¿Where does the term “Maragato” come from? What does it mean? ¿Where are the Maragato people from?
Magarateria is a region in Leon, and its capital is Astorga (the Roman Asturica Augusta). In the old times, its name was La Somoza, which means “below the mount” (“sub-montia”). It is not until the 15th Century that the mule drivers started to be named as “Maragatos”.
There are several explanations for the origin of this name, starting from the 17th Century, when the Benedictine monk Fray Sarmiento wrote in his manuscript “Astorga: description of the Maragateria” that the group comes from “people from Mauritania or Cartago”, devoted to trade and, persecuted by the Romans, went to take shelter in the Astorga mountains, and hence they were named as “Maurellos” or “Mourellos”.
Another version comes from the “baragas” or “maragas” that they used as clothes. They are but knickers or pants, but not the current ones. In ancient times, pants were men’s clothes; we still use the expression “he is a man with his pants properly worn” or brave, when we refer to the men’s parts of the body covered by the pants. And let us not forget the “bragueta” or fly in the men’s trousers.
Also, there are references to the Latin term “mauri capti” (captive or captured Moors), supposedly coming from a Berber origin. However, the North African or Berber origin would be discarded, after the study Mitochondrial DNA characterisation of European isolates: the Maragatos from Spain. Larruga JM, Diez F, Pinto FM, Flores C, Gonzalez AM.
And the last hypothesis comes from Laureano Rubio, professor at University of Leon, according to whom, the term comes from the transportation of salted fish carried out by the mule drivers of this area from Galicia to Madrid, that is, “from the sea to the Cats” (“desde el mar a los gatos”), because the people who are born in Madrid are nicknamed as “Gatos”. So hence we have the origin of “mar a gato” or “maragatos”.
The regional costume of the Maragato men reminds me of the clothes worn by the Gauchos from Argentina – they were really wearing peculiar pants.
Source : Mentescuriosas.es