Once upon a time, two children fell in love in the city of Teruel. Surrounded by the incredible mountains, the thriving village economy, and the smell of cooking pork (oh, wait, that is MY impression of Teruel!), these two children came of an age when, finally, marriage would be an option. But wait, gentle reader, these weren’t just any two children! These were Juan Martinez (Diego) Marcilla and Isabel Segura! Diego’s family used to be rich, but had fallen on hard times, and Isabel’s family was still swimming in money. When they went to Don Segura to have a chat about getting married*, the offer was refused. Don Segura wanted his stunningly beautiful daughter to marry a man from a family that was also loaded with cash.
Diego, though, was one clever fellow. He successfully set up something like a “marriage loan**” with Don Segura. “Give me five years,” he begged, “and I will return with a fortune suitable for marrying your stunningly beautiful daughter and satisfying your greed as though I am purchasing your daughter or perhaps getting her out of jail by paying her bail.” When Papa Segura agreed, Diego gave one last embrace to Isabel (NO kissing! NO cuddling! They weren’t married yet!) and hit the road.
To be honest, the days did drag a bit. Don Segura was constantly throwing dinner parties to show his stunningly beautiful daughter to rich single
creepy old men bachelors in the hope that she would relent and find one of them good enough to marry. Isabel, wanting none of that sort of “love, honor, and obey,” silliness, successfully employed the “God wants me to remain a virgin until I am 20” clause in protection of single status as a stunningly beautiful daughter.
As the five years drew to a close with not a peep from Diego, Papa Segura made plans to have Isabel married to Don Pedro de Azagra de Albarracín on the anniversary of the agreement. What a fun wedding! Look, mom, why is that bride sobbing? or perhaps Isn’t it sad that stunningly beautiful Isabel has to marry a warthog like Don Pedro? Regardless of the comments in the crowd, the deal was sealed and Isabel was hitched.
But wait, gentle readers! There’s even MORE drama to unfold! You see, Don Segura included the day the agreement was made as the first day, but Diego started to count from the day after the agreement!
As the wedding concluded and Isabel left the party for her first night as a wife, Diego returned to the city, so rich that he was spilling cash everywhere and was even more handsome than ever, being a now-wealthy strapping lad of 20! He broke into the wedding bedroom where Isabel and Don Pedro were now sleeping, and got Isabel to come out on the balcony for a chat. She refused to kiss him, now that she was married, although he begged several times. Upon the final refusal, Diego collapsed, dying at the feet of his sweetheart.
Isabel, heartbroken and distressed, woke her husband, who actually turned out to be a nice guy after all. When he asked Isabel why she did not kiss Diego, her response was that she was now only for her husband, and he praised her for her virtue, even though he now had a dead guy on the terrace.
The funeral in the local church the next day was a sad, somber event. Poor Isabel arrived in her wedding gown, and walked to the front of the procession. Upon giving Diego one last kiss, she, too, collapsed, and died over his body.
*For the record, they were 15 when they went to visit Don Segura.
**Here’s the irony… the last name of Segura is directly translated to “insurance” and a close term to seguro, which means “safety” or “sure”, as in “I’m sure of it.” Kind of funny that Don Segura’s promise was anything BUT seguro.
So, gentle readers, that is the story of the Lovers of Teruel. This is a classic story of lost love, like Romeo and Juliette, and there have been paintings, sculptures, songs, and plays about this tragedy. The coffins of Diego and Isabel are said to be incredible sculptures with two outstretched arms, so close but never touching.
During the festivities in Teruel, there is a recreation/reenactment of the story, and even the love scene on the balcony. Gentle readers, with the throngs of people there, I have only a few badly-taken pictures, but the story is told in song in the main square throughout the weekend and throughout the town as well. A troup of soldiers marching off to war, a literal battering ram, wedding and funeral processions, and scenes depicting the love story between Isabel and Diego are throughout the town. (The first picture here is the best that I have of the drama on the terrace that results in Diego’s death.)