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The Routine of Not Owning Keys
By Celia Arcos from the University of Seville. Originally published on May 23, 2018 in CIEE Seville's student magazine más+menos.
María José and Paco don’t know each other, but neither of them has a home. In this text they describe their lives without keys, the passing of time without a roof.
María José finishes spraying down the cashpoint where she has slept with mint spray, gathers her belongings, ties up her two dogs and puts her two cats in a Mercadona shopping cart. As every morning, she leaves the cashpoint before the bank director or the cleaning lady arrives. As every morning, her routine begins before 8 a.m. “When I started living on the streets, six or seven years ago, there were more cashpoints open. Now since people can pay with their phones, there are fewer available,” she explains, as she tries to keep Rex, a small four-year-old Beagle, silent. María José is 60 years old and she has never slept outdoors. Since she first found herself living on the streets, she knew she had to keep herself safe in a cashpoint or in indoor places because of her feminine condition. María José is one of the 444 people who, according to the inventory done in 2016 by the Seville City Council and by several associations, live on the streets of the city. Paco, a Sevillian man of 64 years, prefers waking up on some bench, on a curb, or in any small space that he finds in the street. The shelter is not comfortable for him. He does not like that they all share the same place; Paco says that you can find yourself in difficult situations with people under the influence of alcohol or drugs. “The shelter is a hodgepodge. Anyone not wanted somewhere else is sent there,” Paco complains.
María José and Paco’s stories on the streets have similar starting points. Both ended up living on the streets after the death of their parents, as a result of a host of familiar disagreements and labor disadvantages. For Francisco, a worker of the Social Emergencies Intervention Team’s Streets Unit of Seville, one of the aspects of working with homeless people is the family ties. “At the technical level, we work hard to regain their family ties and self-esteem. They need to improve and cherish their relationships.” María José has some cousins and uncles, but says she does not want to bother them. She stutters the word “pride,” she thinks twice before saying it, but at the end, she ends up chewing it. “Maybe it’s out of pride, I do not want to annoy them,” she says. Paco’s family knows nothing about his situation. After his mother’s death, two heart attacks and poor health, he just decided to sever all ties with them.
An old woman stops by María José’s cart and greets her. “María José, have you seen Emilio’s dog? Hegot lost yesterday.” “I don’t think so; if he was around here, he would have stayed to play with Rex and the kitties.” “Well… if you see him, let me know!”
She uses sunny mornings for washing and drying her clothes at the Jardines of Murillo. There, she becomes a tourist attraction; they stopped by her and take photos of her extravagant cart, pets, and they even take pictures of her. She sets up a huge camp there. For a euro, she buys detergent. “A friend who also lives on the streets recommended it to me; you can get it really cheap in that shop, and since I want my clothes to have a good smell, I always sprinkle a little on,” she says with satisfaction. For Paco, keeping himself and his clothes clean is a habit as well. “If it has been that way during my whole life, why should I change that now, just because I am living on the streets?” Paco thinks there are people who are careless about their appearance and that refl cts negatively on everyone who lives on the streets.
Apart from their looks, some of the stereotypes damaging homeless people are drug addiction and alcoholism. In the last survey by the National Institute for Statistics in 2012, the percentage of homeless people not consuming alcohol in Spain was 56%, whereas that of drugs was 63%. “Because of the image projected by some, they all are stigmatized,” indicates Francisco. “I don’t like asking for money or parking cars, my only vices are cigarettes and coffee,” Paco explains while he turns one of the pages of the latest science fiction book he is reading.
At lunchtime, a new tour begins. Some days, María José eats the scarce food she could buy or things she was given from people who already know her. Some other days, she takes her cart and her pets and drags them to some of the soup kitch- ens around the city. “I go in and out as fast as I can to not leave the animals on their own very long in the street, since I cannot go into the canteen with them.” When the volunteers who see her on the streets give her food, they always keep some leftovers for them, knowing her cats like mackerel.
