Turnout across Europe was low, but not so in the Spanish village of Castrillo Matajudíos, where just about every eligible voter took part in the European election.
They had a particular reason to show up: they were also voting on a change to their village name, which literally translates as “Killjews”.
It was close, but by a margin of 29 to 19, residents opted for Mota de Judios (Hill of the Jews).
“When the change is approved I think it will be a turning point,” said the mayor [Lorenzo Rodriguez], who led the movement to change names and had threatened to resign if residents disagreed. The decision should bring an end to the embarrassment of locals, who frequently found themselves trapped into giving awkward explanations to outraged outsiders.
“When you travel elsewhere, you always have to explain, because people say, ‘You kill Jews in Castrillo’,” Rodriguez, told AFP. “It makes no sense because we are descended from a Jewish community. We have a star of David on our coat of arms.”
He said the town, which lies near the city of Burgos, was born in 1035 as a safe haven to a persecuted Jewish community, which settled on a hill, or Mota, in the area.
It is widely believed that was it its name before about 400 years ago, when it changed after a “spelling mistake in an official register”, explains Jeff Wiseman at Trans-Iberian, an English-language blog for the Spanish newspaper El Pais, published before the result.
While the locals’ enthusiasm for change is entirely understandable, a number of other Spanish places might have pause for though, says Wiseman.
As far as killing is concerned, Castrillo Matajudíos is certainly not alone, and a number of other places can thrust their sword into the body of contention. La Matanza, near Alicante, means ‘the slaughter’, originating from ancient battles that were fought in the area. There are also the villages of Matamorosa and Matarrepudio, both south of Santander. Regardless of origins, morosa can mean ‘in arrears or slow to pay’, whilst repudio means ‘repudiation’ – the refusal to acknowledge or pay a debt. Should you wish to visit, avoiding any financial difficulties may be a good idea. Matalobos del Páramo, in Castilla y León, basically means ‘kill the wolves of the plain’, whilst Asturias veers from killing to death with the villages of La Degollada and El Pozo de las Mujeres Muertas. The first translates as ‘a woman with her throat cut’, although it actually refers to a cut or pass in the landscape, whilst the second means ‘the well of the dead women’. The good news is that Mujeres Muertas seems to have originated due to terrain and linguistic changes, so don’t worry too much about the local water supply.
Then there’s the town “where residents are fed up with the sign for their village being stolen”: Villapene (Penistown).
And an ice-cream advertising campaign recently promoted Triste (Sad) as “the most joyous [village] in Spain”. But it hasn’t caught on. “The population has fallen from 399 in 1941 to around 12 today.”
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