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Interviews and comments


 

ABOUT THE BRILLIANT WORK OF JUAN CARLOS ALTAMIRANO

 THE NEW GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED

by Eliseo Ferrer

(The PURA RAZA journal 9-99, Spain)

 
I hope that my friend Paco Juarez, master of various schools and illustrations will appreciate this fit of erudition cordovan, having stolen Maimónides his wallet, for I do not expect from the rest of the readers anything other than disconcert and perplexity which, coherently, this page aspires to evoke. Attitudes very different from confusion and demagogy that some might attribute to them and which are, by definition, the indisputable base of what little knowledge we might be able to possess of the world. Because once more the world, that cannot get over its astonishment, seems to have gone back to its old ways turning an excess of Carthusian fantasy into a matter of faith. For the students who, like us, got to the University in the seventies armed in week and strange arguments, the sleep of scholarly mist in our eyes meant we were unable to make out the high peaks of the phenomenology. To go to Collingwood, hardly understanding anything, meant, for example, quite a display of skill, whose ignorance mitigated the irony and the best mood of the students' band. If mister Collingwood did not fit in with our preconceived ideas, we would turn him into a literary and legendary figure, a fruit of  marriage between sir Thomas Quincey's opiate intoxication and Chesterton's indigestion. And as if nothing had happened... Because all that about how Nature could only be looked upon as the creation of Culture seemed too much bone and the impossible effort for such tender teeth. Now, that the rigour of the method and the cultural anthropology flourish on the meadows, while geraniums and daisies in the Spanish University commit suicide, three quarters of the same thing happens yet again. Altamirano, same as Collingwood, the genius of Husserl and so many others, leaves us all: breeders, teachers, apprentices, listeners or simply preachers of absent essence, with our eyes big as plates and takes the wind out of our sails. Armed with tools that rule out all rhetoric but are provided with a scaffolding of the best Method, he has converted a passion of fifteen-year work into an authentic Copernicus-style turn which knocks down the walls of the Carthuja and puts on trial the accommodating stability of our neurones (and our interests, that is clear). For now it seems, as it comes out of his documented and proven historic investigation (an empiricism which never abandons the assumptions of the New Science: documented proofs subject to criteria derived from one starting point or a preliminary idea that convert into hypothesis which, in turn, must be proven based on arguments of the thesis) that the Spanish Horse is neither the work of God, nor the work of Nature, nor the result of that entelechy which got to be called "Iberian horse" and, less still, as proven in his recently published book, a discovery of the Carthusian friars. In fact, the Spanish horse was an invention of the imperial policy of never highly praised Phillip II who, hand in hand with sir Diego López de Haro, had the audacity to create that piece of equidae which history then finished moulding it its own way and which, in its day, must have left the European courtiers, popes, bishops and cardinals absolutely headstruck. 
 
A real display of power, as well as an indisputable State issue, whose swan neck emerges from the Baroque altarpieces to provoke some elevations in trot which should have become the external sign and manifestation of a policy that only God could legitimise and that only the tribunals of the Holy Office would guarantee with their tragic immanence. Subject to the extraordinary jurisdiction of the emperor and one over which not a single tribunal of the times would have xxx authority, as we know from Altamirano, The Royal Stables of Cordoba became the workshop where the silversmith López de Haro gave form to that grand Open Work of Art which is the Spanish Horse: the pleasant face of the Counterreformation, invented perhaps to redeem with the beauty of its elevated airs the underground obscurantism of inquisitors and theologians.

 

 And once again Nature as the creation and re-creation of culture (encluding the arts); Nature as a work of man and of history, if one wishes so. For this is the double merit of Altamirano's works (History and origin of the Spanish horse: the Royal Stables of Cordoba and History of the Carthusian horses): the seriousness and documented rigour in the first place, with which he treats the development of his historic investigation, but also, let's not forget, the Anthropologic and Historic (with capital letters) range of his two works.

