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The Maderada in Cofrentes, a tradition that ended due to railways
Publishing date 28/04/2014
Seven years ago, Cofrentes recovered one of its ancient traditions for its festivities: the Maderada, transporting logs and rafts down the river Cabriel, as it was done over two centuries ago to transport wood.
The seventh edition of the Maderada of Cofrentes will be held on the shores of the river Cabriel, on May 3. At 9:00 AM, tens of locals meet up at Plaza de España to march in a procession to the Cabriel Recreational Area to have a snack, after which, dressed like traditional wood haulers, they toss the logs and rags into the watter to transport them in a symbolic path along the river, 500 metres long.
The Maderada recovers and 18th and 19th century tradition from Cofrentes. Activity along the river reached an all-time high during those centuries. Every year, with the arrival of autumn and the swelling of the river, the logs from the mountain ranges of Cuenca were transported along the rivers to Alzira and Cullera. Those were the days prior to railroads, and, of course, prior to transportation by road. Thus, part of the wood was transported throughout Spain via the main rivers. The Júcar and the Cabriel rivers, who join at Cofrentes, were two of the routes used to supply the important woodworking industries in Valencia.
Wood haulers or gancheros were the men in charge of guiding the longs over a trip that took several months. From the shores, onboard barges or riding the logs themselves, they had to control their direction, an activity that required no small amount of skill. The inhabitants of Cofrentes were renowned for their skill. They were known as gancheros because they used a large wooden gaff with a metal hook at the end (a gancho) to handle the logs.
More than a mere job, to be a ganchero was a tradition passed on from father to son. The wood haulers had to travel for months; due to the length of these trips, teams of gancheros were accompanied by a mudaero in charge of taking the dirty laundry of the wood haulers and to bring it back to Cofrentes, along with gifts and handmade products they manufactured during the trip. The mudaero then returned to the group, bringing messages for the wood haulers, interesting news and, of course, clean laundry to pursue the trip.
Wood hauling became an intense activity in the 18th and 19th centuries, becoming a source of economic activity for Cofrentes, as every trip could take up to four months. The year 1885 market the beginning of the end for the wood to be hauled from Cofrentes. The construction of a railway line from Valencia to Utiel encouraged the construction of a dock to unload the wood in Contreras, which was then transported y carts to Utiel and, from there, by rail.