The Council of Wise Men: an Intangible Cultural Heritage asset near La Manga Club

The Council of Wise Men: an Intangible Cultural Heritage asset near La Manga Club
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Charming towns, incredible underwater depths, heavenly coves, and excellent food; the areas surrounding La Manga Club are filled with treasures waiting to be discovered. Some are visible to the naked eye and others deserve your interest because they form part of the intangible cultural heritage of the Region of Murcia. Today we introduce you to the Council of Wise Men of Murcia, a unique and centuries-old Murcian legal institution that is still active today near your La Manga Club property.

Its origins were in the Medieval era, in the period of Islamic domination. During that time, an important infrastructure of aqueducts was developed to control the water that came from the Turia and Segura rivers, making it possible to irrigate the fields. Nonetheless, Murcia has always been a semi-arid region and thus the distribution of water has always been a source of conflict. Thus was born the work of the Council of Wise Men, a body that grew to be fundamental in the proper administration of the scarce water resources and impartially resolve the inevitable conflicts between the irrigators and the landowners in the rural areas.

The body’s capacity to quickly, transparently, and impartially resolve issues of irrigation gave its members increasing prestige thanks to their good water administration. So much so that in 1849 the Council of Wise Men of Murcia was officially incorporated as the supreme organism of justice in rural Murcia and its resolutions began to be legally binding. One of the most peculiar characteristics of this tribunal is that its members are not jurists but rather farmers who, democratically elected among the members of the community, represent the general interests of the area and whose goal is the resolution of conflicts arising around irrigation issues. Today, its decisions continue to be binding. Thanks to its firm position as a part of the ethnographic heritage, as well as being a clear part of the identity of the Murcian community, in 2009 the Council of Wise Men of Murcia was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage Asset by UNESCO.

The tribunal, composed of seven members belonging to the community of irrigators of the Board of Directors of Landowners of Rural Murcia, is still active and its proceedings are public. So if you are interested in seeing the Council in action, you can go to any of the sessions held every Thursday at 10am in the Salon Real or Salon de Plenos at the City Hall of Murcia, just 50 minutes by car from our La Manga Club golf resort. It’s a great opportunity to see the workings of a traditional democratic institution in action, learn about the issues brought by the plaintiffs and the evidence they bring, and see the cases and resolutions. You may be surprised by the broad knowledge of this community of irrigators that is the fruit of secular cultural exchanges. You’ll also be able to truly immerse yourself in their rituals and the jargon, replete with many terms that come from Arabic.

Start planning your leisure activities outside your La Manga Club apartment, and don’t forget to include a visit to the rural capital and to its Council of Wise Men. Let yourself be surprised once again by the incredible cultural and historical heritage offered by the Region of Murcia!

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