A group of people crowds at the San Juan de Dios soup kitchen on Misericordia Street. A woman, tired, leans on the trunk of the tree that gives her shade. Another man waiting at the door tries to open it with the end of the crutch he leans on. From Mondays to Fridays, Paco comes to this dining room. Different religious institutions and private organizations, as well as the local adminis- tration, try to cover the basic needs of the homeless in Seville. For Paco, this help is just a Band-Aid to patch the situation of the people living on the streets, “so we don’t starve to death,” he says.
Even though most homeless people are men, mostly of Spanish nationality, between 45 and 64, people who come to the soup kitchens are very diverse, from young women and foreigners to whole families. Every afternoon, once he has finished lunch, Paco visits the Public Library Infanta Elena, between María Luisa Park and the dock of the Guadalquivir, where he can read, watch some movies and protect himself from the cold weather in the winter and from the heat in the summer. Sometimes, he falls asleep; the seats are broad and upholstered in a thin dark fabric that invites him to rest. Other times, it is one of his fellows who falls asleep between books, and when it’s time to leave the library, Paco wakes them up and tells them it’s time to go. “Some of them go to the restrooms and try to clean themselves up, but others, since they do not sleep well at night, just take off their shoes and crash there.” Paco’s voice is soft and calm, his tone does not reveal absence of a roof, of a house, of a mattress. Paco might look like anyone else in line at the supermarket, in the drugstore buying ibuprofen, or in a bar asking politely if he can use the bathroom, because Paco is just one of us.
On the streets, there are social classes, there are acquaintances and strangers. Paco explains the hierarchy underpinning the social balance of those who have no home. Separating single words with his hands, he puts on the first level those who have been on the streets the longest; on the second one, those who spent some time in jail. “Of course there are classes,” he confirms flatly, nodding his head. For María José, gender is the dividing line. “To avoid putting myself at risk, I act crazy. I frighten men away and therefore they don’t get close to me. They think of me as the crazy cart lady.” The danger and vulnerability are higher if you are a woman living on the streets. María José remembers the case of a homeless woman who was raped by men also living on the streets. While she describes the situation, she opens a toiletry kit and takes out a jar –coconut milk, as it is written on the label–, sinks her fingers in it and, forthwith, rubs on her skin what for her is a moisturizing cream. “I like to look af- ter myself,” she explains with her face pale from the lotion.
In 2015, Sevillian associations working with homeless people were alarmed by an increase of the number of women who were spotted living on the streets. Manuela and Polina are some of them. The second one, of Russian nationality, lives with her male partner. Apart from the emotional component, the presence of a man by her side offers her safety. Manuela hides her feminine condition with manly aesthetics, a shaven head and loose clothing. María José, in her sixties, has created her own method of defense: act crazy.
For Francisco, social worker of Seville’s City Council, the main objective of the social work with homeless people is to each them to be self reliant and independent. María José awaits an answer from a lawyer and from the bureaucracy on the granting of social assistance. According to them, a ceiling over their heads is not enough for moving off of the streets. Paco insists on the need to create a network of projects and activities that incentivizes them to use their free time. The self-esteem, according to the social worker, is essential for dignifying the homeless. Paco uses the term “marginalized” once and again to refer to the homeless; on the other hand, María José chooses “beggars.” “We must help them to improve the way in which they perceive themselves. We are all equal; the difference is their situation has led them to live on the streets. We work to empower them,” says Francisco.
The evening comes and the routine finishes or begins. They do not search because they already have dibs, the suburban places they will sleep. Some of them stay in the municipal shelter, others in some cashpoint that hopefully they will find open, and the rest of them on the street. María José prepares the spray for the following morning to disguise the smell of her cats and dogs. Before going to sleep, Paco remembers which page of his science fiction story he left off on.
