Many thanks to Billy Briggs for caring enough to write about this story. Published in the Sunday Mail (Scotland) 30/05/15. Portraits to date here and more to come over July and August. #NoHayOlvido
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.
FLORES DE FUEGO
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
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.
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).
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, 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.
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.
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.
Marco Antonio is from Tixtla in Guerrero. His nickname is Tuntún and he was 20 years old at the time of his disappearance last September. His fellow students at the Normalista school “Raúl Isidro Burgos” in Ayotzinapa describe how he loves rock music and how one of his favorites is the Spanish rock band Saratoga. I have used the lyrics from one of their songs, Manos Unidas/Joined Hands, for this digital collage. Seven months have passed and we still don’t know the whereabouts of Marco Antonio and the other 42 Normalista students who were disappeared in Iguala on the night of the 26th of September 2014. The theme of Normalista students being targets in the series of portraits is a recurrent one.
No hay olvido.
Azul un mar azul
Tan intenso como esa luz fugaz
Que hay en tu cara
No hay nada mejor
Que sentir tu aire fresco resbalar
Por mis heridas
Sueño con un final
Me hundo en la oscuridad
Y le pido a Dios
Verte una vez más
Sin trampa ni cartón
Como el gesto de aquel niño que un día fui
Y sigo siendo
El tiempo confirmó
Que mi vida sólo importa si estás tú
Horas de soledad
Generan esta ansiedad
Como el girasol
Muere si no estás
Las manos unidas
Sentir tu calor
Juntos para caminar
Juntos para soportar
Juntos para comenzar
Vivos para compartir
Vivos para discutir
Vivos para construir
Locos por vivir
Sólo una cosa más
Que gracias a ti
Pude ser quién soy
[Letra y música: Jerónimo Ramiro]
Blue, a blue sea
Intense like that fleeting light
On your face
There’s nothing better
Than feeling your cool air slip
Over my wounds
I dream of the end
I sink in the darkness
I ask of God
That I will see you again
The real you
Like the gesture of that child I once was
And still am
And time confirms
That my life only matters if you are around
Always with me
Hours of solitude
Cause this anxiety
Like a sunflower
I die if you’re not around
Our hands joined
Feeling your warmth
A thousand adventures
Living to share
Living to disagree
Living to build
Mad for life
There’s only one more thing
I want to say
That thanks to you
I could be who I am.
[Lyrics: Jerónimo Ramiro]
“My name is Clemente Rodríguez. My son, Christian Alfonso Rodríguez, has been disappeared since 26 September . Since then we have had no news of him, we have seen nothing of my son, and I have been searching tirelessly for him. Since that date I have gone to Iguala, looked for him at the army headquarters, in hospitals, and I have even gone, with the other families, to the surrounding hills to look for him in the clandestine graves there, but found nothing. We are demanding that Peña Nieto [The president of Mexico] finds the 43 normalistas, but he gives us no hope. Peña Nieto says little more than that they are looking around some of the illicit graves they have found and that the Iguala police are going to search the clandestine graves. To tell the truth, I maintain my position, it is what my hearts tells me, just the same as is the case with the other parents, that our sons are alive.
“Before the 26th [Sept. 14], our homes and our lives were happy. They have taken away my son’s ambition in life; to be a professional. He wanted to be an agronomist”.
I haven’t been able to find much out about Christian other than he is a popular student at the Escuela Normal in Ayotzinapa. He comes from Teposocla, near Chilapa, a village described by Clemente as a place where no more than three people have gone to study and whose inhabitants are mostly illiterate. According to his fellow students, he is nicknamed “Hugo” because he has a couple of “Hugo Boss” shirts. He is also described as someone who liked the traditional danzas of Guerrero. These dances include Los Manueles, Los Diablos and Los Tlacololeros. I make reference to the Dance of the Tlacololeros here in a blog about Martín Getsemany Sánchez García, another of the disappeared Normalista students.
In this portrait I have placed Christian between two roles from the dance of the Tlacololeros; As a Tlacololero (a famer who cultivates the tlalocol, the name for the terraced hillside fields) and as a Tigre (a jaguar) who appears when the farmers burn the dry foliage in their fields. The Tlaocoleros represent different crops, such as maize, tomato, chile, beans as well as the elements. They are accompanied by La Perra Maravilla or magic dog who will help defend their land from El Tigre. These dances belong to the ritual calendar of agricultural fiestas in Guerrero, the belief being that they ensure healthy crops and a good harvest at the end of the growing season. These fiestas are religious occasions which also involve prayers, offerings and a communal feast.
