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Gijón’s heritage of whaling and sardines

On the marina, overlooking the old wholesale fish market or “Rula”, in the neighbourhood of Cimavilla, you can find two of the most charming spots in the city. Two streets that virtually merge into each other. We are speaking about the streets called Transito de las ballenas [Whales’ Passage], which heads up to Santa Catalina Headland and Cuesta’l Cholo [Cholo’s Hill], heading up to the Chapel of Solitude.

cholo Gijón’s heritage of whaling and sardines

This is one of the most popular areas in town, very much frequented by the local residents of Cimavilla, known as playos, as well as by other residents of Gijón and visitors alike. It is a perfect scenic balcony to relax while watching the sun set over the harbour, sheltered from the northeasterly winds. Above all, it is a great spot –weather permitting– to bask in the sun while enjoying the street life and some cider.

Cuesta del Cholo2 225x300 Gijón’s heritage of whaling and sardinesThe name “Cuesta’l Cholo” was brought back by the emigrants returning from the Americas and the street has gone by that name since then, its previous name being Canto de la Riba [Song of the Shore]. But who was Cholo?

Maybe he was the mestizo who led to this name originating from Peru taking roots in the local vernacular. Or perhaps there never was any so-called “Cholo” and it was simply due to a joke or the wit of the sailors of the time. It might also be something as dear to us as the Asturian diminutive for Manuel. It was here where, before the disappearance of the old fish market, the local women selling sardines in Gijón’s streets hoisted baskets of fish onto their heads, crying out “Hay sardinas!” [Sardines for sale! (Alive Alive Oh)], one of our very own traditions that can still be seen in bars and restaurants in the area, where painstaking seafood cuisine forms part of its essence.

Transito de las ballenas is so named because it was where the whales that were brought ashore were cut up. A past marked by a busy seafaring life. Even the names of the premises that stand there today recall the area’s past: El Mercante [The Merchant Ship], El Planeta [The Planet] and, of course, Las Ballenas [The Whales]. This same past is reflected in the Sea Tableaux on show in the Jovellanos Birthplace Museum.

Without a doubt, these curiosities mark our character. So now you know; when you next come to Gijón, don’t forget to take a stroll among these old histories of whaling and sardines.

 

 

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