FIRM AND SURE STEP
They smell of esparto, materials are noble and ecological: cotton, flax and vegetable fibres. Their manufacturing process is still entirely handmade in Els Ports. It's a job that passes through several hands: they start by plaiting the vegetable fibre, in the past the used hemp, and then the jute and the esparto. Once the esparto is plaited, with pita fibre, the "solero" (the man who makes the sole of the shoes) warps the braid in his wooden bench with the thread in order to make the sole. There were other people who sew the sole; cutters who profit the pieces of cotton from the models; aparadoras, who stitch these pieces of cotton and cerqueras, who connect them to the sole. The esparto and the needle are essential elements for some villages as Els Ports. La Mata has maintained the medieval trade, that was very important, a few decades ago, in other villages as Villores, La Todolella or Forcall
The espadrille has been the shoe of the rural people throughout the centuries. It has been produced in many national territories introducing some differences on them: Catalan espadrilles, esparto shoes from Aragón, Castilian espadrilles, Castellón, Valencia, etc. Each region has its traditions when producing the piece of cotton that protected the foot, in the back heel and the colourful ribbons that were used to make this shoe. The espadrilles from Els Ports were also designed for traditional festivals, especially in Catalonia, Aragón and in the Valencian Community. They are a key element of the festive costumes of the former Crown of Aragon and they are still a demanded product. It should also be noted that familiar factories, such as La Mata, produce clothing and shoes for famous designers, who ask them to make these espadrilles that are becoming very popular in fashion. They have suffered an evolution, as they have integrated platforms and high heels, cotton of all kinds of colours, different designs and creations adapted to the traditional crossed ribbons style of the sandal.
The esparto is used to make this product and it comes Egypt and the Eastern Europe. It is worked and sewn by hand with ecological materials, such as cotton, linen, silk or leather to cover the soles of plaited bands of esparto. The manufacture of the espadrille is closely linked to the orography as the hemp must be soaked before being washed; and this is why La Mata, Todolella, Villores or Forcall, villages located near the rivers Cantavieja and Bergantes, have kept this traditional profession of the shoemaker, the espardenyer. However, we lost a lot of these trades. In La Mata, the first written reference of this business dates back to 1691 and in this village, which still produces handmade crafts, you can visit the factory and buy traditional and modern espardenyes. In Morella, you can buy this type of espadrilles in different stores.