2. Oct, 2021


SATURDAY 02-10-21

Last night wasn't too successful. At 22:30 we had a Spanish family turn up and then proceed to prepare a meal and all sit outside and eat it accompanied by plenty of conversation and laughing. They turned in at about 00:30, about half an hour after two large motorhomes arrived at the car park. Honestly what a time of day to arrive.

This morning was yet another bright blue sky with the promise of more hot weather to come. We didn't hurry to go out, and neither did the Spanish family across the way. Rather than squeeze their table and chairs between two parked motorhomes, today they had occupied a large area in front of their motorhome for the table and chairs for a noisy family breakfast. As we left the parking area (GPS: N37.362482° W5.994438°) they were folding up their table and chairs and putting them away. I hoped that they would be leaving while we were out.

It was the long hot trudge towards the city as usual, though today we were not going that far, instead staying in the Plaza de Espana area.

One of the buildings I was interested in looking at was the former site of the Real Tobacco Company, so here's the story:

Seville is renowned for its two most famous exports –  Marmalade Oranges and Carmen. One has become more popular than the other, thanks to Bizet’s famous opera.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Carmen was based on a real life character, but she was invented by the French writer Prosper Merimée in his short story of the same name. The novella inspired Bizet to create one of opera’s most enduring personalities.

Everyone knows the story of Carmen. If you had to describe the story in 140 characters on Twitter it would go something like this…

“Gypsy woman casts spell on soldier, tires of him, falls in love with bull fighter, rejects former lover’s advances and is stabbed to death when he falls into a jealous rage”.

The story of Carmen is set in Seville during the 19th Century – it’s basically a crime of passion set against a backdrop of gypsy culture and bull fighting. Today you can see many of the landmarks made famous by the opera.

The Antigua Fabrica de Tabacos, where Carmen worked as a cigar maker, is a splendid building. This gigantic complex, 250 metres long and 180 metres wide, is the largest building in Spain after the El Escorial palace in Madrid.

Surrounded by palm trees, its impressive exterior is covered with statues and ornate decoration. The ostentatious design demonstrates that tobacco was a huge money earner in the 1800s.

Cigarette production was heavy and labour intensive work. It employed thousands of people whilst 200 donkeys drove its rolling mills until 1965 when the factory closed down and moved to a new site across the river.

The Tobacco Factory was once Spain’s largest employer and employed 10,000 female cigarette makers or ‘cigarreras.’

The women workers who worked in this giant sweat shop lived in specially built dormitories. It must have been a bleak existence. To add insult to injury, the women’s morals were often thought to be questionable.

They were seen as an under-class, earned a pittance and suffered the indignity of being body searched for stolen goods every time they left the building. Carmen was one such woman.

Look above the main factory entrance and you’ll see the statue of a marble angel blowing a trumpet. Popular legend had it that the trumpet would sound only when a virgin entered the factory for the first time!

The building is now part of the University of Seville but you can take a walk around its grounds and peak inside, although many of its original workshops have been converted to lecture rooms.

There’s a pleasant entrance area leading onto a Clock Patio with a fountain and ornate decoration. Close your eyes and you’ll feel what life must have been like in the 1800s.

Earlier in the day it was impossible to gain entry. There were prohibited signs everywhere, but later in the day it was possible, presumably because there were less students about. It was a very grand building, far more ornate than you'd expect of a factory, and now part of the University of Seville. We only managed to walk through it from front to back but that was enough to get a feel of the place and say we'd been there.