There are 444 homeless people in Seville. About half sleep on the streets. The day their mothers died, the street became no longer a place of transition, a means to an end, or the avenue or sidewalk of their walk home for María José and Paco; it turned into an end, the place to stay and the being of the homeless.
I Thought I Was Alone
by Emily Milakovic from George Washington University. Originally published on May 8, 2018 in CIEE Seville's student magazine más+menos.
Although same-sex marriage had been legal for years by the time Clara realized she was lesbian, the world she lived in had not caught up. “I thought I was the only girl in the world who liked other girls.”
Clara Duarte Ceballos, a 21-year-old Spanish Philology student, has part of her head shaved, blushes when she laughs, and wants to be a writer. She’s camera-shy and loves author Gabriel García Márquez. She is not defined by her sexuality, though she did not know how to define it at first. “It was curious, because my family didn’t talk about this,” Clara says. “My friend Claudia was one of the first people I told. I was 13 years old. At that time, I hadn’t talked to my family yet. My parents had never said what it was to be “gay,” to be lesbian, so I thought I was the only girl in the world who liked other girls. I thought I was alone.” Although she didn’t have a word for what she felt, or know that many other girls had the same feelings for women, she knew what she felt. “I think there’s always a time when you realize these things,” she explains. “I believe I was more or less 12 or 13 when I began thinking a lot about actresses. I liked Kristen Stewart, from Twilight. I was in love with her, I thought about her a lot, I had posters and everything, and finally, well, I told myself that I believed I liked girls.”
Life for LGBTQ people has changed a lot in Spain over the last few decades. During the 19th century and first part of the 20th century, there were no laws that forbid sexual relations between same sex people, although that does not mean that they were accepted. Being gay became illegal during Franco’s dictatorship. Many LGBTQ people were persecuted, imprisoned, or killed during this period, until December 26, 1978, when the Law on Dangerousness and Social Rehabilitation was repealed. However, until 2001, the criminal records derived from that law were not cleared. On July 3rd, 2005, under rule of the socialist party, then presided by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, same sex marriage became legal with a law that amended the civil code and allowed not only the right to marry, but also to joint adoption, inheritance and pension rights for same-sex spouses. Spain was the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
However, certain negative sentiments and discrimination still exist. In 2013, the Minister of the Interior of the new conservative government, Jorge Fernández Díaz, said that gay marriage should not have the same legal protection as heterosexual marriage and was a risk to “the survival of the species.”
Despite all of that, Clara is optimistic. “Spain really is the country in Europe that best accepts this, and that says a lot, because I experienced a lot of discrimination in my school,” Clara explains with a laugh.
The problem she faced is one of the biggest obstacles to the rights of LGBTQ people: religion. Although Spaniards are now less religious in practice than ever before, Catholicism still has a strong role in the society and culture.
“In Spain, there is much more Catholic tradition, a lot more religious tradition, than in the rest of European countries,” Clara said. “Obviously, there are many closed-minded Christians who use religion to justify their hatred.”
The official position of the Catholic Church is still that acting on homosexual desires is a sin and that gay unions should never be legal. It also states that LGBTQ people should be treated with respect and compassion; however, this does not happen all the time. In her Catholic high school, Clara had teachers and friends who supported her, but the voices against her could be stronger.
“In my school, yes, religion was an influence, even in many teachers. The English teacher is the one who told me the most that “the problem is you, not the others, you have to change and look for a boyfriend,” Clara remembers. “I believe that the teachers in general were very, I don’t know, positive and they helped me a lot, but children that were very Christian because of their parents already came with negative ideas from home.”
Messages like this from people in her life created some doubts in Clara, who felt that she had to like boys. Her first kiss in school was with a boy, though only because she liked a girl he had gone out with.
“Everyone goes through that period where they say, ‘who am I?’ I thought I also liked boys because you’re so obligated to,” she says. However, she was honest with herself and with others when she realized. “At that time, I remember I had a boyfriend and I said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t be with you because I’m a lesbian. I’ve come to realize it.’”
