Ayotzinapa: Mexico’s Missing Students – An exhibition and event at the Scottish Parliament by Jan Nimmo

An exhibition of my 50 portraits made for the parents of the students from the teacher training college, Raúl Isidro Burgos, in Ayotzinapa, Mexico. 43 students were disappeared, 3 murdered, 2 badly injured, in September 2104 and a further 2 were murdered in October 2016. Read more here. Thanks to Linda Fabiani MSP  who sponsored the exhibition and to her staff, Mairi Tulbure and Maria Krug. This exhibition honours the students and sends a message of solidarity from Scotland to their families, who are still awaiting truth, justice and reparation.

The exhibition is accompanied by a digital presentation of photos of the portraits in action, in the hands of the students’ parents, from human rights activists including Eréndira Sandoval Carrillo, Liliana Osorio, Norma Velásquez, Tryno Maldonado and more.

¡Vivos se los llevaron, Vivos los queremos! #AyotzinapaViveEnEscocia

More photos here.


Ayotzinapa: Mexico’s Missing Students, an exhibition at the Scottish Parliament. Portraits by Jan Nimmo and photos from Mexican human rights activists, including Eréndira Sandoval Carrillo and Liliana Ososrio. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©


Preparing for the awareness raising event, Ayotzinapa: Mexico’s Missing Students with Jan Nimmo and Linda Fabiani MSP at the Scottish Parliament.


Ayotzinapa: Mexico’s Missing Students – an exhibition of portraits by Jan Nimmo at the Scottish Parliament. The exhibition was sponsored by Linda Fabiani MSP, pictured here, left, with artist, Jan Nimmo.


Paul Barham preparing for the awareness raising event, Ayotzinapa: Mexico’s Missing Students with Jan Nimmo and Linda Fabiani MSP at the Scottish Parliament.


Awareness raising event, Ayotzinapa: Mexico’s Missing Students, with Jan Nimmo and Linda Fabiani MSP at the Scottish Parliament.


Ayotzinapa: Mexico’s Missing Students, an exhibition at the Scottish Parliament. Portraits by Jan Nimmo and photos from Mexican human rights activists, including Eréndira Sandoval Carrillo. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©


Broad bean Hummus – Hamiltonhill Style


Broad bean hummus. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Well that’s the last of the 2014 broad beans from the freezer. The ones we’ve planted this season at the plot at Hamiltonhill are just poking their noses through now. As always, we’ve sown the beans that were given to us by Manolo, a retired muleteer from Galaroza, Sierra de Huelva, Spain. In the the Sierra the beans are planted at the back end and ready for harvesting in March or April. With this last batch I’ve made some hummus.



Cooked broad beans with the outer skin removed

Olive oil

Garlic (red skinned preferably)


Malden salt


Blend together with a mortar and pestle or in an electric blender.

This year's broad beans hardening of at Plot 16. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Manolo’s broad beans growing at our plot in North Glasgow. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©


Manolo’s crop of broad beans growing at his “huerta” in Galaroza. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©


Bernardo Flores Alcaráz

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Bernardo Flores Alcaraz. Digital Art: Jan Nimmo ©

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Bernardo Flores Alcaraz. Digital Art: Jan Nimmo ©

Bernardo Flores Alcaráz is from the small town of San Juan de las Flores in Atoyac, Guerrero, Mexico. Berardo is nicknamed “Cochiloco” and at the tie of his disappearances, was involved in student politics at the Normalista teacher training college, “Raúl Isidro Burgos”, in Ayotzinapa, Tixtla. His grandfather describes how Bernardo likes to help out his father, Nardo, in the milpa (a traditional smallholding where beans and corn are grown). The family grows coffee. He and another of the 43 normalista students, Cutberto Ortiz Ramos, who were disappeared in Iguala, were descendents of Lucio Cabañas Barrientos, “The Tiger of Atoyac”, founder of the Partido de los Pobres (The Party of the Poor). He campaigned for justice and education for the poor and his role model was Emiliano Zapata.

Like his two descendents Cabañas picked coffee and attended the Rural Normalista School Raul Isidro Burgos in Ayotzinapa. He became a teacher and politically active. It was in the Sierra de Atoyac where he founded his anti-poverty guerrilla movement. He was killed by the Mexican army in 1974 after Cabañas’ people had kidnapped the senator and future president of the State of Guerrero, Rubén Figueroa. Lucio Cabañas has become an iconic figure for social justice movements in Mexico and beyond. His wife, social activist Isabel Nava Alaya was murdered in 2011.