The Tlacololeros were originally known as Zoyacapoteros (origin: Nauhatl for someone wearing a cape made of woven palm, or zoyate). Today the dancers wear capotes made from hessian sackcloth but these would have originally been made from zoyate. They wear carved masks and wide brimmed hats often decorated with marigolds. The tigres also wear carved masks and are dressed in yellow which is printed with circles made by the necks of bottles dipped in the ashes of a fire.
I don’t know if Christian would have danced with the Tlacololeros and the Tigres but the dance is one which represents campesinos, and the traditions of Guerrero. Many of the boys at the Escuela Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos come from rural, campesino settings so it seems fitting to take some of this agricultural symbolism and ritual to use in the portrait of Christian.
José Luis Torres is from a small indigenous town, Amilcingo, in the Mexican State of Morelos, close to the border with Puebla. José Luis was unable to study locally so he matriculated at the Escuela Normal “Raúl Isidro Burgos” in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.
His mother, Macedonia, describes herself as both mother and father to her children, as she is a widow with 7 children. She makes ends meet by roasting and selling peanuts and elotes (sweetcorn).
Before José Luis was forcibly disappeared along with 42 fellow students in Iguala, on the 26th Sept 2014, he’d help his mother out roasting peanuts, amongst other chores. He worked on the land or as a builder’s mate. The family struggles to get by. His brother, Sósimo describes how his José Luis wants to get an education so that he’ll be in a better position to help the family out. He and his brother are just like two peas in a pod.
Jose Luis is one of six Moralenses that went to study in Ayotzinapa. Two of his fellow students, Carlos and Armando, were present on the night when police attacked the students. Carlos says that at first he thought the bullets were rubber bullets. They recall the chaos; everyone running to escape and not one but two balaceras (shootings). Armando wonders aloud about where is his classmates are, what has happened to them, his voice trembles as he speaks.
Jose Luis’s sister, Marisol, describes his disappearance and the feeling of not knowing his whereabouts as being like “dying little by little”.
Making this portrait has coincided with the death of Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, from whom I learned so much about Latin America. I have included some lines from his poem “Los Nadies” – “The Nobodies” (at the bottom of this post). José Luis is someone, not nobody. A name not a number.
On the 4th of December 2014 Galeano wrote in La Jornada about Ayotzinapa:
The orphans of the Ayotzinapa tragedy aren’t alone in the persistent search for their loved ones, lost in the chaos of the burning rubbish dumps and graves full of human remains.
They are accompanied by the voices of solidarity and their warming presence across the whole map of Mexico and further afield, including the football stadia where players celebrate their goals drawing the number 43 with their fingers in the air, in homage to the 43 disappeared.
Meanwhile, the President, Peña Nieto, recently returned from China, warns, in a threatening tone, that he hopes that he won’t have to use force.
Moreover, the President condemns “the violence and other abominable acts carried out by those who have no respect for law and order”, although he didn’t clarify that these delinquents could be useful in making up menacing speeches.
The President and his wife, la Gaviota, to give her stage name, are deaf to anything they do not want to hear and live in solitary splendour.
The unequivocal ruling of the Permanent Tribunal of the People declared at the end of three years of hearings and thousands of testimonies: “In this world of impunity there are murders with murderers
, torture without torturers and sexual violence without abusers.
In the same vein, the statement from the representatives of Mexican culture warned: “The rulers have lost control of the fear; the rage they have unleashed is turning back against them’.
From San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the EZLN (National Zapatista Liberation Army) summed it up: “It is both terrible and marvellous that the poor who aspire to be teachers have become the best educators, who, with the power of their pain transformed into a dignified anger, so that Mexico and the world wake up, question and ask for answers”.
Sueñan las pulgas con comprarse un perro
y sueñan los nadies con salir de pobres,
que algún mágico día
llueva de pronto la buena suerte,
que llueva a cántaros la buena suerte;
pero la buena suerte no llueve ayer, ni hoy,
ni mañana, ni nunca,
ni en lloviznita cae del cielo la buena suerte,
por mucho que los nadies la llamen
y aunque les pique la mano izquierda,
o se levanten con el pie derecho,
o empiecen el año cambiando de escoba.
Los nadies: los hijos de nadie,
los dueños de nada.
Los nadies: los ningunos, los ninguneados,
corriendo la liebre, muriendo la vida, jodidos,
Que no son, aunque sean.
Que no hablan idiomas, sino dialectos.
Que no profesan religiones,
Que no hacen arte, sino artesanía.
Que no practican cultura, sino folklore.
Que no son seres humanos,
sino recursos humanos.
Que no tienen cara, sino brazos.
