I was about to leave Campel on Friday, having had a few days of excellent walking and a visit to the only hospital in Europe specialising in treating leprosy. Sanatorio Fontilles was built in 1909 at the behest of two local men, one a lawyer the other a priest. Since opening it has cared for and later, when drugs were available, treated nearly 3,000 patients. The first drug treatment to stabilise the condition was introduced in 1946, and then in 1982 multi therapy was able to cure it. Unfortunately there are still a handful of patients every year in Spain as the symptoms are so slow and insidious it is rarely detected early. The hospital provides finance, training and support for staff from countries where leprosy remains endemic and the abiding ethos is to eradicate both the disease and the stigma. It remains an active research centre.
As I was waiting at reception to pay before leaving and moving on I heard Ivan, campsite manager, telling a Dutch couple about a fiesta at the Sanatorio Fontilles this weekend – I decided to stay and do the steep 4K walk again. Apparently the parade and marching bands are in commemoration of the battles between the Moors and Christians. The costumes are stunning and must cost a fortune. Obviously professionally made, each club has it’s own colours; the material used is very high quality, brocades, lace, and silk, richly embellished and embroidered. The shoes were incredible too, the armoured ones clanked authentically, some of the Moorish men wore laced sandals and some tights and slippers. Once again I was very lucky, this parade was in support of the hospital and done for the fun of it, unlike the big parades and re-enactments in the cities it was completely unadvertised, hence the lack of the usual huge crowds.
Now in case you’re wondering how a Spaniard gets a name like Ivan, and even if you weren’t … During Franco’s time as well as getting into trouble for wearing red, Ivan’s grandfather was accused of being a communist for wearing a red sweater, you could not give your child a Russian sounding name by order of the dictator. Ivan was born 2 years after Franco’s death by which time new parents were anxious to use the heady freedom of being allowed to call their children any name they liked. Ivan, good job he was a boy really, informs me that a lot of men of his age are called Ivan!
🙂 🙂 🙂