December 2, 2021

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What is “liquid gold” hidden in the forests of Spain? The world

In the provinces A treasure has disappeared from Sekovia, Avila and Valladolid.

There, between Tierra de Pinares and Sierra de Gredos, an area of ​​400,000 hectares stretches towards the dense forested mountains of resin pine trees.

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The forest is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, sheltered from the hot Spanish sun and lined with trails.

If you go and look closely at the right time, you will see the workmen doing next to the trunks of the trees. The “liquid gold” collection of pine is a centuries-old tradition.

Emerging market

Pine resin has been used by different civilizations for thousands of years.

In Spain and much of the Mediterranean, it was used for waterproof vessels, for the treatment of burns, and for lighting.

Susanna Crane.

But according to Alejandro Sozas, a professor of forestry at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, pine resin extraction did not become profitable in the Spanish region in the 19th and 20th centuries.

When technology and industrialization helped to convert thick sap into plastic, varnish, adhesives, tires, rubber and food additives in the mid-19th century, dense forest owners Pinus Finaster Castilla y Leon saw an opportunity.

Workers began cutting strips of resin pine throughout the area Collect valuable juice.

Although this slow process has stalled in most parts of the world, the last decade has seen a renaissance Castilla y Leon is the largest resin manufacturer in Europe And this practice is one of the last on the continent to continue.

Today, many families in the area proudly display their relatives' old pine resin extraction tools and photos. "Bleeding" To the trees.  (SUSANA GIRÓN).
Today, many families in the area proudly display photos of their relatives “bleeding” on old pine resin extractors and trees. (SUSANA GIRÓN).

“From death to life”

Mariano Gomez was born in Avila and worked for 32 years in pine resin extraction.

“My father was a resin maker and I learned from him. At first I used wood-cutting axes, but my hands ached a lot. Today the tools for every task are well-designed, (but still) they are manual, ”he explained.

The extraction process was maintained Practically unchanged Since the beginning of this industry, but today’s resin manufacturers have developed highly efficient and ergonomic tools and chemicals that stimulate resin secretion.

As a result, yields and productivity are greatly improved.

Used to make thick, milky-white juice, plastic, varnish, glue, tires, rubber and food additives.  (SUSANA GIRÓN).
Used to make thick, milky-white juice, plastic, varnish, glue, tires, rubber and food additives. (SUSANA GIRÓN).

What has changed, though, is that in the past, resin extraction from trees was more likely to “die” using more aggressive methods.

But, there has been a change to “life” for some time, with the practice of reducing the damage to the wood and reducing the number of scratches on the bark.

“Bleeding” in trees

During the warmer months from March to November, local farmers first carefully extract the resin from the pine trees by removing the outer layer of the bark.

They nail a holder and place the collection container. The pullers then use their axes to make diagonal incisions in the bar “Bleeding” of trees And leak into your adhesive bucket. When they are filled, the juice is poured into 200 kg containers.

The adhesive extraction procedure and tools were passed down from generation to generation.  (SUSANA GIRÓN).
The adhesive extraction procedure and tools were passed down from generation to generation. (SUSANA GIRÓN).

Manufacturers send the material to distillation plants, which extract turpentine from the resin, which has a viscous, yellowish appearance, which solidifies when cooled and turns into polished amber stones.

Local pride

During the boom in pine resin extraction in Spain in 1961, when 55,267 tons were extracted, more than 90% came from the Castilla o Leon forest.

Many thought that demand and a sharp fall in prices would reduce production in the 1990s and almost disappear. The end of this Spanish tradition.

In Castilla y Lyon, the resin is not only an economic support to rural communities, but also a trade passed down from generation to generation.

Susanna Crane.
Susanna Crane.

In many families at least one person has participated in the “blood” in the trees or their filtration.

Most of the economic and social activities in these cities have always been marked by the adhesive industry and the communities maintain this tradition as an important part of their culture.

Environmental alternative to oil?

According to various studies, at the current extraction rate, Earth’s oil reserves are expected to decline by 2050.

Blanca Rodríguez-Chaves, vice dean of the law school at the Autonomous University of Madrid and an expert on environmental policy, believes resin may be an alternative.

He argues that most petroleum-based materials, such as plastics, for example, are non-biodegradable and are made of resin and break down very easily.

“Resin is the oil of the world of today and the future. The idea is that all applications of oil are replaced by resin, “he said.

Some Spanish experts say it may be an alternative to pine resin oil.  (SUSANA GIRÓN).
Some Spanish experts say it may be an alternative to pine resin oil. (SUSANA GIRÓN).

“Plastic is already made from resin. (It is used) In addition to its applications in the field of cosmetics and pharmaceutical construction or in the manufacture of varnishes and pastes. The forest is a major supplier of renewable resources and energy This allows for the conversion of petroleum products. Resin plays an important role, ”he assured.

Rural income

Pine resin supporters also hope it can deliver Solution to rural exodus from Spain.

According to the Bank of Spain, 42% of the country’s population is underdeveloped because more and more young people are leaving the countryside in search of better jobs in cities.

The phenomenon has intensified in Castilla y Lyon, where 80% of the municipalities in the 14 provinces are considered “at risk of extinction”.

However, due to the new interest in pine resin, Some young people are starting to come back.

Susanna Crane.
Susanna Crane.

Guillermo Arons is one of them. He lives and works in Cuéllar (Segovia) and is the fourth generation resin worker in his family.

Pine forest is my office And I have the opportunity to continue working in the place where I was born. What I like most about my work is the freedom without an employer, of course, direct contact with nature and my people, ”he said.

Vicente Rodríguez works as a resin maker in his hometown of Casavieja and is one of about 30 resin makers in Avila.

“We are few. People are still amazed when they see us pine trees. They think we are the past. But they do not understand that the future of these areas is connected with resin,” he said.

When Isabel Jimenez started the resin mine three years ago, men thought it would only last a few weeks.  (SUSANA GIRÓN).
When Isabel Jimenez started the resin mine three years ago, men thought it would only last a few weeks. (SUSANA GIRÓN).

Isabel Jimenez was one of the few women to extract pine resin from the area. Considering the rigor of the work, women’s work has traditionally been limited to supportive tasks.

“I still remember when I started picking up the resin and the men joked and raced about how many weeks it would last. Here I am after three years. I am a physically strong woman. Besides a lifestyle and a source of income for me, This is my kingdom. My little land on earth ”.

Autonomy in work and tourism

Almost 95% of pine resin extraction in Spain is done in Castilla y Lyon, and Arans and Rodriguez believe that the best way to preserve this ancient forest is to give extra control to the extractors.

“The future is to allow resin manufacturers to manage their own territory. If the government helps us in exchange for cleaning or monitoring the mountains, we will work throughout the year and there will be many more resin workers to work in the mountains,” Rodriguez said.

Susanna Crane.
Susanna Crane.

By attracting more young people to live and work in these rural cities, Rodriguez hopes to see an increase in the region. Eco-tourism.

To help make this a reality, the resin-rich region of the Titar Valley (Avila) was recently recommended as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are many museums where visitors can see the traditional rooms where the first workers slept and appreciate the antique instruments, and many companies offer guided tours of “Ruta de la Resina”.

On weekends, this lush forest is filled with the footsteps of tourists fleeing the hustle and bustle of nearby towns.

But if you pay attention, you can ask The fall of Spain’s “liquid gold” When falling into buckets hanging from tree trunks.

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