I have included an image of Lucio Cabañas in the portrait of Bernardo, along with the lyrics of a corrido (a popular narrative song) about Cabañas, El Tigre de Atoyac (The Jaguar of Atoyac). There is also a tigre, or jaguar, mask from Guerrero, and the spots at the bottom corner are the spots made by dipping bottles into ash to make the jaguar spots on the ritual dance costumes of Guerrero. The target represents how anyone involved in trying to change the lot of the poor in Guerrero, whether historically, by taking up arms, or today by simply wanting to educate communities, becomes a target. I have used targets in some of the other portraits as I believe that anyone wishing to bring about social change through education, through journalism or through speaking out via social networks or non-violent protest, is now a target in Mexico.

Barnardo, nicknamed “Cochiloco”

Lucio Cabañas Barrientos (taken from the digital newspaper El Amanecer de Chihuahua).

Lucio Cabañas Barrientos (taken from the digital newspaper El Amanecer de Chihuahua).


Nardo Flores with the portrait of his son, Bernardo. Photo: Eréndira Sandoval Carrillo. 


El veintisiete de junio
del año setenta y cuatro,
subieron los federales
a la sierra de Atoyac,
buscando a Lucio Cabañas
queriéndolo asesinar.

Lucio Cabañas Barrientos
el rebelde guerrillero
es un tigre muy valiente
que no se liaron el cuero,
secuestra a los millonarios
y no le teme al gobierno.

Gritaba Lucio Cabañas:
De esta sierra ya no salen,
cuídense mis compañeros
ahí vienen los federales,
aviéntense pecho a tierra
allí entre los matorrales.

En la sierra San Vicente
se formó la balacera,
se oían las metralladoras
también los tanques de guerra,
se oían varios cañonazos
en el fondo de la sierra.

Andaban diez mil soldados
de la fuerza federal,
tenían la sierra sitiada
no se podía caminar,
buscaban a Figueroa
queriéndolo rescatar.

Ya con ésta me despido
ya me voy a separar,
¡vivan los hombres valientes
que no se saben rajar!
¡que viva Lucio Cabañas
en la sierra de Atoyac!

Los Valentes (listen to them sing here)


On the 26th of June
of the year 1974,
the soldiers went up
to the Sierra de Atoyac,
searching for Lucio Cabañas
who they were wanting to kill.

Lucio Cabañas Barrientos
a rebel guerrilla
Is a valiant tiger
who couldn’t be held back
who kidnaps millionaires
and isn’t afraid of the Government

Cried Lucio Cabañas:
We’ll not leave this sierra,
take care compañeros
here come the soldiers,
crawling on their stomachs,
advancing through the undergrowth.

In the Sierra San Vicente
there was a gunfight
you could hear machine gun fire
and also the tanks of war,
you could hear the cannonades
deep in the heart of the sierra.

Ten thousand soldiers were mobilised
from the federal forces,
they had the sierra surrounded
so no-one could move,
they were looking for Figueroa
who they wanted to rescue.

With this I say farewell
Now I will take my leave,
Long live brave men
that won’t be broken
Long live Lucio Cabañas
in the Sierra de Atoyac!

Adán Abraján de la Cruz

Yp, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quier saber dónde está Adán Abraján de la Cruz: Digital art: Jan Nimmoo ©

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Adán Abraján de la Cruz. Portrait: Kan Nimmo ©

Adán Abraján de la Cruz is from el Fortín, a barrio of Tixtla in Guerrero. He was forcibly disappeared on the 26th Sept 2014 along with another 42 students who were studying with him at the Normalista School at Ayotzinapa. He is married to Érica and is the father of two children, José Luis and Alison.

I read that Adán loves to play football and then learned from a couple of his team mates (thanks to the Tixtla Facebook page who helped me find them) that his team plays in the Las Chivas strip. Las Chivas is the popular name for Mexican football team, Club Deportivo Guadalajara. Adán played for Los Pirotécnicos de Fortín and for the Vaqueros de Fortín too. I have included a quote from his team captain, Christiam: “Lastima mi Adán me iso ganar un trofeo era mi portero” – “What a shame about Adán, he helped me win a trophy – he was my goalkeeper”.

Over the last 10 months football stadiums have been the arena to express solidarity with the 43 disappeared students. Mexican footballers like Miguel “El Piojo”, a player for the Mexican national team, have shown 4 and 3 fingers to the fans while crowds have carried massive banners in protest of what has taken place. Real Madrid forward, Javier “Chicharito” Hernández tweeted a black and white selfie with the hashtags:  #TodosSomosAyotzinapa #UnidosPorAyotzinapa.  More in an article here.