 

 And at the end of such long route (fifteen years of work), there is the light... But there are also those inevitable Hegelian ruins that look at us from behind. That is because the civilisation has these peculiarities. In order not to provoke confrontation and battle with other ideas, the science dynamites temples, mythologies and liturgies without pity or mercy, while the old Mandarins and priests cry, without roof, under the open sky.
HISTORY OF THE CARTHUSIAN HORSES - JUAN CARLOS ALTAMIRANO

 A WELL FOUNDED PROVOCATION 

by Eliseo Ferrer

(The PURA RAZA journal, 11-99)

 

Before we talk about the new (already old) work of Mr Altamirano, who like the ray of Gustavo Adolfo does not cease to illuminate our caves, I hope the readers will permit me to put a few matters straight, since the factorial order is the only way to talk in earnests and not in jest about certain books:

a) To face the issue correctly (the Carthusian or the Irish...) which demands some linguistic code that would prevent us from ending up speaking pigeon language in a centre of a dialog led by twits, rather than being able to detach ourselves from our interests and sleep in the eyes (which also makes the case).

 b) The objective relationship with the world (and with the results of literary and scientific work) which demands both prior trust in the world and in the most noble intentions of every author, even though he may be wrong from start to finish or will lie as a rouge (which is not precisely the case). Or, which amounts to the same thing: as much as I try, I cannot imagine Mr Altamirano by the faint light of a candle falsifying with correction ink the files and documents of the archives of the Arcos de la Frontera Town Hall.

 c) Our culture, in all other respects, establishes a certain order of priorities, which nobody can bypass. And in that scale, and within the boundaries of what we know as Modern Culture, the arguments of authority, same as the arguments of tradition, do not have a very good reputation, that is to say if they are not accompanied by the credentials of the objectively shared and empirically demonstrated: data, documents, etc.

 d)The science does not live in the sacred mountain; it is something as simple as a scaffolding, well armed and screwed down tight, one on which the unpredictable tightrope walkers work without the net. It is the myths and legends that live in the mountain and in the sacred forest. The men of science have become so simple and modest that for the last three centuries now they have not told us what the world is or should be (because for that there are the theologians, the guru and the Delphic oracles). These guys merely establish representations of more or less fortune (very often in form of square numbers) that satisfy and entertain them with relative coherence with respect to the axioms.

 e) And finally, and that there will be no doubt whatsoever, what at the very end of the journey is at times discouraging. That all the theoretic work is always being manipulated at will for personal interests,  power and most despicable worldly forces. The sociology of science appeared on the scene some twenty years ago in order to explain to us what we already had sensed: that the world is this vulgar and impertinent...

 With a similar scaffolding, and perhaps without so much complexity at its base (because Altamirano is not an epistemologist but a historic investigator), the author of History of the Carthusian Horses arms himself with Sherlock Holmes' magnifying glass and Saint Job's patience in order not to leave any lose ends, same as in the previous book, and to prove empirically and back up with documents each and every one of the statements he has previously put forward. The novelty, this time, stems from the fact that, together with his skilful handling of the document sources, he introduces an easy and constructive hermeneutics around de work of Ruy de Andrade (and the subsequent ones) which, in reciprocity with the sources that sprout from the precipices of Arcos de la Frontera, generates a thread of argument which makes the pages of Andrade's book ( and the subsequent ones) drop from one's hands like cards from a faded deck in a tavern.

 It is not that History of the Carthusians is a more creative book than History and Origin of the Spanish Horse. They are both,  the one as much as the other, by definition, works in which the archives and document sources rescued from shelves riddled with woodworm are presented as an indispensable piece of discourse and not an aesthetic illustration, or as a bundle or a sheaf that some believed to have discovered, out of stupidity rather than malice. The curious thing, however,  about the Carthusians is the original feed-back which establishes in its last part, between the tremulous pages of the Andrade's Bible and the documents he rescues from the Town Archive of the town of the Zapata family.

