Sweets Made Only for Christmas Are Spanish Town’s Gift to Itself
ESTEPA, Spain — On Tuesday, the fifth-generation family owners of La Colchona will close a small factory here employing 15 workers.
But rather than joining the long list of companies hurt by Spain’s economic crisis, this company has managed to raise earnings this year and plans to reopen in September, at the start of the next Christmas confectionery season.
The factory is part of a highly seasonal industry that underpins the economy of Estepa, home to 13,000 people. In this town, 23 companies operate what is almost a national monopoly, manufacturing 95 percent of the assortment of crumbly and sugary confections that are traditionally eaten by Spaniards around Christmas. Such sweets, which come in different shapes and flavors, from cinnamon cookies to sugarcoated almond paste, are known as polvorones in most of Spain but called mantecados in Estepa and the rest of the southern region of Andalusia.
The industry, although only seasonal, has been a lifeline during the economic malaise that has swept Spain. In a farming region filled with olive groves, Estepa’s confectionery sector employs more than 2,000 people in the months before Christmas and indirectly provides an additional 2,500 people with supply and distribution jobs.