The village of Almagro has things that makes it interesting and one that makes it exceptional. But let’s start with the first ones.
According to some evidence found, this place was already, in the Bronze Age, a human settlement. We also know that the Romans were here too, as usual in the history of Spain.
Later, in Medieval times, Almagro was joined by the Order of Calatrava and alternated between periods of vigour and those of decadence. The first ones left in the village palaces, noble houses and a magnificent group of churches, hermitages and monasteries. In all that splendour, the mark of characters such as the Fugger was left here. They were famous German bankers who obtained benefits and privileges in this place, thanks to the financial hardships of King Carlos V. The Church of San Blas, for example, was erected with the money of those Germans.
Also from those times there is an interesting Plaza Mayor, with arcades and galleries, in which until 1785 bullfights were held. A few decades later, a bullfighting ring was built, from which an expression well known in the bullfighting world would emerge: to look worse than Cagancho in Almagro. Cagancho was a bullfighter who, in 1927, ran away from the bull in the Almagro ring and was fined, therefore, with the equivalent of a euro and a half. And it seems that the place was a bit jinxed because, only five years later, a very angry crowd would end up setting it in fire after the cancelation of a bullfight.
But as we were saying at the beginning, in the middle of the twentieth century something happened that changed the town: they discovered a courtyard theatre (corral de comedias) from the seventeenth century which, once restored, was going to become the greatest treasure of Almagro and its true hallmark. You can look for another one like it, but you will not find it; so, save some time to see it.
In the Spanish Golden Century, the theatre shows were performed in the courtyards of inns, and all plays were called comedies, even if they were dramas. The men saw them standing in the yard and the women in a corridor called cazuela, in front of the stage. They weren’t allowed to mixed, except in the side corridors occupied by VIP spectators. There was also a person in charge of keeping order with a large stick, just in case someone got out of control.
The hygienic conditions of these comedy corrals were not very good, and also with all the wood and cloths, the danger of fire was always a hazard, so they ended up being banned in the eighteenth century. The one in Almagro, which had been running since 1629, returned to be an inn and its original aspect was hidden under later constructions.
In the fifties of last century, as we were saying, this relic came to light just by chance, and nowadays is the centre of the Almagro International Classical Theatre Festival which aspires to be recognised as a World Heritage Site. That’s quite a thing!