 Huge evidence, while the opposite has not been proven, not merely satisfied with details aspires to verisimilitude within a coherent representation of the history of the horse as well as the author's own text(s). For we must not discount in this last book reading which turns the analytic puzzle of an "archivist" into (holistic) synthesis where many of the already proven arguments end up acquiring a new meaning and sense. So, finally, some that not have read "History and Origin" might be surprised finding, after his "Jesuitical" discovery, the apparently free affirmation that the Society of Jesus, which made the Bocado brand shine, would have stocked up with part of the horses from the Royal Stables of Cordoba. This time  Altamirano makes a round journey and does not need to put any quotations at the foot of the page because all that had already been sufficiently proven in the "History and Origin...". Altamirano comes round: to the station at the starting point...

 Conclusions?... That the conjecture about the doxa suggestive power be demolished and the Carthusian get off their mythical mounts, for now it is only a matter of recovering as soon as possible from the created stupor to start writing, once and for all, the true book of the Purebred Spanish Horse's lines: that which originates from the Bocado own brand and those which, undoubtedly, germinated in the Military Stud Farm.

 But in all other respects, it is natural that all this provocation, when carried out with intelligence and backed up with rigour, would become a reason for anxiety and concern. In the same way as intelligence, when it is argued rigorously and when it affects fashions and causes a real stir,  always converts into provocation.

 

 
HISTORIC DOCUMENT
 
NEW BOOK OF J.C. ALTAMIRANO
 
THE ROYAL STABLES OF CORDOBA
 
(PURA RAZA, september- 2001)
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Mr. Altamirano, is it true that you are going to publish a new book on the  Royal Stables? When and where is it going to be presented?
óYes, as you know, in my book History and origins of the Spanish horse there is a chapter on the construction and history of this emblematic building. In this new book I analyze the problems it has had since its construction in the second half of 16th century right up to the present. The other study only went up to 1800. I also present a synthesis of the origins of the Spanish horse and the reasons why it exists. Obviously, the title of the book is The Royal Stables of Cordoba.
 
When will it be published?
óI hope to be able to present it in Cordoba the first part of September. A few days later I will present it in Las Vegas, where I have been invited by
the Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse to conduct a seminar on the Spanish horse, and in Mexico in October.
 
Has the mayor of this city written the prologue?.
óYes, thatís correct. I believe that as Mayor she is the appropriate person since the building is going to be transferred to the city and forms part of
its heritage. In addition, I want to thank both the Mayor and Mr. Rafael Blanco, deputy mayor, for their kindness during the meeting I had with them.
 
We also know that you have dedicated this book to Diego LÛpez de Haro, creator of the Spanish pure breed. Why is that?
óIíve been wanting to highlight in a special way the major role he had in the project to create the Spanish horse and I think this is the perfect book
for a dedication. LÛpez de Haro is one of the outstanding persons of the 16th century, and his merits are still apparent, since his achievement is
one which is still very real. For me it was normal to give him at least this little sign of acknowledgement, and I hope the city council will use his
name to identify some part of the Royal Stables. ìCourtyard of Horses Diego LÛpez de Haro" would be nice. He spent thirty years of his life in this
courtyard and he certainly would have liked that.
 
Not long ago you published a letter in the Diario de CÛrdoba asking the people of Cordoba to demand that this building be returned to the city.
óYes, a few months ago I gave a lecture in Cordoba on the royal stables and on my way back to Malaga I told my nephew JosÈ, who had gone to Cordoba with me, that Cordoba was ready, one could say on the starting line, to formally claim the building. That is why that evening, when I got home, I wrote the letter you refer to. But I want to stress that the royal stables must be ceded to Cordoba not because Juan Carlos Altamirano says so, but because historically and culturally they belong to the city. The cession of this building by the Ministry of Defense to the City Hall will make up for the error committed in 1866 by the infante Francisco de Paula BorbÛn. This building must belong to the Andalusian heritage and particularly to Cordoba, because after being used by the crown, which was the reason why it was built, the Infante should have ceded it to the City Hall and not to the State.
 