When I googled “Ayotzinapa” and “futból” I was surprised to see that even at Liverpool matches there were fans carrying a large banner in protest at what happened to the 43 students in Iguala. And I love this image of solidarity from a women’s football team from the barrio Güemes, Buenos Aires, Argentina (from the blog Southern Perspectives).

La Nuestra Fútbol Femenino, Barrio Güemes, Villa 31, Buenos Aires, Argentina, en apoyo a familiares de los normalistas secuestrados en México.

La Nuestra Fútbol Femenino, Barrio Güemes, Villa 31, Buenos Aires, Argentina, en apoyo a familiares de los normalistas secuestrados en México. (Southern Perspectives ©)

Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, commenting on the murder of Colombian defender Andrés Escobar in 1994 said. 

“Violence is not in the genes of the people who love to celebrate and are wild about the joys of music and soccer. Colombians suffer from violence like a disease, but they don’t wear it like a birthmark on their foreheads. The machinery of power, on the other hand, is indeed the cause of violence: as in all of Latin America, injustice and humiliation poison people’s souls”.

He was talking about Colombia but sadly the same applies to Mexico. Now there is a team missing a goalkeeper and a family missing their dad, husband and son.


Don Bernabé Abraján, father of Adán. Photo: Clayton Conn


Erica, Adan’s wife. Photo: Alejandro Ayala

José Ángel Campos Cantor


Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está José Ángel Campos Cantor. Digital art: Jan Nimmo ©

Like many of his 42 fellow students, who were disappeared along with José Ángel on the 26th of September 2014, he loved to play football but, as his father explains, when he went to study at the Normalista school in Ayotzinapa he didn’t get much time to play as he was studying hard to become a teacher. Of the 43 students who are missing José Ángel is the oldest at 33 years old. He is popular with his fellow students.

José Ángel plays saxophone and plays in a “Chile Frito” (Fried Chilli) band, typical of Guerrero. These are the brass and drum bands that accompany local fiestas and dances with lively sones and chilenas. I have used the lyrics from a chilena, El Toro Rabón, in the portrait (Lyrics below). The song was written by a well known Guerrense composer, José Agustín Ramírez Altamirano, once a normalista student himself. José Ángel  loves corridos (popular narrative songs) and dancing to cumbia with his wife, Blanca González Cantú. He and Blanca have have two girls: América and Gabriela or “Gaby”. Since her father was disappeared América, who is 8 years old, has had to help her mum out, and everyday she sets up a small table with sweets, chewing gum and chicharrones (pork scratchings) to sell outside their house. Gaby had her first birthday on the 29th of July. She was just one month old when José Ángel was disappeared. His grandmother, Petra, died on the 30th July, without knowing the fate of her grandson.

El Toro Rabón

Por toda la Costa Chica
se baila el Toro Rabón,
si esa víbora te pica
te queda la comezón,
no hay remedio en la botica
ni tampoco curación.

Qué bonitas, qué bonitas
son las costas de Guerrero,
de mujeres sensitivas,
hombres fuertes y de acero,
de mujeres sensitivas,
hombres fuertes y de acero.

Cotorra del pico chueco,
prima hermana del perico,
si denuncias mis amores
que me traje de Tampico,
te he de correr de mi milpa
y si no, te tuerzo el pico.

Una aguililla chillona
me quiso tronar el pico,
yo le contesté: pelona,
no soy pobre ni soy rico,
soy puritito costeño,
no me agrando ni me achico.

Qué bonitas, qué bonitas
son las costas de Guerrero,
de mujeres sensitivas,
hombres fuertes y de acero,
de mujeres sensitivas,
hombres fuertes y de acero.

Yo soy el toro rabón
que habito en la serranía,
dejo de pasearme un año
por pasearme noche y día,
como soy becerro de año
no habito en la pastoría.

Qué bonitas, qué bonitas
son las costas de Guerrero,
de mujeres sensitivas,
hombres fuertes y de acero,
de mujeres sensitivas,
hombres fuertes y de acero.