Fortunately, Clara received support from the majority of her family. She has introduced her serious girlfriends to her family, and her mother has accompanied her to “Pride.”
“In the beginning, it surprised my mom because it’s something that still seems a little weird. Now, my mother is the best with that topic,” Clara says. “She defends me a lot, my father too, and even my grandparents, who are from a different time. They are also people who accept it very well.”
However, there are other people close to her who prefer to pretend that she is not what she is. There are members on her father’s side who reject it, people who, according to Clara, don’t ask about anything because they don’t want to know.
“Some family members don’t say ‘she’s Clara’s girlfriend,’ but ‘she’s Clara’s friend.’ They always try to avoid the word ‘girlfriend,’” she complained. “It really annoys me because they are my girlfriends, not my friends, but okay.”
Although Spain is more progressive than many other countries, this does not mean that there is a strong LGBTQ culture. Leaders of the Foundation Triangle, founded in 1996 to achieve equal political and social rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans persons, explain that there were more gay bars and nightclubs in Seville in the 90s than now, and none specifically for women.
“The first girlfriend I had was at my school,” Clara explains. “Now, more from the Internet. The longest relationships have been long-distance. For example, my girlfriend lives in Madrid. It’s hard to find in Seville.”
Now, she doesn’t care if others accept her. She has accepted her sexuality without having to be defined by it. She is open to the world about her relationships and her truth.
“So yes, I suffered from homophobia when I was younger, but now I live completely openly,” Clara explained. “I am an open person, talkative, and very strong, very. And, that’s it.”
By Rebecca Torrence from Duke University. Originally published on May 25, 2020 in CIEE Seville's student magazine más+menos.
Even those on the front lines aren’t immune to the financial casualties of COVID-19. Dozens of healthcare workers at an emergency room in southeast Tennessee receive devastating cuts to their salaries—but the real cost could be the lives of their patients.
When 26-year-old Carl Montgomery comes home from work, he immediately strips down, showers, and washes his uniform. He’ll pick up his N95 mask, which he left behind, when he returns tomorrow. He makes sure not to come into contact with anyone. He knows that, working in an emergency room during the COVID-19 crisis, his life is at risk.
Yet his primary concerns aren’t about his own wellbeing. They’re about the wellbeing of his patients. And Carl believes his hospital is putting those patients in danger.
Carl had been working as a scribe at Tennova Healthcare in Cleveland, Tennessee, for five years—the last three, as Chief Medical Scribe, managing a team of ten other scribes—when on March 25, at 11:00 a.m., he woke up to a text from one of the physicians, which read: “Have you checked your email? Apparently, scribes will be unemployed in five days.”
Scribes are crucial to the efficiency of the ER. As a physician examines a patient, the scribe stands back and logs the patient’s information, including their vitals and their symptoms. This way, the physician can focus on caring for the patient. With scribes, a physician at Tennova can see an average of 1.8 patients an hour. Without scribes, that average is 1.5.
Firing all scribes certainly threatens a physician’s ability to provide quality patient care. But for Carl, the relationship between a physician and scribe is more than just professional—it’s personal, too. “When you’re working with a doctor, you’re with them all day,” Carl explains. “You see patients together, you go to the cafeteria together, you walk between rooms together. After so many shifts, you develop a relationship with them.”
That comradery hasn’t always come naturally to Carl. Tall and toned, with mousy brown hair and an eagerness in his thick southern drawl, he doesn’t seem like the shy type—but he claims he was quiet and overwhelmed during his first three months in the ER. In the middle of his orientation of the hospital, he ran into a physician who introduced himself to Carl by his first name. “That was so weird to me,” recalls Carl. “I thought, ‘That’s not your name. Your name is Doctor.’”
After few months of working in the hospital, however, Carl was no longer intimidated. “You realize they’re just people, like you and me. They have families, they joke around, they get upset. There’s not one of them I don’t have a relationship with,” he says.