Do you mean to say, then, that the period during which the royal stables were in the hands of the State was a negative one?
óFirst of all I should point out that the stables were and are still in the hands of the central administration. At present, and although negotiations
are underway, nothing has changed. Unfortunately, this emblematic building is being used as barter by the Ministry of Defense. I hope that this
situation will change as soon as possible, because that would be a sign that it will soon be open to the public. But just as I firmly demand that the
building be ceded to Cordoba, I want to point out the extraordinary work the Ministry of Defense has done in conserving the building and in managing the work of the Jefatura de CrÌa Caballar (military horse breeding), whose headquarters were here. At present the only thing I want is for the building to be ceded so that it can be opened to the public; Iím not interested in finding nonexistent culprits.
 
What would you propose the Ministry of Defense or the Cordoba City Council do with this building?
óI would tell the Ministry, just as I told the architect of Patrimonio (state property) 14 or 15 years ago, that the building has to be ceded to
Cordoba. I can tell you that the architect, after having heard the story of the royal stables and the reason why they were built, wanted to intervene in the project, but time and state bureaucracy, at times, put many feelings and good intentions to sleep.
Regarding the stables when they will be in local hands, I can tell you, as I mentioned before, that a few months ago I had the honor of meeting with the mayor of Cordoba, Ms Rosa Aguilar and with Mr. Rafael Blanco, and I fully agreed with the ideas the mayor presented regarding the future project.
There is no doubt that Ms Aguilar has sufficient capacity and negotiating ability to carry it out. But since you want to know my opinion, and given that it might be too long due to the large number of cultural and tourist activities the building can and should provide, I will simply say that the most important of all is the royal stables themselves. Everything that is done or planned in their name must have one sole purpose, which is to enhance them. They should never be eclipsed by anything done within these premises, but instead be highlighted.
 
What do you believe should be the role of the Jefatura de CrÌa Caballar in this process?
óI would like to see them pressure the Ministry into fulfilling a historical obligation; the unconditional transfer of the royal stables to the city of
Cordoba. I know many members of this institution and I know how interested they are in having the building open its doors to the public, because they are aware of its historic importance. But let us not forget that they are just simple observers in this process, since it is up to the Minister to
decide. As soon as he orders the cession of the building, the Jefatura de CrÌa Caballar would carry it out with pleasure. Furthermore, I think it will
participate in this possible Foundation and above all, that it will gladly cede, even if it is temporary, all of the carriages they have for the future
Carriage Museum that could be set up inside the stables. In short, I believe they will collaborate with this project.
 
And the associations of breeders of Spanish horses?
óI think that little by little they will realize what a great showcase the royal stables can become in the short term for our breed of horses and of
the economic and cultural benefits they can generate. The Association of Cordoba is aware of this and has started working along these lines. But I would like to add that this project extends beyond local boundaries and that the Spanish horse will greatly benefit from the royal stables. It is quite
ironic that people abroad have been aware of the importance of the project before those in Spain. The interest in this building and in its history
which exists abroad is far greater than what you might expect. For example last month I gave a lecture at the University of Gainsville in Florida and
at Afton in Viriginia. In my opinion this building should become the international center for our breed of horses. Unfortunately, the Spanish horse lacks a national marketing strategy to make it known. Although this might surprise us, the Spanish horse is not very well known, and it is our obligation to change that situation. The Ministry of Agriculture should prepare some documentaries about our breed of horses and distribute them to Spanish and foreign television channels. It would not be that expensive and the dissemination of the breed would greatly profit in a short period of time. I would like to take advantage of this occasion to publicly thank the American Foundation for the Pure Spanish Horse for the extraordinary work it has been carrying out for years to disseminate, in an altruistic manner, the Spanish pure breed. And not only in the United States; they have extended their project to Australia and Canada as well. I think the Ministry of Agriculture should reward this foundation for the work they are doing in favor of our horses.

