Cork museum in Spain. The Museum of Cork Identity in San Vicente de Alcántara (right on the border with Portugal) shows the production, manufacture and life of this material. The Museum of the Identity of Cork is located in San Vicente de Alcántara, and this is because the Rayano commune is characterized by the production, especially the production of this material: the cork industry appeared almost two centuries ago in this commune and the cork became a key element in its life and culture.
The Greeks and Romans already used cork to cover amphorae, “and even in the Middle Ages in Germany coffins were made of this material because it was a good preservative,” notes Laura Brixedo, director of the Cork Museum of Identity, a center that opened its doors in 2008. to spread a culture that revolves around its production and processing.
“It is located here because it has been the economic base of the city since the mid-19th century. Today, many people in San Vicente work in corks and 35 factories registered in our district, and that is influencing our culture, ”he continues. Brixedo examines how this tradition was transferred to Catalonia – “Girona, cradle of industry” – and from there to the rest of the Iberian Peninsula.
When the Catalans realized that in the triangle of Andalusia, Extremadura and Portugal, “there was the best cork” and, like the Englishman John Robinson, he decided to open a new factory in San Vicente de Alcántara that employed hundreds of workers. It was in 1858, and just three decades later, with the advent of the railroads, the sector experienced an economic explosion.
In the galleries of the Museum of Cork Tradition, you can view the cork under a microscope and appreciate its elongated and hollow cells, learn that suberin is a substance that prevents oxidation of wine after applying a cork made of this material, and other scientific curiosities.
But also to show how this sector defined the culture of San Vicente. “Our popular festivals revolve around corks. On the night of January 21, on the eve of our patron, we celebrate Los Mascarrones and rub each other with burnt cork. And on Corpus Christi, we make carpets on the street from colored sawdust, salt and cork shavings, ”recalls the woman, emphasizing how this material is present in the everyday life of every home.
“Our grandparents and great-great-grandparents used cork to make troughs they used in slaughterhouses, lunch boxes, and even castillejos, a kind of high chair for babies.” A craftsmanship that still survives in this town of Badajoz, which uses this material to create all kinds of personal memorials as to why the cork was, is and will be the main character of life in San Vicente.
In another part of Spain, while in the city of Santiseben del Puerto, there is another cork museum where we will see mainly the products of old craftsmen, cork figurines and learn more about the history of cork in this part of Spain. Below you will also find a video showing a short film promoting the museum.