During the last quarter of the 19th century Santiago was still an economically depressed town, where the well-off lived comfortably on their private income, turning the back to the changes that were driving Europe towards progress.
At that time, the upper social classes, the landowning nobility, the clergy and the bourgeoisie used to show off in theatres, in the Casino’s yellow lounge and in their theatre box. Walking in Alameda Park was another social activity. Here, the richest families avoided getting mixed up with other people. For that purpose, they used separate walkways. Upper-class people strolled along the central one, while artisans and lower-class people did so along the side walkways. The upper walkway was reserved for clergymen, widows and the elderly. Students were allowed to use any of the walkways. This activity was of such social significance that Easter strolls were used by young ladies as a way of coming out.
Every Thursday, the park also received the visit of the cattle market, with animals and dealers coming from neighbouring areas. These used to stop under the trees to eat octopus taken out of steamy pots. Such a festive tradition is still present in the big wheel, stalls and the dance marquee set up along the paths and meadows during Carnival, the Feast of the Ascension (the sixth Thursday after Easter) or on St. James’ Day (July 25th).
Nowadays, we can walk anywhere in Alameda Park at any time, without any protocol, strolling along the Central Walkway, the Paseo de la Herradura, the Paseo de las Letras Gallegas, the oak grove and the Santa Susana chapel. All together they form the “most beautiful and noble park and walk in Spain,” in the words of the Galician essay writer Otero Pedrayo.
An odd figure welcomes visitors as they go through the Porta Faxeira entrance. It is the sculpture of The Two Marias, made by César Lombera, which depicts two very popular women in 20th-century Santiago. They were two sisters, who worked as seamstresses, and wore flashy clothes and exaggerated make-up on their daily walk, always catching the attention of other pedestrians. However, their appearance masked a tragic story of repression that took place during the harshest years of post-war Spain.
Now we invite you to discover for yourselves the attractions of this park full of camellias, old oaks, sturdy eucalyptus trees, modernist pavilions, chapels, fountains and statues of different Galician figures, but not before giving you the following piece of advice. Walking along the Paseo de los Leones, among the branches of the oak and elm trees, you will discover a beautiful postcard view of the old town and the great cathedral, one that has been photographed on countless occasions and that will stay in your memory forever.