 

THE FASHION OF EQUESTRIAN HISTORY
BARGAINS UP FOR GRABS
By Benito J. Tierz

(PURA RAZA  2001 May-Spain)

We all know that scientific knowledge is produced in a fairly simple manner. On the basis of the method used for this type of knowledge, research is
undertaken in a specific field. Once it is over, the results are published; other researchers, after reading the paper, and on the basis of the same
methodology, will propose their opinions and criticism of the new information. If this does not happen, the new knowledge generated shall be
taken as the valid scientific knowledge regarding the subject matter dealt with. Other researchers may continue to study issues raised by the new work,
as occurs with all scientific research. This is what is done in science, and the academics of the universities in Spain know it, or should know it.
Normally, one does not research what has already been studied, given that there are fields of modern and contemporary history which still have to be
clarified, and above all, when financial resources are limited. Whomever does that ñit is not usually done because you really have to be quite
daring- should never be the one to reveal the original research. It is obvious that people listening to such new information might come to
erroneous conclusions regarding the true authorís identity.


For this reason, we were greatly surprised at the beginning of the new millennium by something we read, or better yet, something we failed to read,
in the brochures announcing the next Symposium of the Opinion Forum (Jornadas del Foro de OpiniÛn). Surprised, if not puzzled, at not finding
Mr. Altamirano on the list of speakers at the Symposium. We were already puzzled at the last Symposium when the head of a university department of
contemporary history gave a lecture hours after the one given by author of ìHistory of the Carthusian Horseî, who is from Malaga. In his, the university professor said nothing which the latter had not said before and which we had earlier read in his book.


Perhaps the fact that the author of ìHistory and origins of the Spanish horseî and of ìHistory of the Carthusian Horseî is not on the list of speakers is because his fees are too high for the Forum and the organisers have had no other choice but to invite other speakers, who more than professionals look like beggars in search of tenure. Just as this journal spoke up several years ago (as I discover after going over back issues in which mention was made of the lack of academic rigour regarding geraniums and daisies), once again we are puzzled after seeing how some members of Andalusian universities try to make use of the work of a researcher who is in the limelight (Altamirano) when no one has invited them to do so, or stand in the centre of the stage to hear the round of applause for the revelations discovered by the author from Malaga, all in an attempt to recover a century gone by. Not that of the enlightenment, however, but rather that of the shadows, doubts and smiles provoked by the research of some representatives of our universities undertaken following the work published by Altamirano.
This Journal also spoke, through its director, of the anthropological and historical importance of this authorís work, who did not limit himself to
discovering the origins of one of the most important breeds in history, but who went further to show how the characters of the Spanish horse, like human
races, are not only the result of natural evolution but are mainly the product of our culture.


Well, curiously enough, a few days ago, just over two years after the publication of his first work of history, the results presented by
scientists researching the human genome confirm all of the hypotheses and theories upheld by this author. As he has published in his books, our
genetic differences, like those of the PRE (Spanish pure breed horse), are insignificant in relation to the cultural components which determine these differences.
We hope that all these propagandistic efforts on the part of some areas of our distinguished universities of the Forum for Opinions are intended to
reinforce Mr. Altamiranoís theses. This is what we would like to see happen, because if not, and we hate to say it, all of this looks like an intent to
minimise the importance of his work, which morally no one can deny.


However, should the latter be the case, we would be faced with the paradox of a private researcher, with limited resources, as is usually the case in
such situations, who has cast doubt on some sectors of Andalusian universities. Our intention is not to claim that research carried out in
these institutions lacks rigour and methodology; we are merely speaking of those who instead of researching, which is their obligation, spend their
time trying to attract the attention that only serious research can and must produce, but never by upstaging someone elseís work.
Given the success of his published work, Mr Altamirano has no need for this insincere and opportunistic acknowledgement from this or any other
university. We assume he knows, or we hope he does, that since he does not belong to corporate university circles he must not expect anything which
might hamper the prominence of such a distinguished institution. Those who do acknowledge the merits of this author are the thousands of readers all
over the world who have made his books the ìBibleî of the Spanish pure breed.


