Turismo de Alcalá de Guadaíra

In love with Alcalá


Javier Hermida

Javier Hermida Ruiz was born in Alcalá in August 1962. He graduated in Fine Arts and is the Drawing teacher assigned to Secondary School (IES) Albero since 1990; he became Headmaster in 2005. As a teacher he has been awarded in several occasions: In 1998, 1999 and 2000 in national contests organized by the FAD. This year he has been awarded with first Prize to Educational Innovation in Andalusia and the second national reward for the same concept, both of them due to the riddle game about heritage "Alberinto" aimed to secondary school students of Alcalá.

His artistic activity comprises multiple disciplines, such as painting, comic and illustration, but also animation and video recording. As a painter, he won the first prize of the Alcalá National Contest of Painting for three times. He has been award-winning in Dos Hermanas and in Tomelloso, and finalist in the reward Blanco y Negro from Madrid. He has been the author of the poster of Alcalá de Guadaíra's Feria for three editions.

His work as illustrator has been largely diversified during the late years. He works as drawer for filmmakers, events companies, exposures and museums and designing companies, in national and international productions. His works can be seen at the Museums of Wine and Clocks in Jerez, in the Archaeological Museum of Alicante (better European Museum of the Year 2000) and in the one of Elche, in the History Museum of Valencia, or at the Museum of Cycladic Art of Athens. As artistic director, he has designed the spectacle of the Lake Show in Isla Mágica and the Centre of Interpretation of the Monastery of San Juan de la Peña, in Huesca. He has made murals in Jerez and Barcelona. His drawings have been projected over Santiago de Compostela's Cathedral in the Jacobean year and over Abu Simbel temple in Egypt.

Javier Hermida
What makes you love Alcalá?

I am in love with the incomparable, clean and powerful light we enjoy. Perhaps as a painter I may be more sensitive to this, but I remember having been interested on it many for long, and I will give you an example of the unequalled sunsets I used to contemplate when going out from Cristóbal de Monroy secondary school at seven in the evening: the entrance gave way to a vast horizon where the sun set, and every day was different and spectacular. Today they cannot be seen longer as blocks of flats hide the landscape, but light is still the same, in the evening, at dawn or at noon, in winter or in summer. After so many journeys, I can say that there are not many places that can pride themselves of a gift of the Nature like this.

Which is the place you always take your friends and acquaintances to when you show Alcalá to them?

I like to boast about Oromana Park, a place I find absolutely singular. If we add up a route along the flour mills, and we tell a couple of stories regarding all this, we can be sure of having earned any visitor's fascination. If someday we returned its splendour to the river, a thing that does not seem impossible, the set will be complete.

Tell us something Alcalá has and you have not found in any other place in the world.

In addition to light, only and unrepeatable, I am amazed by the richness of its landscapes and of its spots. Not in vain, Alcalá has been origin of a school of landscape painters that dates back from two centuries ago. I do not want to think ( but I consider it ) what would have done famous French impressionists if instead of making an effort to investigate colours and shades at their tenuous landscapes, would have made an effort here. The castle figure, the pines profile, the mills texture, the albero strength, the reflections of eucalyptuses and quite a large number of details provide this town with an exceptional plastic capacity.

Which one is the spot of the town you always go back to?

I have always liked to walk by Alcalá, either looking for landscapes, making photos or just to make some sport, so I repeat a lot my routes. Perhaps, the one I frequent more is the one that surrounds the Realaje mill and Adufe. In summer the river can be waded on foot, no without certain difficulty, through a ford that is still used by some shepherds with little flocks or herds; from this spot I start a route from the Villalba Hill skirt up to the Pelay Correa mill.

Take us for a walk through Alcalá; tell us a route so we know it.

We could start from La Plazuela and going along La Mina Street to the corner of the Town Council. We take Herrero up to El Derribo and then to the Castle. Undoubtedly, we'll go up the Torre Gorda terrace floor to contemplate the landscape. After that, we can go to the river along the Águila Avenue and San Fernando, cross the Roman Bridge and taking the road towards the Forest, go passing orchards and reach the Algarrobo mill. At a good pace, we would already have had about an hour of walk. We should keep on the entire bank, contemplating the mills of the other side until arriving to Las Aceñas Mill. If we dare to, we can get through the weeds towards the weir and cross over the river right there. We would have already walked for two hours. Our way back to the starting point will be quieter, as all the way is flat and smart. We will pass the San Juan Park and the Tren de los Panaderos (Train of the Bakers) avenue and at the height of the hundred-year-old Taxodium we will go up to Prueba de Cañones, Concepción, Blanca de los Ríos and at last, we are back to downtown. In the end, three hours.

