“I love jamón” – basically every AEGEE member has seen AEGEE this famous T-shirt slogan by AEGEE-Zaragoza. At the Agora in the capital city of Aragon two weeks ago people could actually try this famous ham speciality. At the stand of AEGEE-Zaragoza member Carlota Castel and her parents, who make their own jamón and were Agora sponsors. The Golden Times asked the Agora organising team member about her family business and life after the the general assembly.

Carlota with her parents at the Agora Zaragoza

Golden Times: Carlota, AEGEE-Zaragoza is proud of jamón. “I love jamón” is the slogan on one of your antenna’s t-shirts. You have a very special connection to the famous ham – your family produces it. Can you tell us more?
Carlota Castel: Well, once I tried to be a vegetarian, but I realised it is impossible for me to stay away of jamón. My family owns a jamón business called “Jamones Colás”, AEGEE-Zaragoza makes jamón its slogan – what else should I do but embrace jamon?

Golden Times: Why is jamón so special?
Carlota: You cannot explain why jamón is so appreciated. You have to smell it, try it, enjoy it. I would suggest to all the curious about jamón and the already jamón lovers to apply for our next Summer University and discover the jamón secrets by themselves.

Golden Times: Your parents were sponsor of the Agora and even attended it. What did they think about the event?
Carlota: They were impressed by the fact that 800 people from so different backgrounds were able to share ideas and become friends so easily.

Golden Times: And what was their impression about AEGEE in general?
Carlota: About AEGEE in general, they think it is a good way to meet new people, travelling, learning… Even if sometimes they tell me we are too optimistic and idealistic, I can see that they love the idea of young people working together for a better Europe.

AEGEE-Zaragoza took the Jamón T-shirt everywhere – here with Hara at Agora Struga 2011.

Golden Times: Was it the first time your parents attended an AEGEE event?
Carlota: It was their first time but they had already met a lot of the AEGEE-Zaragoza family. Also, I’ve brought jamón to every European Night I’ve been to: from my first Summer University in 2011 to the YVote Convention in Las Palmas. So they have been present in some way.

Golden Times: Were they happy about the feedback of the AEGEE members?
Carlota: They cannot speak English, but I was translating all the opinions of AEGEEans about jamon. And vegetarians and non-pork eaters could enjoy the cheese they brought, so everyone was smiling around the table. They loved the fact that people bought jamón to bring it back to their countries. “Jamones Colás is travelling around the world now,” they said.

Golden Times: Where does your family make it? At the Agora you were mentioning a house with lots of hams…
Carlota: They produce it in Villarluengo, the place were my dad was born. It is a town 160 kilometres from Zaragoza. The climate there is very cold. In order to store food for all winter they made the most of every piece of pork. Salt was put in the hams, then they were dried in the cold weather. The place where the hams are dried is in my parent’s house in Villarluengo. When we go there, we live on the first floor and the hams are dried on the second floor.

Golden Times: How long has your family already produced jamón?
Carlota: It was 22 years ago when my parents thought it would be a good idea to start a business in the area. They began in my dad’s hometown, but the business is named after my mum’s surname: Jamones Colás. They started drying 300 hams. In 2006 they decided to expand the business and opened a shop in Zaragoza. It’s been a great success.

Carlotas parents
Carlotas parents really like AEGEE.

Golden Times: Who are your customers?
Carlota: They sell it to some well-known restaurants and bars in Zaragoza and also offer home delivery service. And of course they also sell it directly to the people of the neighbourhood. Fun fact: it turns out that two of their clients are former AEGEE members who are now married.

Golden Times: Does your family make other food, too?
Carlota: They do not produce other kind of foods, but sell a lot of different products in the shop. There is a selection of cheese, chorizo and a lot of gourmet products from Spain and especially local products.

Golden Times: Do you sometimes help them making or marketing jamón?
Carlota: To be honest, I am better at eating jamón than at selling it, but of course I give them a hand when they need me to. It is my older brother, Alberto, the one who studies and works for them at the same time. He is a real professional in the business.

Golden Times: Can you tell us more about you? How old are you, what do you study? What hobbies do you have aside from AEGEE?
Carlota: I was born 21 years ago in Zaragoza, the land of jamón. I’m studying my last year of a degree in English language and literature and I am a volunteer in Red Cross, teaching Spanish to immigrant women. But… free time? When I finish my lessons on Friday afternoon I go directly to the AEGEE-Zaragoza meeting and then we have dinner and party a bit. I am 100 per cent AEGEE-Zaragoza’s property right now – and I like it!

Golden Times: When and how did you join AEGEE?
Carlota: I joined AEGEE in March 2011, because I heard about Summer Universities. I went to an AEGEE-Zaragoza party for new members the very same day I got accepted. That day I knew I had discovered something great.

Party Jorge Barriendo
Party time at ZarAgora – Photo by Jorge Barriendo

Golden Times: How active are you in AEGEE and which tasks did you have in the Agora team?
Carlota: I’ve been active since September 2011. I was Erasmus last year in Ormskirk – a town near Liverpool – so I took a break from AEGEE, but now I am back! In the Agora I was scanning the delegates when they came in and out in the plenaries and providing materials to the workshop responsibles. But in the end, it is difficult to take a rest if you know there is some work to do, so everyone ended up doing more work than we were supposed to.

Golden Times: How stressful was the Agora for you? Or was it more fun than stress?
Carlota: It was stressful of course. But at the same time it was incredibly fun. I got to know a few participants and I went to every party. Organisers worked a lot, but we didn’t want to miss the fun part. “Work hard, party hard” is the key.

Zaragora organisers Jorge Barriendo
ZarAgora organisers – Photo by Jorge Barriendo

Golden Times: How is life now that the Agora is finished?
Carlota: I am tired, but incredibly happy. I slept an average of three hours per day, so the first night I came back home I slept 14 hours in a row. A lot of new members became active during the Agora and the teambuilding was just amazing! I can only say thank you to all of them. This gave a lot of extra motivation. Now I am more than prepared to be part of the board team again and keep on working hard with my AEGEE family.

Golden Times: What’s the next event where we can meet you?
Carlota: I am already saving for my flight tickets to Spring Agora Patra. I have a special affection to Greece, since my first event was Summer University in Patra in 2011. I can tell know that summer was a landmark in my life. Also, I met some of the Greeks organisers in ZarAgora and they are so motivated, nice and full of energy. They already know that the Zaragoza organisers are available if they need anything. I wish them the best. See you soon!