José Agustín Ramírez Altamirano

Listen to Banda Los Morales – El Toro Rabon

or to Dueto Caleta – El Toro Rabon

Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está JorgeAntonio Tizapa Legideno

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño. Digital Art: Jan Nimmo ©

I have been away in Spain for the last two months and so haven’t had the means of making my Ayotzinapa portraits but there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t thought about the boys and their parents. Every morning, as I walked up the Cuesta Palero, I would take photos of the wild flowers. I especially love the blue chicory flowers (Cichorium intybus) and planned to use these in an Ayotzinapa piece, and so now I have. The flowers are illusively shy and don’t like the heat so are only open between 8.30 in the morning and are then tightly closed, like they never existed, by 11.30 am.

This portrait is of Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño who was 19 years old when he was forcibly disappeared alongside 42 other students training to be teachers at the Escuela Rural Normal “Raúl Isidros Burgos” in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. He is now 20, his birthday is on the 7th of June. Neither of his parents, José Antonio and Hilda, have had any news of him although they campaign tirelessly for answers. Messages on his Facebook account from friends who miss him and struggle to deal with his absence, mark the months since his disappearance on the 26th of September 2014.

His mother, Hilda, in an interview for desInformémonos describes how Jorge Antonio has a little dent in his cheek, but that it doesn’t show up on any of the photos of him. She talks about how he is a loving father to his daughter, Naomi, who is just a year and a half old. She also relates that he worked as a bus driver on the Atliaca/Tixtla route, that he loves driving and that he used to have a motorbike.

Jorge Antonio loves music, especially the songs of the Sinaloan band, La Arolladora Banda El Limón de René Camacho. I have used some lines from one of their songs, “Contigo”, in this piece.

Jorge Antonio’s father, José Antonio, had to emigrate to the US 14 years ago to support his wife Hilda and their three children. He lives in New York and spoke as part of the Caravana 43, which toured the US earlier this year to raise awareness of the case. Jorge Antonio was only five when his father left but he always kept in touch, mainly thanks to modern technology. He is heartbroken by his son’s disappearance and like Hilda, just wants to see him again.  He calls for President Obama to abandon Plan Mérida, a security agreement between the US and Mexico intended to combat drug smuggling. There are fears that the many of the weapons funded by P.M. end up in the hands of drug cartels, like Guerreros Unidos, a criminal gang who are implicated in the disappearance of the 43 students and the death of three. You can watch an interview with José Antonio on Democracy Now here. Hilda has has spoken to MEPs at the European Parliament as part of Caravana 43’s visit to Europe. She toured Canada too and in Ottowa said “Everything that I am doing here I’m doing out of love for my son.”

Christian Tomás Colón Garnica

Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Christian Tomás Colón Garnica. Digital art: Jan Nimmo ©

Christian Tomás Colón Garnica, a student at the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normalista Teacher Training School, Ayotzinapa, Guerrero is from La Zapoteca, a poor barrio of Tlacolula. Tlacolula is in Oaxaca State, a southern neighbour of Guerrero. Christian went to study in Ayotzinapa because his parents could not afford for him to continue studying at home and in going to the Normailsta school he would have the opportunity to continue studying and have bed and board provided while he was there.

In an interview for Oaxaca Quadratin his sister in-law, Juana Pérez Gómes, describes how the family have been absent from home as they have been searching for Christian since he was forcibly disappeared along with 42 of his fellow students on the 26th of September 2014. This has meant that the only income to support the family has come from what they earn from a modest little shop. His father is a labourer who earns £28 a week. All of the disappeared Normalista students come from low income families so there will have been many sacrifices along the way in the search for their missing sons. That said, in a show of solidarity, the residents of the barrio, who are just as poor as Christian’s family, along with the local authority in Tlacolula and community members, collected money to help with the parents’ travel expenses to Chilpancingo and Iguala. Read more about it in this article in Imparcial Oaxaca, here.

Christian’s family have searched Guerrero, and, like all the other parents, want him home alive. They are people of faith and hope that their prayers to the Virgin will be answered.

In this piece I have used a background image from the stone carvings from the Mixtec ae-archeological site at Mitla not far from Tlacolula. I first passed through there with my husband, Paul, many years ago now, and vividly remember the bus journey through Tlacolula on the way to the site at Mitla… we had visited Teotitlan del Valle and Santa María del Tule to see the 2000 year old tree there. In the top right hand corner I have incorporated Paul’s sketch of that journey which he made in his diary. In subsequent trips I stayed in the city of Oaxaca and each day visited the small towns round and about the Valle Central making sure that my visits coincided with market days or cattle fairs. The markets are good place to meet people selling anything from fruits and vegetables to handmade objects. In the portrait I have included the image of an alebrije style carved wooden lizard which I bought on one of these trips.

