Cervantes invented Don Quixote, who invented Dulcinea. But El Toboso is completely real. And those who were lucky enough to visit it begin to believe that Dulcinea is not entirely a fiction
The scheduled bus from Madrid stops in Toboso only on demand. If you hesitate, then you can slip through. The “great city”, as Toboso Cervantes called it in his novel, not only shrunk, it just hasn't grown since then.
“We stumbled upon the church, Sancho”
The surrounding villages – bigger and richer – boast that they have at least a full-fledged school and hospital. The inhabitants of Tobos, who have only a five-year school and a paramedic's station, show their trump cards with dignity: the church and Dulcinea. These items of pride are tightly connected. Everyone goes to Toboso for Dulcinea, and “stumbles upon the church.”
The local temple of St. Anthony, nicknamed the La Mancha Cathedral for its size and luxury, dominated the landscape already in the time of Cervantes. Above the shabby door of the house opposite the bell tower, in black metal letters are the words of Don Quixote, who, in the dead of night, was looking for Dulcinea's palace here: “We stumbled upon the church, Sancho.” Behind an unmarked door, an elderly barber cuts a ten-year-old boy's haircut. He, seeing people discussing the inscription, shouts into the opening: “And Sancho answers: and God forbid that we do not stumble upon our grave!”
All Tobosians from childhood know by heart Chapter IX of the second part of the novel, which is entirely devoted to the visit of the cunning hidalgo to their hometown. The shorn boy admits that he has read the rest of the chapters only in an abbreviated version. A hairdresser who opens an institution on a call from neighbors complains that nowadays people read little and are not able to walk along Toboso on their own along the literary route, which was marked in the mid-1980s by signs like this all over the village.
As be that as it may, 14 incomplete quotations from various places in chapter IX give a vague idea of the knight's route through the village. However, this corresponds to that chaotic visit, during which Don Quixote never found anything but a church.
There is a legend that the visit of Cervantes himself to Toboso was unsuccessful. In the alley adjacent to the church, the writer was allegedly beaten up by some hefty fellows, because he got into the habit of visiting the local lady Ana Martinez Sarco de Morales, who seemed to have served as the prototype of Dulcinea.
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“In the dead of midnight”
The next door behind the barbershop is the Cervantes Center. His main asset is the collection of editions of Don Quixote from different eras and peoples. It was invented in 1927 by the then mayor. Since then, about 500 copies have accumulated in 47 languages, many signed by prominent Cervantes fans from Reagan to Fidel Castro. Only two sent not Quixote, but books of their own choice: Hitler -The Nibelungenlied, and Gaddafi -The Green Book of his own composition.
Under the roof of the museum, the local tourist office also sheltered, which until recently was located in its own house at the entrance to El Toboso, under the inscription: “In the dead of midnight …” The house was built in 2005 by the regional authorities to 400- anniversary of the publication of the first part of the novel. At the same time, the federal authorities approved special signs with quotes, allocated money for them, and marked them with the official “Don Quixote route”, which runs throughout La Mancha and beyond.
“This is madness! The full route is two and a half thousand kilometers! – the sole representative of the Toboso tourist office, Adrian Torrero, is perplexed. The four most popular villages in La Mancha offer an abbreviated version for the weekend: Alcázar de San Juan, where the writer is believed to have been born; Argamasilla de Alba, where he supposedly was in prison and invented Don Quixote; Campo de Criptana, where the mills with which the wandering knight fought were preserved; El Toboso, mentioned 189 times in the book.
There are fewer people wishing to travel even on a short route due to the crisis. Adrian Torrero, part-time leading actor of the local theater troupe, shows visitors to the Cervantes Center a six-minute video where he played Don Quixote. Spanish war, seeing El Toboso on the offensive plan, forbade the troops to shell and plunder the city – did not want to go down in history as the man who destroyed the homeland of Dulcinea. The general was played by a butcher from a local shop.
A tiny museum with a long name – a branch of the Cervantes Center – was created in 2003 at the initiative of the cartoonist José Luis Mena. Here are exhibited drawings on the theme of Don Quixote's adoration of his lady of the heart. Works are submitted from all over the world. On one, Dulcinea is depicted in a red sundress. Signature: “V. Doroshenko. “We are often sent works from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, but they rarely come from there. But there are a lot of French people, school excursions to Cervantes places are very popular with them,” says Adrian, locking the museum and hanging a sign on the door: “Lunch from 14:00 to 17:00.” And a mobile number.
It's only 13:00 on the clock, but Adrian has a rehearsal. Weekday, off season – the head of the tourist office can afford to leave early. Unlike the employees of the Dulcinea House Museum, which is subordinate to the regional administration. The name of this institution can confuse even rational French lyceum students, who are well aware that Dulcinea is not just a figment of the imagination, but twice its fruit.
In fact, Ana Martinez Sarco de Morales lived in this house, with whom the young Cervantes was allegedly in love and for whom he was allegedly beaten. Information about this lady is fragmentary, but the version that it was in her honor that the writer settled the peasant woman Aldonsa Lorenzo here has taken root. Don Quixote, in turn, renamed Aldonsa Dulcinea and elevated her to the rank of “Empress of La Mancha” and “the most beautiful of women”, without ever seeing her.
The building was erected on an old foundation in 1960 years in the image and likeness of the former estate here. In the museum there are agricultural tools, furniture and household items from the Cervantes era, chickens and rabbits walk in the yard.
