) or pale blonde (Jara) with irregular, black spots. They are long and rotund, they are much hairier than the black pigs and have pale/white trotters. Their heads are wide, their snouts long and they generally have pale eyelashes. The Manchado sows are fierce mothers. Their distribution is limited to the province of Huelva.

Some of Francisco's pigs L-R Iberian pig, Manchado de Jabugo (Jara colouring) Iberian pig and another Machado de Jabugo (Retinta colouring). Photo: Jan Nimmo

Some of Francisco’s pigs L-R Iberian pig, Manchado de Jabugo (Jara colouring) Iberian pig and another Machado de Jabugo (Retinta colouring). Photo: Jan Nimmo

Nowadays there is only one farm to source legitimate bloodstock: “Los Remedios”, El Almendro, near Cabezas Rubias, south of the Sierra. Previously these could also be sourced in Galaroza at “La Dehesa” which belonged to the Diputación de Huelva but that was sold off a couple of years ago. This is a great loss to Galaroza as not only could serrano farmers source local breeds of pigs but this was also a base for the conservation of old, local varieties of fruit trees.

Riding by, a few days after my first encounter with the piglets, Francisco said that one of them was very poorly. I dismounted and went to have a look at the piglet, which was in the cortijo, in a box with a blanket and a hot water bottle. It was very weak and Francisco was sure that it wasn’t going to make it but wanted to give it a chance. Sadly it didn’t make it.

A few days later I arranged to visit the farm again, but this time with my “good” camera. Chaparro got to rest under the shade of a tree, in the company of the farm cats and Leona, Francisco’s beautiful mastín. There had been a new litter of piglets, this time they were retina coloured and were in a cortijo in another part of the farm which is hidden away at the back of the marble quarry. They were still quite tiny and rather beautiful. Francisco was justifiably proud of them. He is doing crucial work to conserve this lovely but rare breed of pig.


Francisco of Navalonguilla with two of his Retinta coloured Manchado de Jabugo piglets. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

Francisco showing off two of his Retinta coloured Manchado de Jabugo piglets. Photo: Jan Nimmo

Francisco showing off two of his Retinta coloured Manchado de Jabugo piglets. Photo: Jan Nimmo

Video clip of the piglets feeding…..



Arrieros: Manolo “Donato”

Manolo "Donato" with Curro, Galaroza. Drawing by Jan Nimmo ©

Manolo “Donato” with Curro, Galaroza. Drawing by Jan Nimmo ©

I often meet Manolo when I’m either leaving or when I coming home to the village with Chaparro. There are two possible locations where our meetings might occur; at Manolo’s “huerta” or kitchen garden on the Las Chinas path, just at the entrance to the village or out at his son-in-law’s smallholding where the path forks for Valdelarco or El Roblecillo. Either way we usually stop for a chat and if I’m lucky then I may come home with a bag of chard or a watermelon hanging from the pommel of the saddle. Like all “Cachoneros” (the people of Galaroza) Manolo is generous to a fault. I have grown broad beans here at my allotment in Glasgow which were one of his presents to me. One day he shouted to me from his huerta and came down to give me a box with bags of seeds, all with beautifully handwritten descriptions of the contents; coriander, dried lime tree leaves, which are apparently good for calming the nerves, arnica for aches and pains… Manolo knows a lot about plants and herbal remedies and I often bump into him carrying a bunch of mint or oregano, depending on the time of year.


Manolo gathering acelgas (chard). Photo Jan Nimmo ©


Manolo and his broad beans. Photo Jan Nimmo ©

Manolo is retired now but worked as an “arriero” or muleteer. He’s travelled all over the Sierra with his mules, carrying cork, saplings and anything that needed moved across county and from one village to another. He would have done a lot of ploughing in his time too. He still has one mule, Curro, but his partner died a few years back. I remember leaving for a ride to Valderarco, one frosty morning, and seeing the cadaver of Curro’s companion lying at the gate of the holding, waiting for collection. The emotional part of a horse’s brain is the same as ours and so I wondered how Curro would feel about the absence of the other mule – after all those years spent working and grazing together with that spooky, nonverbal communication that they have with us and one another.

Often, in the early evening, I’ll go out for a stroll and if I pass by Manolo’s huerta we’ll stop for a chat. I’ll have a look at his produce and marvel, as I can’t match his success at the allotment in Glasgow. He grows all the usual vegetables and he has a particularly lovely pink rose bush as well as a few fig trees. Nearby, Manolo has a wee stone shed with a great big fireplace and this is where he makes miniature ploughs out of wood and which are exact working replicas of the real thing.


Manolo “Donato” with a handmade miniature plough, Galaroza. Photo by Jan Nimmo ©

Curro has a corral and shelter just along from the huerta and he always has plenty to eat; lots of hay and holm oak acorns which Manolo gathers for him. In spite of being well fed, Curro is a bit skinny – it’s the leanness of old age. Each time I return to Galaroza I wonder if he will still be there. He can be a bit grumpy at times but he’s part of the furniture and Chaparro and I would miss him if he wasn’t there.