In which square shall we sit down to talk for a while when we are half-way?

A quiet place and little visited is the little park next to the Mocha Tower, and it is so nice when you want a little rest after going up the Águila slope.

What do you invite us to in order to recover our strength after the walk?

If the walk has been early, a breakfast will be welcome. A toast with lard & loin, whose recipe I hope will not disappear -there are less café-bars where it is served in good conditions, in the traditional way-is a very nutritive and tasty delicacy, although only for fierce and remorseless guests.

What is the most curious or the nicest thing you have ever heard about your town?

I like very much the idea of "the beach of Alcalá". I lived myself part of what today seems almost a legend, when I was a kid, but not as a swimmer, that seems even older matter. But I did enjoy clear water of Guadaíra, and I could get my feet wet and see the fishes, when it was customary for the whole family going to the park and having lunch there at any of the picnic areas there were, but not sandwiches, what nonsense, eating de cuchareo [Spanish expression for stews and similar dishes] with the pressure cooker and everything.

What does being from Alcalá (alcalareño) mean, does it mark the character?

Alcalá has some dispersed hallmarks. It's possible that, before the developing and disordered and disrespectful growth period it underwent, a defined and veteran awareness of belonging to Alcalá, as involuntary sediment of centuries of singularity. The town, however, has changed a lot, and it seems that during late years its profile begins to appear vaguely drawn with more concrete traces. There exists a project of town, which can be debatable if you want to, but at least there is an aim, an objective. Feeling form Alcalá today cannot be the same thing it was fifty years ago. Unfortunately, the alcalareñismo [=feeling from Alcalá] is a feeling that remains invariable for some nostalgic neighbours and that, in my opinion, should reappear or be re-founded. I do feel from Alcalá, against many fellow countrymen who deny this, and as a teacher I fight for it, because I think that the vast heritage that makes us unique should be transmitted to the new generations. Even so, I consider that our past is only a part of our present, and this is also appreciable.

I always thought that our most important hallmark is the River Guadaíra, because thanks to it, or around it, Alcalá finds his reason as a town. It is our mirror, and if reflection is dirty and rotten, we will disown it and the town it gave its name to. Feelings, like the one of possession, are impenetrable as they are sincere, so our greater heritage, i.e., the non-transferable feeling to be "from here", will only be possible if our river (River means Life, as Ocean means the Unknown ) goes back to the virginal, clean and diaphanous state that many of us have seen before.

Once you go up the Castle, which is the place you like best to look at?

I always look at Villalba hill, but it is because of reasons of my own, the ending of the Alberinto game already took place there. I look unconsciously for a small mound of stones that was put there, under an eucalyptus in the shape of Roman numeral (IV), that kept a book where the teams that managed to finish the game wrote their names and their immediate impressions in. The book disappeared the last day of the game.

Tell us a secret about your town.

It is not a secret, but it is a little-known history. I always liked the tree I mentioned before, the Taxodium, long before seeing it every day from the place where I work, IES Albero. I have painted it many times and even I made out a video on the impressive changes of colour it shows. It is an unusual specimen (in fact they are two of them which are very close), funny in Alcalá. There is another one in San Juan sports centre, and besides these, in Spain there are only two specimens more, one in Bécquer arbour of Seville and another one at the Botanical Gardens of Madrid. It is a conifer of American origin, extraordinary as it is deciduous. Its origin in Alcalá is even darker: Who planted it and when? For a long time I believed that it was planted during the twenties of the last century, more or less when the events of the Universal Exposition of Seville took place, but a little time ago I learnt from a gardener that works for the Town Council that its origin is much older, because it was possibly planted by the monks of the Monastery of San Francisco when they moved in to Alcalá... four centuries ago!

Antonio Gutierrez Limones
Cesáreo Estébanez Bueno
Javier Barón
Ramón Vázquez García
José Manuel Fernández Portillo
Javier Hermida
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