It is noteworthy that in El Toboso there are really preserved mansions of the 16th century that did not fit into the myth of Dulcinea. Their tenants, true to their ideal, next to the ancient family coats of arms of the Toboso lords, hung pictures with scenes from Cervantes' novel. >
“Each country has its own custom”
Even 30 years ago, the Tobos were skeptical about the idea of turning their town into a Mecca of literary tourism: no one believed that Cervantes' novel was so popular. When two or three tourist buses per weekend began to stop at the outskirts, the locals were terribly imbued with their own significance and, it seems, they themselves believed in the existence of Dulcinea.
There is no house in Toboso that would not want to connect itself in some way with the literary fate of its native city: assorted figures of don quixotes and sancho pans on facades and curtains, models of famous mills and shaving basins on balconies. But the images of Dulcinea proper are not found – the canonical image of the “most beautiful of women” did not exist, and does not exist. This is probably why there are no souvenir figurines, and monuments to her do not deserve unanimous approval.
There are two monuments to Dulcinea in the city. The first appeared on the central square in front of the church in the early 1980s, along with a literary route, water supply and a telephone line. The bronze sculptural group – a hidalgo kneeling before his mistress – is not very to the liking of Tobos. Old-timers say that the sculptor had to touch up the lady of the heart twice so that she looked less like a peasant woman and more like a princess.
The second monument was erected in 2015 at a dead end at the exit of the house-museum, right under a sign with another quote: “Each country has its own custom…” in the lanes). The abstract silhouette of a female figure inscribed in a circle symbolizes the versatility of Dulcinea. “Some kind of raskoryaka,” an old woman in black, sitting on a bench at the door of a neighboring house, disapprovingly purses her lips. “That one is better, she looks like my daughter.” The old woman pokes her stick at the sky.
In the sky at the edge of the village, another Dulcinea floats, painted on the drum of an old water tower. The cylindrical panel “Dulcinee dreams of La Mancha” was painted by the Argentine artist Milu Correch, known for large-scale graffiti, but made in a completely realistic manner: the sleeping lady of the heart is covered with a patchwork quilt from the surrounding fields. “For three days the senorita drew, without rest,” the old woman in black admiringly reports. “They lifted it with an excavator.”
The excavator worker, who was removed from the field for three days, is not enthusiastic about the plot: “It is not clear why she is sleeping in the field.” He is supported by his comrades, the workers of the Quinon de Rosales wine cooperative, who have gathered on the terrace of the Rocinante bar to have a drink before dinner. After the second drink, the overweight, undersized man predictably jokes that he is Sancho Panza and sings: “I am a simple peasant, I am not strong in the sciences …”
The male population of the town is almost without exception a member of the mentioned cooperative (790 out of 2000 inhabitants are its members). But local self-employed people, the Lozano family, have opened their own “ecological” winery. From the bottles standing on the honorary shelf of their store, look at the faces of local residents – from young to old. “You can order a label with a picture of a birthday or a newborn from us,” says the head of the family and business with pride. But wine both white and red is named “Fields of Dulcinea”.
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“Your to the grave Knight of the Sorrowful Image”
Contrary to what you might expect, girls in Toboso are not commonly referred to as Dulcineas. The only bearer of a great name, the daughter of a pharmacist, recently left to live and work in a big city. However, every year in mid-August, the villagers choose the “honorary Dulcinea” and her two “court ladies”.
True, young women of Tobo are not very eager to become “La Mancha empresses”: during the year they will need to attend official events , and even have to fork out for formal dresses and folk costumes.
For visiting beauties of all ages, a simplified procedure is provided: at the tourist office you can get a personal diploma of Dulcinea signed by Cervantes and stamped by El Toboso. One Spanish lady was sincerely upset when it turned out that there was not enough form for her share. “Don't worry, ma'am!” the director exclaimed artistically. The lady brightened up and even somehow drew herself up. Her lucky companion, promoted on the spot to the Knight of the Sad Image, briskly opened the door for her. Adrian Torrero, with a feeling of deep satisfaction, closed it behind the departing couple and hung up a sign: “Come tomorrow.” And a mobile number.
LEADING ON THE TERRAIN
El Toboso, Castile-La Mancha, Spain
Population of El Toboso: 1663 people
Population of Spain: 47.6 million people (31st in the world)
Area of Spain: 505,990 km2 (51st)
Population density: 93.5 inhabitants/km2 ( 120th place)
Sights: Dulcinea House Museum, Cervantes Center, St. Anthony Church, Trinitarian Monastery.
Traditional dish: Pisto manchego (pisto manchego) stewed vegetables with egg and cracklings; Dulcinea's Caprice is a dessert based on almonds grated with yolk and sugar.
Traditional drink: wine from the Castile-La Mancha region.
Souvenir : wine bottle stand with silhouettes of Don Quixote and Dulcinea, La Mancha sheep cheese (Manchego).
Distance from Moscow to Madrid ~ 3450 km (from 4 hours 20 minutes in flight) , then to El Toboso ~150 km by road
Time behind Moscow by 2 hours in winter, by 1 hour in summer
Photo: Domingo Robres/Alamy/Legion Media (in announcement), Getty Images (3), Image Broker (2), AGE Fotostock, Alamy/Legion-media (3), East News, Legion-media (2), Anna Papchenko
Material published in the magazine “Around the world” No. 2, February 2016, partially updated in May 2023