Tlacolula-Mitla. Drawing: Paul Barham ©

Tlacolula-Mitla. Drawing: Paul Barham ©

This spring a Mexican student, Ramiro, contacted me from Eugene, Oregon, USA regarding an event that he and others at Eugene4Ayotzinapa were planning to host with Normalista parents during their awareness raising tour of the States, Caravana 43. He had seen the portraits I was making on the internet and wondered if I would be happy for them to use my portraits for their event. I was, of course, both delighted and moved, so agreed and sent him the files. The great thing about making digital art is that it can be uploaded and printed anywhere. When I finish the portraits I hope to be able to work with Eugene4Ayotzinapa to have aware raising exhibitions in High Schools there.

Ramiro told me he was from Oaxaca, and it was only after I had published the portrait of Christian online that Ramiro got back to me and told me that he too was from Tlacolula. He might be far away from his home town but he is demonstrating the same spirit of solidarity as his fellow townsfolk in Tlacolula.

In the portrait I have incorporated the lyrics of a famous Mexican song, Canción Mixteca, a song for the homesick, for those sad to be far from their homeland, the beautiful Central Vally of Oaxaca, La Tierra del Sol (land of the sun).

Canción Mixteca

Que lejos estoy del suelo
Donde he nacido.
Inmensa nostalgia
Invade mi pensamiento.
Y al verme tan solo y triste
Cual hoja el viento.
Quisiera llorar,Quisiera morir
De sentimiento.

Oh! tierra del sol
Suspiro por verte.
Ahora que lejos
Yo vivo sin luz.
Sin amor.
Y al verme
Tan solo y triste
Cual hoja el viento
Quisiera llorar,Quisiera morir
De sentimiento.

Miguel Aceves Mejía

Mixtec Song

How far I am from the soil
Where I was born.
Immense nostalgia
Invades my thoughts.
And seeing myself so alone and sad
Like a leaf in the wind.
I would like to cry, I would like die
of sorrow.

Oh! Land of the sun
I long to see you.
Now that I live to far away
I live without light
Without love.
And seeing myself so alone and sad
Like a leaf in the wind.
I would like to cry, I would like die
of sorrow.

Miguel Aceves Mejía

There are hundreds of versions of this song but here you can listen to the version I heard first – Antonio Agular (Thanks, Julie Oxberry) – or listen to a Oaxacan marimba version from Marimba Oaxaca.

Israel Caballero Sánchez


Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Israel Caballero Sánchez. Digital Art: Jan Nimmo ©

Israel Caballero Sánchez is from the small indigenous town of Atliaca in the State of Guerrero. He was disappeared on the 26th September 2014 along with 42 of his fellow students from the Normalista Rural School “Raúl Isidro Burgos” in Ayotzinapa. He was 21 at the time of his disappearance and seven months on we still don’t know anything of his whereabouts. In this portrait he wears the clothes of the Tigre, from the traditional ritual dances of his town. Atliaca is hot and dry, its surrounding land populated with mezquite.

I have used some lyrics from a song about the town; these lyrics can be seen in another post about Abelardo Vásquez Peniten who is also from Atliaca. I have also used an extract from the words from another song, Flores de Fuego (Flowers of Fire) written by Guerrerense composer, Erik de Jesús. Erik is from Chilpancingo, often composes in Nahuatl, and he is interested in preserving musical traditions. This song uses agricultural metaphors to speak of the struggle of campesinos in Mexico…”for those who would give their lives to learn to read”. I am hoping with all my might that the boys from Ayotzinapa have not made this sacrifice just for being who they are; poor boys from poor rural towns and villages who want an education.


México no llores,
América nombra el tiempo de invasores
México no llores,
No han tocado las raíces de tus flores

Te ha quedado el coraje
Carne eterna de maíz
Surco a surco ya se siembra
Una bala y es por ti
Para defender la tierra
Se siembra para vivir

México no llores,
En tu tierra cantan los agricultores
México no llores,
Lo sembrado es cosecha en sembradores

Por el que dará su vida por enseñar a leer
Veras las flores de fuego que han brotado desde ayer
Las cactus naciones viejas, México harán volver
Que hoy con los pies quemados…todavía te ves correr

México préstame tu arado,
Que voy hacer un camino
Donde el campesino camine sin cuidado
Que voy a sembrar el coraje con cada canto
Nacido del sudor agricultor
¡Que no quede un pedazo de tu suelo sin germinar!
¡Que no quede un grito de llanto sin saldar!
México de la nopalera y el bejuco al asfalto, al concreto
¡México porque eres guardián del mundo!
¡Te sigues llamando México!…

Letras – Erick de Jesús

The Reed Seats of Galaroza: Sillas de Anea.