Curro. Galaroza. Photo Jan Nimmo ©

Curro. Galaroza. Photo Jan Nimmo ©

© Jan Nimmo 2014

Agricultural portraits from the Sierra de Huelva – Getting started.

I’ve started drawing again… it’s long overdue and whilst I feel a bit rusty I’m enjoying making portraits of some old friends from the Sierra de Huelva… For a long time now I have concentrated on film work but it’s such a slow process…. so it feels utterly brilliant to produce a portrait of someone in a morning or an afternoon… images of people who have worked the soil, pollarded chestnut trees, stripped cork oaks, milked goats and cows, herded pigs across the drove roads of the Sierra and hidden bags of contraband flour below their shawls in times of post-war hunger. These are portraits of people who have given me an insight into this part of Andalusia and who have helped bring to life that landscape of forests and abandoned “cortijos” that I pass through when I’m out riding with Chaparro. This collection of drawings will be my homage to them…


Felicita, Galaroza. Drawing by Jan Nimmo ©

Felicita, Galaroza. Drawing by Jan Nimmo ©

Felicita is the mother of Iluminado, the lovely man who looks after my horse, Chaparro. Felicita is now 91 and has worked since she was a child. She and the family had a large herd of goats and cows which produced milk for the towns and villages. The family rented a beautiful farm called La Ribera near the road that winds to Encinasola. Paul and I have ridden through the farm a couple of times on our way to Cumbres or to Portugal and the horses have enjoyed the water from the river there… Felicita has beautiful hands which have must have milked thousands of udders… She now suffers the aches and pains of age but she has an incredible memory.


Obdulio, Galaroza. Drawing by Jan Nimmo ©

Obdulio, Galaroza. Drawing by Jan Nimmo ©

I got to know Obdulio on the old path that crosses the hills between Galaroza and Valdelarco. He rides his donkey, Morena, to his farm on the Roblecillo path, everyday. He gets up at the crack of dawn so I usually meet him when I’m heading out for a ride and he’s coming home. He jokes all the time, “Hacemos una carrera!”, “Let’s have a race!”…

Obdulio and Morena - Let's have a race! Drawing: © Jan Nimmo

Obdulio and Morena – Let’s have a race! Drawing: © Jan Nimmo

It would be easy to think that at 84, Obdulio has always worked on the land but on my visits to the farm he tells me about how, for four years, he worked down a German coal mine (so a shared heritage!) and learned to speak a bit of German. He worked as a miner for twenty odd years in La Mina María Luisa, an iron pyrites and copper mine, just near La Nava, a village to the west of Galaroza.

Obdulio still ploughs his land with two, snowy powed, elderly mules, Castaño and Gitano (Chestnut, who is no longer chestnut but grey and Gypsy). He grows all the usual local crops; tomatoes, lettuce, onion, green peppers for frying, cabbage and impressive squashes and pumpkins to feed his black Iberian pigs. His orchard is populated by the old varieties of apples that were once so typical of Galaroza; Reyneta, Rufino, Belleza de Roma (Chaparro always enjoys autumn visits there)… and there is also a great big caqui tree (persimmon), a glorious sight when in fruit in the dead of winter.

Obdulio ploughing with Castaño and Gitano. Drawing:  Jan Nimmo ©

Obdulio ploughing with Castaño and Gitano. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©


Manuel, Cumbres de San Bartolome. Drawing by Jan Nimmo ©

Manuel, Cumbres de San Bartolome. Drawing by Jan Nimmo ©

Paul and I met Manuel when we were searching for somewhere to leave our horses in Cumbres de San Bartolomé. We drove up to Cumbres with our late friend, Tobias, and asked in the bar if there was anyone who could lend us a field for a couple of nights. A slightly inebriated chap there said we should look for someone called Gregorio so we did. Gregorio is Manuel’s son, a genial man of few words, who is habitually shadowed by his marly, brown and white mastín (sheepdog). In contrast Manuel is someone who likes to converse and whose voice, when necessary, can carry right a cross the valleys, which can be an advantage in the Sierra, especially when Maunel was organising people further down the valley, to show us the path to Higuera La Real. Like most people of his generation he knows all about the “Serrano” paths. Before he retired he worked inspecting pig herds. He still keeps livestock; sheep, goats and a donkey. He and Gregorio have been kind to us when we’ve passed through with the horses and Manuel has kept an eye on Chaparro, Gitanillo and Nerón, slipping them extra hay, when they’ve had overnighters in Cumbres Bajas.

María and Emilio

Maria and Emilio, Galaroza. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

Maria and Emilio, Galaroza. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

I was interested in filming the chestnut pollarding, which takes place over the winter months, so Iluminado suggested I talk to Emilio “de La Huerta Grande” (everyone has family nicknames in the Sierra). Emilio had worked with Iluminado’s late father, pollarding chestnuts and stripping cork oaks. I went with Chaparro to meet him, and Paul, my husband came too. We arranged to film him and the family. He was 74 at the time. It really was quite a magical sight to see three generations at work; Emilio 40 feet up a chestnut tree with his axe, then his son, José and his grandson, Isaac, working on the lower branches, whilst Emilio’s daughter, Emilia, was gathering up the branches and burning them on the bonfire. A couple of years later Emilio fell from a high branch of a chestnut tree and injured his arm and whist he doesn’t pollard chestnut anymore he still cultivates both his farm, La Viriñuela, and a substantial kitchen garden.

