By Daniel Williams
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Barcelona
The Agricultural Minister of Andalucía, Spain’s largest olive oil producing region, has signed a protocol with the municipality of Jaén to construct a tourist center tracing the history and culture of olive oil in the region. The project, known as “Almazara Escaparate”, has an estimated budget of more than 1,300,000 Euros, and is co-financed with 396,000 Euros between local administrations and the Ministry of the Environment.
The essential objective is to provide the city of Jaén with tourist-based infrastructure using the city’s most notable alimentary product as the catalyst. In addition to bringing tourist revenue to the region, the museum will also help explain the cultural significance of olive oil to the livelihoods of generations of Spaniards from the area.
Jaén is sometimes referred to the World Capital of Olive Oil. The province of Jaén, with 550,000 hectares of olives, represents over 25% of the Spanish olive grove surface and 42% of the Andalusian, producing around 45% of the national olive oil. This means that this province alone is responsible for an astounding 20% of the world’s total olive oil production.
The project will be situated on a farm in the historic old quarter of the city and will consist of an open and dynamic museum space, a lecture hall dedicated to the study of olive oil and collaborative studies from the nearby university, an exposition area selling various olive oil based products, and a restaurant with scheduled tastings.
The museum is a nod to the past and an optimistic look at the future of the olive oil sector in Spain with exhibitions documenting the place of olive oil in the economy of Jaén, others explaining the role of olive oil in the cultural traditions of the region (in traditions, parties, literature, and architecture) and other more scientific investigations that look to the future of technology and methods of production today. Of particular importance is a section dedicated to explaining the various health benefits of olive oil consumption as part of the famed Mediterranean diet which has been shown to have a number of documented long term health benefits.
The project’s main proponent and Jaén’s first female mayor, Carmen Peñalver, has called the effort “one of the most interesting and beautiful projects undertaken to celebrate the culture, heritage and value of olive oil in the Andalucian and Jaenese societies.”