Els Traginers d'Igualada
The trade of traginer (muleteer) is the unarguable main star of the Tres Tombs parades, one of the most representative of the celebration of the Traginers d'Igualada, which celebrates Saint Anthony the Abbot in the small town of Igualada, in Catalonia, showing the modern world the different ways of transporting merchandise and goods from one place to the other.
The word Traginer comes from the verb trajinar, which means moving things from one place to the other, whether it’s on the person’s back or shoulders, on a beast of burden, or on any other means of transportation. In any case, what’s celebrated on the celebration of the Traginers d'Igualada is the antique labor of the muleteer, those who used the force of animals like horses, mules and ox that they bred and fed at their properties.
In the past, the traginers had a very important double mission: a commercial activity, as an element of communication amongst the different dealers and traders of isolated regions, bringing them closer together, and a social mission, for they were important diffusers of news.
There are many different types of traginers, depending on their activity: the traginer de garrot (or stick muleteer) was the one who carried the merchandise on the animal’s back; the traginer de mar (the sea muleteer) was the one carrying the products from the sea to the different establishments ashore; and the traginer de carrera (race muleteer) transported the loads through long distances and far away villages. These kinds of transportation were done by animals, beasts of burden. Of all the wide range of complements and ornaments used, the most representative is the club. Located on the animal’s back, it was the base on which the whole load was placed. This was used by the muleteers only when transporting very heavy loads.
CelebrationSaint Anthony the Abbot
The traginers guild, as well as all the other farmers that used beasts of burden for work, chose Saint Anthony the Abbot as their patron saint and protector. The day of his festivity, January 17th, many took their work animals (horses, donkeys, ox and mules) to be blessed after the mass in the saint’s honor. The traginers decorated their carriages and paraded in procession. With time, the festivity of Saint Anthony the Abbot and the passacaglia of the muleteers have become a central celebration in many villages.
In Catalonia, the festivity of the patron saint of all domestic animals is known by the name Tres Tombs (the Three Turns). On that date, all those who have cattle artistically decorate their carriages pulled by majestic cavalries, and parade them around the streets of the town’s center, doing three passes around the saint, the church or the bonfire to have them blessed. Theses passes are executed in an orderly and harmonic manner, and have become a true open air museum of this antique trade. This is just what takes place in Igualada, one of the most representative celebrations of the kind in the Catalonia area, as well as other like those in Valls, Balsareny or Falset. In Igualada they have even opened a museum recently in order to show and preserve this centuries-old tradition.
Amongst the many novelties of the feast of theTraginers d'Igualada, one of the most significant changes is that it no longer has to happen on January 17th, but they can now be seen in different towns from January to July. Also, the participants are no longer real traginers by trade, but parade just to remember this old occupation.
Also very recently a controversy has started around whether the truck drivers and the different carriers should also parade with their motor vehicles next to the old carriages, or not.