After a long conversation with the author, whose work we know well, we are sure that his only goal is to enhance knowledge regarding the Spanish horse,
and that he expects nothing from any kind of corporate body nor anything from the silent, undiscovered and inopportune scientific world.

 



"The Spanish horse: by and for a King"

Debrett´s Equestrian World. (England)

 

"A new study has revolutionised thinking about the origins of the Spanish breed."

 

Works on the origins of recent breeds of horses are many, but works on breeds originating before the modern world have been scant. Much is written on the Arab or the Spanish breeds, but legend has been used to pinpoint their creation. It has been written that the Arab breed comes from the mares of King Solomon; similary, legends have been created around the Spanish breed, and by repetition become considered historical "truth". These have been assimilated acritically and handed down, forming a complicated puzzle.

The history of Spanish Horse focuses on prehistory and on the Carthusian Monastery of Jerez de la Frontera in Cádiz. Its origins have been located in the former, attributing its morphology to natural selecion. Authors have attributed the conservation of the horse`s natural characteristics to the monks at Jerez de la Frontera.

This has recently been undermined by one of the first studies to analyse in depth the history of a breed of horses prior to the modern world. In History and Origin of the Spanish Horse: the Royal Stables of Córdoba, Juan Carlos Altamirano analyses documents on the result of a decision by King Felipe II of Spain (1527-1598) to obtain a horse with the perfect equid morphology prescribed in Classical antiquity by Simón de Atenas, Jenofonte, Columella and San Isidoro de Sevilla. Three basic parameters were kepre kept in mind: nobility, beauty and high movement. Nobility because the breed was for the King. Beauty was a basic element in the transformation of aesthetic taste in Renaissance society. With the change from warring Medieval nobility to Renaissance court came a change from rough, heavy Medieval horses to the beautiful and impressive horses of the horse was sought for the first time, and was achieved by obtaining morphological characteristics. Horses were selected with high movements to exalt the figure of the horseman, and which could perform airs of the highest schools, like prancing, raised and settled movements, passages and piaffes with unprecedented beauty.

This study clarifies some interesting questions - for example, that the morphology characterising the Spanish Horse is not a whim of nature, but the culmination of a project devised by and for a king. There is a key period in the breed`s creation, between 1567, when Felipe II began the project, opening the world`s first horse breed Register, and 1625, when the breed became fashionable worldwide. In books prior to Altamirano`s, this period appears confused and the only discernible statement is about its interbreeding with the Neapolitan in 1600. Yet this is refuted by Altamirano; the Spanish Horse was not crossed, but the Neapolitan was of Spanish origin, since Spanish mares and sires were taken from Córdoba. Later, because of their supposed origin (Naples), they were called Neapolitan.

Altamirano shows the Sapanish Horse`s morphology was not a product of nature, but the culmination of a project. One morphological characteristic here is decisive - the dapple-grey coat. According to Altamirano`s Spanish Equestrian Dictionary, this is "one that horses of several shades have, and in time turns white." Most horses of the Spanish breed have this. The first reason is genetic - the gene that determines it is dominat. The second is more significant historically: the breed was conceived in the XVI century around this coat, because scientific thoght was then based on the Classical Greek doctrine of "humours" - all creatures being composed of four elements; water,fire, air and earth. In each, one element is predominat, with corresponding qualities which determine physical form and temperament. Water produces good harvests. "water" animals would be generous and noble - ideal for a king. Fire confers a reddish coat (sorrel). These were rejected as too irascible.

The Spanish Horse is one of the most noble animals in existence. This is not by chance, but because nobility was always kept in mind in the selection of this breed. This search for nobility was passed down, and has become an identifying characteristic. We can define the Spanish Horse as the idealisation of a horse in the human subconscious, with all the possible virtues of an equid.

 


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