Hospitality is the raison d’etre of a hotel. Taking in travelers and not making them feel like strangers.
From time immemorial there have been nomads, pilgrims, travelers. All have needed to stop along the way and recover their energy, protect themselves from the cold, eat or rest. And ever since that time hospitality has existed, as well as those who have provided it, as though they were two sides of the same coin.
If traveling is enriching, how enriching must it be to take in travelers?
The Camino de Santiago during the Middle Ages was a channel through which knowledge and new artistic concepts expanded throughout Southern Europe. Monasteries and inns were places where at the end of each day information and experiences were exchanged between pilgrims and hosts.
The Camino has been the seed of cultural transmission.
The deserts of Arabia, with their Bedouin caravans ending up in towns that practised a form of hospitality called Majlis, were for centuries a connection between the East and the West.
In Japan, they called hospitality Omotenashi and they elevated it to an art form. Foreseeing the needs of travelers and satisfying them before being asked. A pleasure in which intuition, generosity and concentration converts hospitality into a philosophy of life in which the protagonist is the person that gives it.
Beyond the world of pilgrims and merchants, tourism has trivialized the nature of travel, reducing it to a map with pins marking the countries visited or using it to personalize posts on Instagram with infinitely repeated photographs.
And still there exist interior journeys where the destination is oneself. Journeys designed to let us disappear for a few days from daily life. Journeys to immerse oneself in the natural world and disconnect. Feel like a pilgrim at the end of the journey or a Bedouin upon arrival at an oasis, or a guest in a Japanese ryokan where one can discover Omotenashi.
Torre Mayorazgo wants to be a destination hotel where the qualities that stand out are freedom, the lack of schedules, diversity and respect. Where a bond of affection can emerge with those who visit us.
Villatoro (Ávila) is not the centre of the Earth.
It is not Silicon Valley nor the City of London, and not even the port of Shanghai. Here decisions are not made that govern the world.
And yet there was a time when in these lands the greatest social and cultural change know to humanity originated along with the changes occasioned earlier by the Roman Empire.
The Kingdom of Castille, during the Trastamara dynasty (1369-1516), brought about a colossal political and social transformation that resulted, politically, in the greatest empire that had existed in the world and, culturally, in the Renaissance.
Nowhere like Castille was there so much contribution to the globalization of language, religion and culture in the isolated and fragmented world of the Middle Ages.
Alphonse XI of Castille established the hereditary estate of Villatoro (the Mayorazgo de Villatoro) in the year 1328. It was the time of the Reconquest in which power was solidified by creating feudal structures where a feudal lord and his subjects assured peace and enforcement of legal order.
Leonor de Guzmán, one of the most fascinating women in Spanish history, was the lover of Alphonse XI, with whom she had ten children. She never tried to replace his legitimate wife for political reasons and despite being in a corner of the gameboard she was able to position all of her children well, and one of them even rose to be King.
Donizzetti in the 19th Century dedicated an opera to that King entitled “The Favorite”.
With Henry II the dynasty of Burgundy ended and that of Trastamara began and held power until 150 years later Charles I, of the House of Augsburg, inherited the Spanish Empire and the Holy Roman Empire.
150 years in which Castille, a small Christian kingdom in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, became the political and cultural power that unleashed the Renaissance which marked the end of the Middle Ages and began a new era of world progress in which feudal power disappeared.
Today there exists a revisionist world view that tries to erase the history of the Kingdom of Castille without anyone rising to its defence.
Statues of Columbus are taken down or statues of Father Juniper Serra are defaced for the benefit of an asymetrical justice that does not treat all historical figures equally.
Why when a statue of Columbus is taken down do they not erect in the same place a statue of Isabel the Catholic? Perhaps it was not she who jailed Columbus for his excesses with indigenous peoples? Perhaps it was not she who liberated the slaves that the Genoan had brought? Perhaps it was not she who, in her will, proclaimed her defence of the indigenous?
And once Isabel had died, perhaps it was not during the reign of Ferdinand, in Valladolid, where the first documents were written that centuries later were given the title “Human Rights”. Long days of debate to clarify the limits of the rights of the victor over the conquered.
Castille never reclaimed recognition or glory for its achievements. That dynasty that made it great did not even have a fixed seat of government. It was always austere and when the kingdom transformed into a colossal empire, Castille was quietly diluted within it. Even though it housed the Court, the riches that arrived from those conquered worlds passed in the end to Flanders and Italy and just the same Castille continued paying with taxes for the imperial wars while it sank into poverty.
Nevertheless, history would have been different if the Comuneros in their attempt to control the King had been able to impose the Perpetual Law or the Constitution of Ávila that they wrote in their cathedral in the summer of 1520.
A law that could not be abrogated by the King and that obligated him to be subject to parliamentary control in the exercise of power. The first parliamentary constitution in history. The first text that limited the control of a king over his people. The reason why Charles I ordered the original to be burned and then, after winning in Villalar, executed the ringleaders.
And with them, the end of a great kingdom. There began the history of Spain which also is our history, but is a different history.
Villatoro (Ávila) is located in the heart of that kingdom. The castle that today houses Torre Mayorazgo was constructed by order of Alphonse XI, and Saint Theresa of Jesus lived there in her youth. Camilo José Cela wrote about it in his book Jews, Moors and Christians. It has been witness to many historical events. To the struggles of the proprietors (comuneros), to the Spanish Armada, to the War of Independence and later to the emptying out of the Spanish interior.
We are sons of those austere people that never amassed fortunes and nevertheless demonstrated greatness in changing the world and leading it out of barbarism.
living without leaving a trace
At Torre Mayorazgo we believe that we can enjoy life without bothering our neighbor.
The human neighbor who works the land for sustenance. The animal neighbor that lives free and needs a virgin ecosystem. And the future neighbor who has not yet been born and who someday will want to enjoy the same landscape.
Villatoro has some municipal ordinances that date back to 1503.
These are ordinances that today we would characterise as ecological. They govern the times when livestock may be pastured, the manner of cutting firewood in the forest for heating in winter, hunting and the sustainable exploitation of the forest.
The truth is that for 500 years this has been successful because today the forest is still standing and some of those ordinances are still followed.
Now it is our turn to assume responsibility.
Receiving travelers required that we also accept the obligation not to destroy that which we have inherited. We must live without leaving a trace so that future generations may also enjoy our natural environment.
This is nothing grandiose. Others before us have done so without even thinking about doing otherwise.
We use heat pumps to heat and cool our installations. We buy “green” electricity and in the not too distant future we will ourselves produce electricity with photovoltaic panels.
We source our food ingredients sensibly. That is, whenever we can, we choose local products that are in season.
These days we have a small garden and a henhouse with 25 chickens. This is not sufficient but it sets the direction in which we want to go.
Purchases of food stuffs are, mostly, regional. If this is not possible, we resort to the national market and in a limited number of instances to the international market.
We do not refuse to eat fish or use spices from Asia but neither do we require products to be shipped capriciously so that they can be consumed in a hemisphere different from the one from which they came. This is a road we want to follow until supply and demand end up coexisting naturally.