Those relationships extend beyond the ER. “I have house-sat for them, gotten drinks with them, and gone on trips with them. I consider a lot of them to be my friends,” Carl admits, affection filling his voice. But saving lives together requires more than friendship—it demands faith, which Carl says he feels amongst his team. “I trust them, and they trust me,” he says.
That mutual trust has allowed Carl to commiserate with the other healthcare workers at Tennova—because the scribes weren’t the only targets of these changes. The doctors themselves saw an 11% cut in their hours, from 36 to 32 hours of coverage a day. Perhaps the most dangerous cuts were made to the Advanced Practice Clinicians (APCs), a term that encompasses non-physician healthcare providers like Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants. Their hours were decreased from 46 to 33 hours a day—a 38% cut.
Angela*, one of the APCs, has felt the full force of these cuts. A single mom who also supports her elderly parents, she feels defeated by these seemingly irrational changes. While patient volumes at Tennova have decreased due to Tennessee’s Stay-At-Home Order, she thinks the cuts were made far too hastily. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction for something we don’t know a lot about. The volumes will obviously come back when the stay-at-home order is lifted,” she argues. As Carl contends, “they were quick to take away hours, but it’ll be a lot harder to get them to add those hours back.”
“They” are American Physician Partners (APP), the corporate group that provides physicians, APCs, and scribes to Tennova. While APP doesn’t own Tennova, the hospital operators have yet to respond to these changes. APP is essentially operating with unlimited power over their employees.
Angela affirms that these decisions have worsened the hospital environment. “Morale is down. Everyone is angry. I do feel respected by the people working with me in the hospital—but I don’t feel respected by APP.”
Yet that perceived disrespect would only escalate in the following days. After March 25, hospital employees were scrambling to process the personal changes they’d have to make in response to what they thought was the worst possible outcome. But APP wasn’t finished making cuts. On April 2, the APC’s hours were cut from 33 to 29 hours a day. APP also indefinitely deferred 10% of the physician’s salaries. And two weeks later, APC hours were cut from 29 to 21 hours a day. That’s a 55% cut from their original salaries.
The APCs are now at an extraordinary risk of financial distress. Many of them have children. Some, like Angela, are single parents. Several are still paying off their student loans. Like everyone else, they live according to their paycheck—and suddenly slicing that paycheck in half threatens their livelihood. “If people are only working half their normal hours, there’s no way they can pay their bills,” Angela contends.
Yet despite these financial concerns, the core apprehensions of these Tennova employees lie with their patients. “You can’t effectively run an ER with these hours,” Angela says. “I feel scared for our patients.” The changes, according to Angela, are “completely preventing (Tennova employees) from providing good patient care. It’s frustrating, and it’s dangerous.”
Carl and Angela both express concerns over working with a “skeleton crew,” an ominous term that references their new normal. With so few healthcare employees present at any given time, they’re working with bare bones to provide for their patients. And even the word “crew” is generous. With these new changes, there are three hours a day without a single APC present. During those three hours, the physician is the only healthcare provider in the entire 44-bed ER.
Carl says these new staffing cuts pose unnecessary risks to patients, and at a potentially fatal cost. “We’re gambling, hoping that any critical patients will come in at a very convenient schedule. But that’s not how emergency rooms work,” Carl sighs. His next words sound desperate, defeated. “It feels like every day we’re rolling the dice.”
The scribes were perhaps the only employees to receive bittersweet—instead of simply bitter—news. On March 28, the scribe program was extended. But soon after, APP announced that they would no longer be paying the scribes. If any physician wanted to work with a scribe, they could pay the scribe themselves. $20 an hour, out of the doctor’s own paycheck.
Carl calls this decision “ridiculous.” Not only are the physicians receiving cuts to their hours and a 10% deferment of their salary, their salary will now decrease again if they choose to work with a scribe. “It’s baffling to me, and baffling to all the providers how they’re being treated,” Carl asserts. “In a perfect world, you should be increasing provider pay right now. It’s so inconsiderate.”