A typical Sevillana chair with a seat made of “anea” or “nea”, manufactured in Galaroza, Sierra de Huelva. This is one of the chairs at Picadero La Suerte. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

After the Hostal Venecia, on the Seville/Portugal road, closed its doors to its last guests, I had to look for a house to rent for my visits to Galaroza, in the Sierra de Huelva. I took a house in Calle San Sebastián, in the upper part of the town, and on my adopted street there were neighbours further up, who made and repaired the seats of Sillas Sevillanas, the typical Sevillian chairs that are not only popular in the province of Seville but also here in Huelva. In the Picadero where my horse, Chaparro, is stabled, they have both red and green personalised tables and chairs, so I was familiar with them but hadn’t seen how the seat part was made till I stayed in that street. I would see the van from the carpenter’s workshop come to deliver chairs and the anea, which was tied to the roof of the vehicle. Anea or nea, as it’s known locally, is a kind of bulrush/reedmace (Typha) that grows on the banks of the Guadalquivir River.


Chairs on the Calle San Sebastián, Galaroza. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Over the last year or so a boy called Ale has been coming to help with out with the horses at Picadero La Suerte. He loves horses and has a grey Andalusian filly, Lluvia (Rain), of whom he is very proud and plans to bring on for riding. I took some photos of Ale and his little mare to make a drawing of him. After his mum had seen the photos she stopped me on the outskirts of the village to say how nice they were. I finally made the connection that my old neighbours, the women who made the seats of the chairs, were Ale’s mum, aunt and granny.  (Seems I am still joining the dots even after ten years).


Ale with his filly, Lluvia. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

In January I asked Ale if he thought it would be alright to visit the women of his family the next time they were weaving seats. It was, so I popped up to see them one sunny but cold afternoon. The room they work in has large double doors which open out onto the Calle San Sebastián and there was a small electric heater which I don’t think did much to combat the bitter, cold air.


Rosario, veteran of anea seat making, Galaroza. Drawing: Jan Nimmo ©

Rosario, Ale’s granny, is retired from making the seats but can’t resist giving a hand. She started making the seats when she was only 9 years of age. Often after a day’s work doing something else, Rosario would come home and start weaving the seats and keep working on them into the night.


Rosario with her two daughters. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

It’s now Rosario’s daughters who carry on this work; Fali, Ale’s mum and her sister Mari Loli. They started helping out when they were 13 or 14 years old. It was fascinating to finally get a proper chance to watch them more closely as they worked. They explained that now that the carpenter’s workshop that made the chairs has closed down, they tend to just do repairs for people. The chairs they were working on while I was there were from a client in Valverde del Camino.The seats can take anything from 1- 4 hours to make. The anea material, a kind of papyrus, comes from Coria del Rio in Seville province and costs about 20 euros a bunch.


Fali keeping the seat making tradition alive. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©


Mari Loli keeping the seat making tradition alive. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©

Most houses in Galaroza have the ubiquitous sillas de anea. As they say, the chairs are “de toda la vida”. Sometimes these are painted and decorated with flowers and pastoral scenes but many are just plain solid colours or simply left unpainted. The chairs come in different sizes, from babies’ high chairs, childrens’ seats, low armless chairs or grander highly decorated and carved chairs. These are the seats of the country towns and villages of Andalusia, the furniture of the casetas of Seville’s April Fair and the chairs favoured by flamenco singers and guitarists.

The flat I rent now when I’m Galaroza is situated in the Avenida de los Carpinteros. Even in the ten years I’ve been coming to this town I have seen a marked decline in the number of carpenters working in this special street. When I first came walking here many years ago with my husband, Paul, we were reminded of the streets of country towns in Guatemala; a long row of practical, low, rustic buildings made from stone and adobe, the walls limewashed, with clay tiled roofs and great chestnut wooden doors.

Although Galaroza is a picturesque serrano town, it has always depended on agriculture and the manufacturing of furniture. That’s changing. Now as Ikea has opened it’s doors in Seville, the doors of the carpenters’ workshops have closed and the surrounding huertas or kitchen gardens tend to be looked after by the older people of the village while more and more people shop at Mercadona and Lidl in Aracena.


Iluminado Tristancho of Picadero La Suerte tending his huerta. Photo: Jan Nimmo ©