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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Pello Joxe Aranburu Ugartemendia > Extracts

Essay (literary and non-literary)



Some facts and figures to contribute towards understanding the history of the Alkiza neighbourhood and town

A great effort is required to understand the history of my hometown from today's perspective. Throughout history, for ten or seven centuries, the towns of Gipuzkoa have must have undergone a profound change; the result is that it is difficult to understand past customs, the old units for measuring reality are unfamiliar and the cost living increases considerably. In order to understand the historical reality of both Gipuzkoa and Alkiza, we have to adopt a flexible perspective and maintain a sacred respect.

Shepherds inhabited Alkiza two thousand years ago; there were no farms, but there may have been agricultural settlements, because they have been discovered not in Alkiza itself, but in the vicinity. When do the first farms of Alkiza with their houses, lands, vegetable gardens and pastures and their single owners date back to? When did the hospital under the name of Santiago have its beginnings? Did the influence of the Romans reach our town? Between 1527 and 1623 why was the priest of Alkiza appointed as secretary to the area in Gipuzkoa under the jurisdiction of an archpriest? Alkiza was much more important in 1527 than it is today, because the history of towns and parishes changes. None of us alive today ever knew Egurrola, Alkiza's old iron works, because it was destroyed by floods and disappeared in 1615 after having spent a century smelting iron. Three families lived on the Liazasoro farm right up until the 20th century, goodness knows how many kilos of wheat or maize were milled in the Igaran mill, which is about to collapse! Who knows about the Arraiaga bridge and who could imagine that it was on the road that went from Aia via Asteasu and Larraul to Tolosa? Alkiza's main road was the one that linked Hernialde and Zelatum or Iturriotz via Arritzaga, Martinotegi and Loidi. Until today's state postal service was set up, Alkiza ran its own postal service that used the road via Zelatum to Azpeitia, and the one to Tolosa through the town of Hernialde. Many roads, customs and lifestyles have changed.

Another difficulty in understanding the town's historical reality arises from the different monetary units used in Alkiza throughout history and this leads to problems of understanding. Likewise, the same thing happens when expressing the old units which were used in different fields of activity, if one does not know the equivalent or conversion rate with respect to today's units, for instance, it can be difficult to understand the information. The problem is exacerbated by the frequent changes in the cost of living throughout the centuries. I shall refer to a number of notes, because I believe they can help to provide some minimum cost of living references.

During this time the following monetary units were mainly used: the copper real was worth 34 maravedi and four reals was worth one peseta. The following also appear in this work of mine: a ducat was worth 11 reals, an escudo 10 reals and a gold ounce 320 reals. Only on rare occasions did the doubloon, which was worth 80 reals, appear, because it was very old.

The old system of weights and measures in the Basque Country was used in Alkiza until the metric system was introduced in 1896, so it is helpful to provide their equivalent values.


- ounce: 28.7 g.

- pound: seventeen ounces, 488 g, equivalent to half a kilo today.

- "erralde": ten pounds, five kilos today.

- "arroa": twenty-five pounds, 12.2 kg, twelve and a half kilos today.

- "zama": an old measurement of weight, three old "kintals".

- load: six "kintals" in cider production, six sackfuls each weighing 50 kg making 300 kg. A wine load was 125 kg or ten "arroas".

- cartload: eight quintals in cider production, eight sackfuls of apples weighing fifty kg each made a cartload of apples or 400 kg.

Some other measures:

- pitcher or jug: two litres.

- "lakari": about four and a half litres, for seed measure.

- "gaitzeru": nine and a quarter litres, for seed measure.

- "anega": twelve "lakaris", 55.5 litres, seed measure.

- ounce or inch: 23.2 mm.

- foot: twelve inches, 278 mm.

- "bara": 835 mm (just under a yard)

- league: 20,000 feet or 5,500 m, measure of distance.

Area measurements

- "estadoa": a wall two metres square.

- "postura": an area of between 34 and 36 square metres.

The cost of living in Alkiza changed considerably between 1569 and 1950. In order to grasp the historical perspective of this evolution, I shall draw attention to a number of points. I shall attempt to provide the most objective data in this respect.

In 1569 the priest of Alkiza received 24 ducats, while the incumbent of Billabona received 16 ducats in 1590. That same year the fee for a private mass amounted to 2 reals. The priest of Alkiza received four reals for saying mass in Iturriotz in 1620, and 3 reals for each private mass in his town in 1638, the fee was 6 in 1722 and between 1736 and 1776 it went up to 11 reals for each mass.

I shall now go on to provide exact data for the years between 1600 and 1620: an oxherd with a pair of oxen for the whole day earned 5 reals; two woodmen hired for the day got 3 reals; three men building roads got 8 reals, while a notary got the same amount for a day's work, in other words 8 reals. The cost of building the walls of the church in Alkiza, an "estado" or four square metres cost 12 ducats. People paid 44 reals for a thousand tiles; 7 or 22 reals for an oak tree; 7 reals for a lock and key for a chest; 25 reals for the building of the wooden bridge at Egurrola; half a real for a load of coal; nearly one real for a litre of wine; 23 ducats to build a new wooden millrace; between 8 and 22 reals for a millstone; and 3 reals for a meal at the Inn.