And it’s not as if the physicians haven’t tried to fight these changes. Two weeks after the initial cuts, they returned to meet with APP again—this time, with a list of demands. In addition to requesting benefits for Tennova employees, the physicians presented APP with a step-by-step plan to resume normal staffing hours after patient volumes inevitably increase.
Yet their efforts were in vain. Not only did APP reject these suggestions, they responded with a thinly veiled threat to fire any dissidents. As Angela reveals, “they basically told us, ‘if you don’t like it, you can leave. Just let us know.’” The message was clear: Speak out against APP, and your career at Tennova is over.
This exchange reveals a core issue with private healthcare in the US. Tennova is a private hospital, meaning their brand of healthcare is for-profit. If that sounds like an oxymoron, it’s because it usually is. In the world of private healthcare, quality care can only be sustained as long as the hospital continues to profit. And to minimize a hospital’s losses, patient and physician well-being is considered a necessary sacrifice.
Luckily, these changes haven’t put Carl at significant financial risk. He has plans to attend Lincoln Memorial University as part of their Physician Assistant (PA) program, starting in October. “Even if I stopped working next month, I’m okay to pay my bills until then,” he acknowledges. Yet Carl knows that not all of the scribes had a contingency plan. “These people have to find another job or file for unemployment, because they can’t just stop having income,” he emphasizes. Now, with their fate completely in the hands of the physicians, the scribes’ financial futures are tenuous at best.
APP’s many callous actions are especially unjust for employees risking their lives at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. But though working in an emergency room during a pandemic could endanger their health, the healthcare workers at Tennova don’t seem to be preoccupied with their own safety. Instead, they’re concerned for their families. “I’m less scared for myself—I signed up for this,” Angela stresses. “But my family did not.”
Carl has two great aunts, who he calls Aunt Ethel and Nana, both in their 80s. “They’ve pretty much been my mother figures,” he says. After Carl’s mother passed away during his junior year of high school, the sisters stepped up to take care of him, both emotionally and financially. But because of his job, Carl now takes extra precautions around them. Normally, he would bring Ethel to her doctor’s appointments and take her grocery shopping. Now, he buys her groceries and sets them inside her house, alone. “I just can’t be around them anymore,” he says.
Ethel and Nana still check up on Carl with concerns about his health. “They call me after work sometimes, worried about me,” he says. But Carl believes that worry is misplaced. “I’m not concerned about myself,” he asserts. “But I’ve definitely been concerned about them. And I’m not taking any chances.”
Despite Aunt Ethel and Nana’s apprehension, Carl hasn’t wavered in his plans to pursue a career in medicine. “I just can’t see myself working in another field,” he says. “I love working in the ER.” But while APP’s actions over the past two months may not have dissuaded his career goals entirely, they have certainly altered his trajectory. As Carl approaches the beginning of his Physician Assistant training in the fall, he reflects on what he now wants in a future employer — and what he doesn’t. “Whenever I do start working as a PA, this experience has put a bad taste in my mouth about working for a big corporation,” he says. “And when I do go to sign a contract, I’m going to pay attention to everything that goes into it.”
In the end, no amount of attention to their contracts could have saved these Tennova employees. APP has rendered the contracts void—and there’s nothing the healthcare workers can do about it. “They have their employees in a bind, and they know it,” Carl contends. “These people have worked in medicine for so many years. To treat them like this is disgraceful.”
The extensive medical experience of all of Tennova’s employees has led them to this pivotal moment in our global history. At a private hospital, however, patient health and provider wellbeing are only as important as the company’s bottom line. COVID-19 hasn’t changed that. According to Carl, APP’s actions have revealed the ugly truth about working for a healthcare corporation—“At the end of the day, you’re just a number.” •
*Name changed to project subject privacy.
