Ham (jamón) cutters (in Spanish 'cortadores') from all over Spain demonstrated the fine art of carving cured ham at an event in Arroyo de la Miel last Sunday. The contest was organised to raise funds for the local religious brotherhood Hermandad de Redención - however it was also sisterhood that took the limelight at the event.
They say cutting 'jamón' is a prestigious job that pays well. In Spain it has traditionally been reserved for men, however, recently women have started to engage in the ham sector.
Twenty years ago Loli Domínguez made history by entering this man's world of ham-cutting. She became the first 'cortadorA' (the feminine version of the Spanish word). Loli used to compete with male colleagues, and in 2007 even beat them at a contest in Sant Boi de Llobregat, Catalonia.
The year of 2019 was revolutionary because Puri Garabaya, then 31, was the first woman to take part in the final of the Spanish championships. The same year, Cristina Hernández from Malaga was runner-up in the first ham-cutting competition in Benalmádena, held under the auspices of the 'Liga Nacional' and organised by local jamón enthusiast, David Romero.
“It is hard and physically demanding work, but women were forced to work harder to enter this male world of jamón because they had to overcome prejudices and pass through stereotypes. I think to become a master or a champion means to have ability to transform a cutting process into sensations and emotions. Women can cut ham with more impressive delicacy than their male counterparts. That is why those women who dare to devote themselves to ham-cutting are successful. More and more often they show good results in different competitions. I always try to invite more women 'cortadoras' to compete in Benalmádena,” David Romero told SUR in English.
The Concurso Nacional de Cortadores de Jamón de Benalmádena, the competition's official name, was marked by the successful participation of women at this national level. Among six specialist cutters, two were women - María del Rosario Roldán (Ronda) and Sandra Fernández from Calafell (Tarragona). Sandra came second overall and proved again that a woman is able to carve ham just as well as a man. Antonio Sánchez from Badajoz won, and in third place was the Andalusian ham cutter from El Ejido, Francisco Serrano.
With this significant presence of women in the Benalmádena ham-carving contest, the Costa del Sol contributes to improving the visibility of 'cortadoras'. There is still a long way to go: when looking up the word 'cortadora' on the internet you still come up with pictures of a machine that cuts ham, and not a skilful woman carver.