I shall add a further three pieces of global data for the 17th century: between 1630 and 1710 the Egurrola or Olaa mill provided the town council with an average rent of between 45 and 63 ducats; on the other hand, it got between 11 and 41 ducats for the Igaran mill; between 1599 and 1621 the Alkiza town council used to have an annual income of 1,614 reals and spent 1,266 reals.

The innkeepers of Alkiza paid the following amounts to rent the premises: 26 ducats in 1733; 14 ducats in 1743; 13 ducats in 1751; 25 ducats in 1768; 28 ducats in 1773; 29 ducats in 1782; 37 ducats in 1794; 71 ducats in 1802; 100 ducats in 1809; 48 ducats in 1842; 50 pesetas in 1890; 100 pesetas in 1898 and 450 pesetas in 1943.

During approximately the same period the Olaa millers provided the Town Council with a magnificent income: 55 ducats in 1733; 50 ducats in 1743; 50 ducats in 1751; 133 ducats in 1768; 70 ducats in 1773; 78 ducats in 1782; 121 ducats in 1794; 226 ducats in 1802; and 120 ducats in 1809.

I shall go on to provide data, in chronological order, on the sale of houses and on a number of the large building works. 1731 saw the building of the main altarpiece of Alkiza, for which Irazusta was paid 70,000 reals. In the same year the altarpiece next to it on the sacristy side cost 17,000 reals, but it was donated by the above-mentioned sculptor to the town of his birth. In 1743 Irazusta was paid 90,000 reals for the main altarpiece of the Parish Church of Santa Marina in Bergara (Gipuzkoa).

In 1767 the Otsamendi Garaikoa house was sold for 3,300 reals; in 1768 the Etxabeguren farm, lock, stock, and barrel, went for 92,408 reals; In 1771 the Mariategi house and vegetable garden fetched 2,200 reals; in 1798 half of the Katalandegi farm, lock, stock, and barrel, were sold for 19,700 reals.

In 1800 it cost 107,000 reals to build the new rectory. In 1840 a new clock for the clock tower cost 2,560 reals and 20,000 pesetas was paid for a new organ in 1928. Yet around 1930 the tenants paid rent amounting to 28,000 pesetas for Lete, 22,000 pesetas for Mariategi, 21,500 for Lizarzelai, 20,000 for Katalandegi and 16,500 for Garmendia Garaikoa.

In order to illustrate the change or rise in the cost of living I shall add the prices paid for the purchase and sale of animals and certain things or objects in Alkiza. In 1758 a pair of 19-month-old oxen went for 138 reals and in 1771 another pair of oxen fetched 418 reals, in 1784 a pair of cows for the yoke were sold for 80 reals, and someone went as far as paying 1,400 reals for a pair of oxen. Between 1730 and 1760 a load of coal in Alkiza cost an average of between 2 and 3 reals; between 1760 and 1790 between 5 and 6 reals; between 1790 and 1800, 10 reals; and between 1800 and 1810, 6 reals. Likewise, priests received between 2 and 3 reals in 1638 for saying private masses; 6 reals in 1776 and 5 reals in 1803.

Finally, I shall give a long list covering many years with the same objective in mind, in other words to illustrate the rise in the cost of living.

- In 1721 Joan Irazusta, the rector, paid one real per head per year to graze his 19 sheep on the Sarobe farm.

- In 1752 it cost 192 reals to build the stone bridge of Intxaurrandiaga and the one at Kukutegi cost 1,753 reals. In 1753 an "anega" of wheat cost 6 reals.

- In 1754 the set menu prices at the Alkiza Inn were as follows: one meal, 3 reals; a chicken, 2 reals: a capon, 4 reals. At the same place 2 reals could be charged for draft animal fodder consisting of a "lakari" of a mixture of half maize and half bran plus straw.

- In 1773 it cost 863 reals to build the stone bridge at Garro.

- In 1779, 8 reals was the charge for overseeing building works, a bridge, for example.

- In 1788, the person doing the jobs of both notary and schoolmaster in Alkiza drew a yearly salary of 1,375 reals.

- In 1800 an oxherd was paid 15 reals a day for work done by a pair of oxen; a journeyman was paid 7 reals and a labourer 5 reals.

- In 1801 sheep were worth 55 reals a head.

- In the first decade of the 19th century a cartload of firewood cost 16 reals; an "arroa" of wine, 20 reals; a litre of lard, 5 reals; a shirt, 58 reals; a pair of shoes, 22 reals; a kilo of barley, 1 real; a cartload of straw, 20 reals and a maid or servant were paid 300 reals a year for their services.

- In 1822, the schoolmaster was paid 989 reals in Alkiza.

- In 1845 an "anega" of maize cost 40 reals.

- In 1880 a doctor's annual salary was fixed at 5,500 reals.

Although these are isolated data, together they indicate the rise in the cost of living. In the past money was worth more and the closer we are to the present day, the more its real value becomes obscured.

2011 Euskal Idazleen Elkartea
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