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Astorga is the traditional market town of the Maragatos, a distinct ethnic group of unknown origin, possibly descended from the Berbers of North Africa, who crossed into Spain with the first Moorish incursions of the early eighth century. For several centuries, they dominated the Spanish carrying trade with their mule trains. Marrying only among themselves, they maintained their traditions and individuality well into recent decades. However, apart from the locally famous Maragato cocido – a typically hearty stew made with up to seven types of meat and sausage, plus chickpeas and cabbage – their only obvious legacy to Astorga is the pair of colourful clockwork figures dressed in traditional costume who jerk into action to strike the hour on the town-hall clock in Plaza Mayor.

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