Over time I have gotten to know Emilio and his wife María. María is originally from a village to the east of Galaroza, Fuenteheridos. When they were courting, Emilio was working in Cumbres Mayores, and on Sundays he walked all the way to Fuenteheridos to see her… Emilio knows all the paths and is my “go to” person when I want to know if a path is a legitimate “camino” or not.

Emilio, like his brother Obdulio, loves to joke, which threw me a bit a first as he can sound quite fierce but I quickly warmed to his earthy sense of humour. He loves trees and tells me of how his ancestors would throw their arms around the trees that provided them with a livelihood. Emilio says that if he wins the lottery he would buy an “encinar” (a holm oak grove) as he can’t imagine anything more beautiful.  But meantime Emilio has invested in a young donkey, Chica. I love the optimism of a 79 year old buying a beast that will last donkey’s years. Chaparro and I met Emilio and Chica when they made their first outing up to his farm so we rode along together. I’m thinking of asking if one day he and Chica will retrace his steps from his courting days and show me the path from Las Murtiguillas to Cumbres Mayores…

I enjoy visiting María and Emilio at their kitchen garden on the edge of the village. I learn so much from them. In a recent conversation with María she told to me that she loved her husband just as much as the day she married him, or maybe even more now as she knows him so well after all those years spent together.

© Jan Nimmo 2014

Jan Nimmo

Jan and Chaparro. Photo: Paul Barham ©

Jan and Chaparro. Photo: Paul Barham ©

I am a Glasgow based artist and filmmaker. My work is essentially about sharing peoples’ stories through artwork, film and writing. I am especially interested in agriculture, the lives of working people and Latin American popular culture.

I have worked with banana and pineapple workers in Latin America and Central Africa since 2000. I want workers’ testimony to help us, the consumers, to understand that the work is backbreaking, that a 12 hour day may be routine and that workers are often exposed to harmful, toxic chemicals. It is often difficult or impossible for workers to join a trade union in order to defend the most basic of rights so international solidarity is important. My work has been to make portraits (both woodcuts prints and photographs), installations, documentary films and to write about the experiences of banana workers.

Deleafer, Banana Plantation, Cameroon. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Deleafer, Banana Plantation, Cameroon. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

I have travelled extensively in Latin America and am interested in Mexican and Guatemalan popular art and Cuban traditional music. Because I have a great affection for Mexico and am concerned about human right violations so I make artwork in solidarity with people and campaigns there. Since 2014 I have been making portraits in solidarity with the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero Mexico. These took a year to make and I continue to make work about Ayotzinapa. The portraits have been exhibited in the Scottish Parliament and thanks to human rights activist, Eréndira Sandoval Carrillo, my has work reached the parents of the missing students. The work has almost taken on a life of its own in Mexico and is frequently seen in the hands of the families at meetings and marches or decorating the Normalista college in Ayotzinapa, where the students were studying to become primary teachers. Recently I have made work in collaboration with with the families of miners who worked in a coal mine in northern Mexico, Pasta de Conchos, where 65 miners were killed in an underground explosion. Their bodies have never been recovered so the work is about naming them and remembering them.


Yo, Jan Nimmo,Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Giovanni Galindrez Guerrero. Artwork: Jan Nimmo ©

I am making portraits and gathering the testimonies of the agricultural workers in the Sierra de Huelva, a place I know like the back of my hand, thanks to my horse, Chaparro. Cork oaks are the backdrop to my rides there so I have gradually become involved in gathering moving and still images of cork, cork oaks and the people who work in this slow burning, sustainable but precarious industry. More drawings here:

Rafael, Cork Harvester, Sierra de Huelva. Drawing: jan Nimmo ©

Rafael, Cork Harvester, Sierra de Huelva. Drawing: jan Nimmo ©

Closer to home, I have been involved in an oral history project “The Road to Drumleman” about the coal mine in Kintyre where my father worked as a young man. I made a film but want to continue to gather people’s stories about the Argyll Colliery. I have made a series of portraits of people associated with the mine and am currently leading a heritage/arts project in Kintyre. Here is the blog and you can view the drawings here:

Neil Nimmo, Shot-firer, Argyll Colliery. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

Neil Nimmo, Shot-firer, Argyll Colliery. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

I am interested in sustainable growing and food. I share an allotment, “Plot 16” with my husband. We also like to forage both in Scotland and in Spain.

My “bread and butter” work is facilitating community arts projects, educational work and graphic design. One of the most recent projects that I facilitated here in Scotland was A View From Here with Scottish Refugee Council, where I worked as Visual Arts Coordinator.