My Disappearing Landscape


My landscape is a patchwork of land plots and a house. Twenty years ago, I received an inheritance consisting of land and a house. In northwest Spain the land was surprising in that the 12 properties were not contiguous or of a similar size a rational shape, also, and some plots had small parcels inside the limits of my property that belonged to someone else. This someone else had the right to access his/her property by entering through mine.

Of the many issues that I encountered since the legacy, none intrigued me more than how the shape of my land became so. It took me a long time to find a clue and even longer to decipher the clue into a semblance of the story of my landscape. In a nutshell, I found out that in 1743 an ancestor of mine, Sebastian Almuiña, had participated in a compulsory Census of Properties, the Census of Ensenada, that required him to declare his possessions including land, home, cattle, vineyards and the like. The purpose was to provide information about a tax base for King Philip who was going broke.

To tell the story of the landscape, I made a textile that shows Sebastian Almuiña in the process of completing the census in 1743; it includes the pages of the historical document listing all the properties. At that time, he owned a larger estate than the one that passed on to me. I still have much work to do to follow the land as it went from Sebastian to my other great grand’s but that is fodder for another story.

The second part of the landscape shows my 12 properties surrounded by some of the properties that due to division through inheritance and sales do not belong to us, it looks like a puzzle.

The Almuiña farm is quite diminished from 1743; however, the house that Sebastian owned then is still in the family. The house is called Cima de Vila, where I spend part of the year.