Que no tienen nombre, sino número.
Que no figuran en la historia universal,
sino en la crónica roja de la prensa local.
que cuestan menos
que la bala que los mata.
Fleas dream of buying a dog
and the nobodies dream of getting out of their poverty,
that some magic day
suddenly good luck will rain upon them
that it will downpour bucket-fulls of good luck.
But good luck doesn’t rain today
or tomorrow, or ever,
not even a little drizzle falls from the sky.
No matter how much the nobodies cry for it
and even when their left hand itches
or they get up on the right foot,
or when they start the year with a new broom
the nobodies: the sons of nobody
the owners of nothings
the nobodies: nothings
chasing after the hare,
dying all their lives
Fucked and double fucked
Who don’t speak languages, but dialects.
Who don’t practice religions,
Who don’t do make art, but crafts.
Who don’t practice culture,but folklore.
Who are not human,but human resources.
Who have no face but have arms,
who have no name, but a number.
Who don’t appear in the universal history books,
but in the police pages of the local press.
who are not worth the bullet that kills them.
Three years ago a friend from Galaroza in the Sierra de Huelva, Southern Spain, gave me a big bag of broad beans that he’d dried and saved from the previous growing season. Manolo has a lovely plot just on the outskirts of town where he grows his veg, keeps chickens and stores his harness, because before he retired, Manolo worked as a muleteer or arriero. He still looks after his ancient mule, Curro, once one of a pair, in a neighbouring paddock. Manolo also cultivates his son-in-law’s plot on the other side on the town, on the path that leads to Valdelarco. I am the happy beneficiary of dried herbs; oregano, wild echinacea, spearmint and tila (dried lime flowers that are good for calming the nerves). During the growing season I often ride home with gifts of vegetables (tomatoes don’t travel well on horseback!) and Chaparro, my horse, has become accustomed to bags and watermelons dangling from the pommel of the vaquera saddle.
Back home in Glasgow, on my allotment at Hamiltonhill, I often remember, with envy, the fecund kitchen gardens of the Sierra de Huelva. On our plot we struggle with an inclement climate, poor soil, occasional vandalism, biblical plagues of slugs and snails and have to make a sojourn to south Ayrshire where our friends keep three black Clydesdales, to gather up bags of horse manure to try to improve our soil and to import worms to what used to be a completely worm free zone. Whilst we may not have the sun, fertile earth and on-hand horsey “Brown Gold”, we love our plot because not only does it sustain us around the year with seasonal vegetables and fruit, it is also our all year “No Straight Lines” haven, a green space which makes tenement dwelling bearable and which eases the stresses of long hours spent working at a computer, or al least indoors away from sunlight or cloud.
One of our joys has been to successfully grow good healthy crops of broad beans from the beans that Manolo gave me. (This is our third year growing them). We intercrop them with Marigolds and enjoy preparing dishes with them: cooked with jamón serrano and a quails’ eggs or just tossing them into stir fries. My Auntie Carmen from Jaén told me that her aunts used to prepare whole habas or broad beans, pod and all, for her when she was young. We’ve tried this too but they have to be young and tender to prepare them this way.
This summer, when our beans are ready to harvest, I am planning to try out a typical recipe from the Sierra de Huelva:
Habas enzapatadas. (Broad beans in slippers).
- 1 kilos of large broad beans
- Mint (optional)
- 2 cloves of garlic
Peel the broad beans, the bigger the better, and wash them.
Put the water in a large pot and when it’s almost boiling add salt.
When the water is boiling add slices of lemon, the mint and peeled garlic and let that simmer for a minute.
Lower the heat and leave for a minute then add the broad beans for 15 – 20 minutes but ensure that they don’t get overcooked.
This is a recipe from the Sierra but there is a variation from Moguer and Palos de la Frontera, on the coast, which substitutes the mint with coriander so I think I may give that that a go too. In Huelva you’d wash this down with a cold Cruzcampo but we’ll be in Scotland so it might have to be a Williams Brothers Grozet.
The broad beans aren’t the only crop of Spanish origin that does fine on Plot 16. Every year in January I buy garlic at the Wednesday market in Galaroza. There is a man who comes down from Badajoz Province every fortnight and has a stall with plants, trees, seeds and flowers. The garlic he sells is the excellent ajo castaño; the head is covered with white skin, flecked with purple and inside the cloves are covered with shiny purple skin. It is strong and flavourful. Once you have tried this no garlic will do. Our garlic doesn’t thrive quite so well as it does in the huertas of Galaroza but the favour is the same. So with exception of lemons I think we can get all the ingredients to make this when summer comes.