In 2005 the fourth centenary of Don Quixote was fulfilled. We had the chance to attend to one of the many events held throughout that year. We were encouraged (although I did it from here) to visit the scene of the most widely read novels of all time: La Mancha.
Although Cervantes says in the preface of the work that he investigated the archives of La Mancha satirizing about the importance of this no man's land, inhospitable place lacking of palaces, archives and libraries, he was who gave him a universal fame.
Where is the place of “La Mancha” whose name he would not remember?
We will never know it with accuracy due to Cervantes can never resurrect him to confirm it to us. In the last chapter of Don Quixote it is pointed out that the narrator, the Arabic Cide Hamete Benengeli, decides not to clarify from where is the gentleman in his fifties, "to let all the towns and villages of La Mancha contending together by adopting him and having him for his, as contended the seven cities of Greece and Homer". And so it is. Today the question of the origin of the Knight of the Sad Figure can cause that archivists of various Castilian villages are fighting. Admittedly, much of this controversy has “Cervantes” mood.
We cannot consider the excursions of Don Quixote with topographic criteria because we found a tremendous mess since each step of these adventures is a monstrous heap of inaccuracies. Maybe he did it not to antagonize with the authorities and people of different towns and cities that certainly known for his work as a tax collector for the financing of the Navy.
The beauty of Don Quixote is that no village of La Mancha can borrow of Don Quixote as their own. Anyway to play along and then see some places that "dream" to be that place that Cervantes did not want to remember:
A group of academics from the Complutense University of Madrid led by Francisco Parra, who is a native of Villanueva de los Infantes, have posted a probabilistic study of all areas of the “Campo de Montiel”, based on the time - distance method, and the result of this "scientific" method it is based in Villanueva de los Infantes.
Based on an incorrect assumption because the quotes that refer to Don Quixote talk about “Campo de Montiel” make clear that the village of “La Mancha” was near the ancient village known “Campo de Montiel”, "And leaving the lazy down, he began to walk along the famous old “Campo de Montiel”…” Close yes, but not directly in it. I believe that mathematics cannot be mixed with the literature and this study is a little bit opportunistic.
For the first commentators, “Argamasilla de Alba” is the homeland of Don Quixote. It is here where the house Medrano is located, in whose basement the local tradition asserts where Cervantes suffered pressure and in where he began to write his immortal novel.
Despite showing voluntarily vague Cervantes and be willing to not "remember" the place, we can read their own poured version in the Foreword: "What can engender sterile and poorly cultivated my wit, but the story of a dry child, aged, whimsical and full of various thoughts and never imagined any other, as well as who was begotten in a prison where every discomfort has its seat and where everything sad noise makes your room”.
Azorin in 1905, date of the III centenary of Don Quixote recorded his visit to “Argamasilla de Alba” in his Don Quixote’s route in favour of showing this is the place.
Other towns that are disputed are “Argamasilla de Calatraba”, “Albánchez”, “Mota del Cuervo”, “Alcázar de San Juan”, “Esquivias”...
Finally to substantiate the theory of the next place is essential the figure of “Don Rodrigo Pacheco de Quijano” who is regarded as the living model of Don Quixote.
A piece so steeped into reality as it is Don Quixote must have deep roots in its work. The tradition that he relates it is old, but not revealed until Don Ramón Antequera as revealed in the book Analytical Judgment of Don Quixote in 1863. He try to show that the protagonist "is faithful to Don Rodrigo Pacheco Quijano, noble and wealthy gentleman who harboured resentment with Cervantes, born of the loves that he had with his sister Magdalena and having lost his mind, made him go to prison”.
In the chapel of the Virgin of the Charity of Illescas, patroness of the marquis of “la Casa Pacheco” which is located at the Church of “Argamasilla de Alba” there is a picture with the caption: "Our lady was appeared to this Knight being bad of a disease serious medical forsaken the eve of San Mateo, year 1601, entrusted to her and promising her a silver lamp calling it day and night I had a big pain in the Brain of a coldness that you caught on the inside”.
The canvas represents Don Rodrigo Pacheco, a lady who could well be his sister Magdalena, Saint Mateo and Saint Jose. Above them, the Virgin of the Charity of Illescas. The picture is dated in 1601 and the first part of Don Quixote appears in 1605, then we can assume with historical foundation direct knowledge of Cervantes on this fact that leads him to include in his work: "from little sleep and much reading dried his brain so that he lost his judgment”.
Researching into the archives we found two pages written in the early eighteenth century where the family tree is located and said it was natural for “El Pedernoso” (Cuenca). They are continuing the work of searching in the files. As we have not found the baptismal certificate in the registry of the Town Hall nor the registry of the Parish Church are being made to access to the registry of “la Casa Pacheco” who are current marquis, descendants of Don Rodrigo Pacheco. This was confirmed to me by Pilar Serrano, secretary of the Association of Academics of Argamasilla.
In the first pages of the novel does not reveal the name of the protagonist (it hints that this is Quijada or Quejana). At the end of the book, shortly before his death, he recovered his sanity and says: "I'm not Don Quixote of “La Mancha” but also Alonso Quijano, who gave me my habits renowned “Bueno”… ". See the similarity to the real character of Don Rodrigo Pacheco Quijano.
So why not to think that the place of “La Mancha” whose name he would not remember were “El Pedernoso”? Although the main reason is the origin of the character Don Rodrigo Pacheco other reasons can endorse it:
It is a place very close to “Campo de Montiel” where you can reach it in an afternoon riding.
Referring it takes a day to get to “El Toboso”. From “Argamasilla de Alba” it cannot be possible due to there is about 50 kilometres. Instead there are only 18 kilometres from “El Pedernoso”. How perfectly you can do it in a day.
In the first exit after a whole day riding over Rocinante, it reaches until a sale where it is supposed too close to Quintanar, as meets with John Haldudo, a neighbour of Quintanar, who he is hitting his server Andrew. It may be “Quintanar de la Orden” having an inn 18 kilometres for distance.
There is also talk about the existence of windmills. And in “El Pedernoso” there were in abundance. The Cotolix mill is called the oldest of “La Mancha” it is attested. Inns or hostels existence are located in the “Camino Real”. It is a place of passage that Cervantes must have known perfectly. Geographer Thomas Lopez in his map of the Route of Don Quixote of the year 1795, places “El Pedernoso” as a single point where the entire route is crossed.
Posts to imagine, if the place of “La Mancha” where “El Pedernoso” in the name is rather ugly or say little commercial and hard to remember and therefore decided to omit it or because he had not good memories by the chief of the place that imprisoned him for complimenting his sister.
We are fighting for what is the place of “La Mancha”, but it is clearly that beyond of that the work is wholly of “La Mancha”, 100 per cent. I acknowledge the influence that I have due to be born in “El Pedernoso” to admit the possibility concerned the place of “La Mancha”, but knowing the fact of the origin of Don Rodrigo Pacheco inspiratory of Don Quixote has confirmed to me what I always wanted to believe.
The great thing about Don Quixote is that in another 400 years people will continue reading it and discussing about the Place of “La Mancha”, what Cervantes certainly would have loved.
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