In my personal "Quest for the Best" I rode 400 km from Madrid with my Harley-Davidson chasing a rumor in classic Ribera de Curtidores* street in Madrid where I used to get the leather for any use in my garments as back waist leather patches in jeans or other details.
*Ribera de Curtidores means Bank/riverside of tanners. Until the end of the 15th century, the old tanners' guild was located in the Caños del Peral, in the current Plaza de Isabel II. In 1495 the Catholic Monarchs promoted their transfer to both the Ribera de Curtidores and the Cuesta de San Lázaro, located, the latter, in the vicinity of the Cuesta de la Vega.
The Ribera de Curtidores runs almost parallel to the street of Toledo, from where the cattle entered through the homonymous door to the slaughterhouses. The sacrifice of the animals generated as a by-product a large quantity of skins, which were transformed into leather by tanning them.
The street appears mentioned in the year 1635 with the name of the Tenerías, establishments dedicated to the manufacture and commercialization of the leather, that were working in the zone until the beginning of the XXth century. In addition to this guild, there were many others who chose to settle in the vicinity of the Ribera de Curtidores, such as clothes racks, shoe manufacturers and, since the 19th century, antique shops and auctions, which are at the origin of the Rastro market.
The rumor of an artisan using traditional methods, still tanning leather as his great-grandfather use to and in still in the same warehouse, where he indeed born, with the same tools.
tanning with plant extracts of trees with a large amount of tannin, such as: the quebracho, the mimosa, the acacia and formerly the oak.
No deception when I get to the small town in middle of the province of León, in north of Castilla León.
The craftsman himself introduce me to the ancient methods and told me the process begins with the salting of the raw material, in order to preserve the skin.
After salting, the skin must be hydrated, for which the riparian process is used, submerging the skin in water.
After these previous processes, the skin is introduced into the tanning drums, where the actual tanning takes place. In these drums the skins are introduced next to a series of plant extracts of trees, making an ecological tanning, because the use of natural products that are not polluting at all.
Important work is the greasing of the skins already tanned, making it traditionally, by hand with a natural hair brush, giving each skin its specific lubrication, differentiated by the thickness of the skin.
His leather having more oiling than the ordinary, is the so-called English type.
The skin is stretched by hand with wooden and metal stretches (bronze and steel).
The drying of the skin is done in the corridors of the factory, being a completely natural drying. The ink, for dyeing the skins, is made with a formula that has been passed from parents to children, which makes it have unique characteristics, is one of the secrets of this alchemy.
"The finishing of the leather are also unique and differentiate us from the other tanners"
- he proudly told me.
Might be a few tanners around the globe with a preceded fame, like Cordovan in Italy (name comes from the ancient horse skin leathers very famous in southern Spanish province of Cordoba) or Horween in the U.S.A. but my friend Genaro, is the best of the infamous, as you could see in this graphic report, and best proof if you have the chance to get one of my products make of his natural tanned, using traditional methods and all natural ingredients, cow skin, goat skin or shell cordovan.