The Maragato Crafts Center is located in the small village of Santa Colomba de Somoza, in the historical region of la Maragateria.

Residents of this remote region of Spain are known as Maragatos, and they are believed to be the last living decedents of the North African Berbers who arrived in Iberia in the eighth century. Unlike other Moorish groups who assimilated to Spanish culture after the Christian Reconquista in the 15th century, the agrarian Maragatos isolated themselves in the hills outside of León, and thus retained their own distinct identity. Women were known for their colorful head coverings and oversized jewelry, and houses were made of stone and featured doors large enough for wagons to pass through. The Maragatos were extremely successful traders for hundreds of years, but as Spain began to modernize in the 19th century, the Maragatos’ rural way of life fell out of favor and the younger generations began emigrating to larger towns where work was more readily available. Today, the population of the Maragatería region has dwindled to just 4,000 people—and around 200 of those remaining Maragatos can be found in Santa Colomba de Somoza.

A new foundation partner, the Maragato Crafts Center was founded in 2019.  The center strives to keep traditional Maragato handicrafts alive by offering training programs to young people from Spain and beyond. From woodcarving, to leather work, and pottery, young craftspeople become masters of their trade, developing income-generating skills and keeping local culture alive. By attracting ambitious students to Santa Colomba, the center hopes to breathe life into a dying city.

Our initial donation funded the purchase of tools and scholarships for lower income students.