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The primitive ice industry
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On top of the classical exploitation of the wood resources, the pasture and water in the district, some inhabitants from Manzanares el Real and Navacerrada used to take advantage of the snow and ice that would accumulate in all places exposed to blizzards. At the beginning of the 18th Century, is when the icefield became a prosperous business for the district towns. The city of Madrid demanded light refreshments and ice to keep food so some snowfields were exploited such as Ventisquero (snowdrift) de la Condesa, Ventisquero del Ratón and Ventisquero de la Estrada, leading to a new profession, the “neveros”, maintained for three centuries.

The first nevero in the region seemed to be Pablo Xarquies from Guadarrama, converting his occupation in a real industry. Granted by a privilege from king Felipe III, he was possessed with the exploitation and snow selling rights from the icefields of the Sierra, taking advantage of it as he founded the Casa Arbitrio de la Nieve y Hielos, Snow & Ice House of Arbitration (1608-1863), located at calle Alta de Fuencarral in Madrid, as a warehouse with five huge wells of the snow and ice that would come from Guadarrama.

Though Xarquies initially exploited the Ventisquero del Ratón in el Hueco de San Blas (Soto del Real), sometimes the scarceness and sometimes the higher demand made put into use other icefields as Algodón, Estrada and Guaramillas (known as the Condesa, after the Countess of El Real de Manzanares). This industry required the building of new paths for horses to gain access to the icefields, but it also benefits the building of the way that would communicate Villalba with La Granja Palace, via el Puerto (Pass of) de Navacerrada as it eases the access to some of he icefields, together with the transport to Madrid and the Royal Places.

The snow and ice work started in April and May covering the neveros with straw to avoid and wind, but it wasn’t until summer when many workers left behind their usual chores to become neveros or snowdrift workers, going up with their mules at dusk to directly pick up the snow from places exposed to blizzards, where they would start their trip to Madrid by dawn in carriages covered with skins in order to avoid the ice to melt. The harsh journey could last for two days and a half, to get to the capital city where the ice was unloaded and sold in blocks for the cafes and to supply refreshments, ice creams and lemonades.

This neveros business in the district happened until the end of the 19th century, when the company disappeared, because of the competitiveness of the exploitation of this business in the Alto Lozoya Valley, as they were able to obtain there much more ice using the water of the Lozoya river.
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