A Spring of Faith and Miracles
By Paola Méndez Colón from the Univeristy of Colorado-Boulder. Originally published on January 21, 2018 in CIEE Seville's student magazine másmenos.
The evangelical church Manantial de Vida (Spring of Life) is a community made up of individuals from all over the world. Within the walls of this church, the level of studies, status of residency, or financial means of its members doesn’t matter. The community comes together through its love of God, as much as through the members’ shared culture and habits within this family of 400.
The Colombian woman dances with her tanned arms extended to form the infinity sign around her body. On her right hand, she wears her engagement and wedding rings. She also holds transparent and shiny flags, the one on the left is of a pinkish tone; the one on the right is white. Four meters to her left, with flags identical to hers, a man born in Peru dances as well. Between the two, a four-year-old Guarani boy, whose parents come from Uruguay, imitates them with his own smaller, purple flags. The rhythm of the rock praise song confuses her and makes her speak nonsense, babbling words she doesn’t understand. And she asks herself, “Why has God asked me to dance in church?” The only explanation that can be given is: “The Holy Spirit came down on me.”
Ana Chavarro never imagined herself like this, in the middle of an evangelical church in Seville, much less dancing with flags in her hands, but she received God’s message: “I want you to dance for me.”
Within the walls of the Manantial de Vida Church, Ana, along with people from 23 different countries, found a new family six years after moving 8,135 kilometers from Pitalito, in her native Colombia. For the community’s pastor, Manuel Lauriño Villazán, this fact is a reflection of the diversity of the kingdom of God: “I don’t even count the people or the countries they come from. But I say, ‘good,’ because my vision of the church is that it should be as close to heaven as possible. Because in heaven there are going to be people from all over the world, the more nationalities there are, the more this church will look like heaven.”
“The church is not something physical, it is us,” says Angel, 40, from the other end of the room, which is filled with informational brochures, where he’s trying to connect people in the community with Bible study groups by inviting them with a smile into a conversation about his passion, the word of God in the Bible.
It all began in 1994, when Manuel, a 61-year-old Sevillian whose face proves how joyful it is to live life within God’s will, found that the pastor of the evangelical church he attended had to leave Spain against his wishes. Manuel felt lost. There was a moment when he had to rethink things and thought, “What am I going to do with my life?” Then he understood that he had to create his own church. For nine months, Manuel opened the doors of his own home so that a group of believers could share the word of God in his own living room. After months of waiting, the community moved to a 60-square-meter facility in the Alameda de Hércules. That is where the pastor’s three children, Sarai, 32, David, 30, and Joshua, 27, grew up, before the community moved a little further north to number 3 Astronomy Street in the neighborhood of Pino Montano, one of the most populated and popularin Seville.
It took four years, a long list of volunteers, and everyone’s talents for the church to arrive at its current form in Pino Montano. No loans or money from outside were needed “…God is a provider,” says the pastor, to explain how even the tiles that cover the whole church floor, made of granite that would have normally cost 50 euros per square meter, came to be. We got them for only 10 euros per meter, from Galicia, at no additional cost.
All the effort they put in and the blessings they received to build the church are now put to use every week to welcome Sevillians, people just passing through, immigrants from many countries, the curious, and even journalists. Guests, whether they were welcomed years ago or just three weeks ago, feel like a part of the family within seconds of entering the front door. A couple from Ukraine, sitting on both sides of the door, greets everyone who enters with a smile. The woman is named Ana, and she is finishing her degree in Human Resources at the University of Seville; so, she asks for help checking her Spanish in her thesis project. She has only been in Spain for a year and still has difficulties with her grammar. She studies at a McDonald’s after her classes to avoid being distracted by her nine-year-old daughter. Ana works two jobs and studies to give her daughter a secure future.
The smiles at the door invite one to explore further inside. Worship music guides visitors toward the auditorium, where attendees, standing in front of their chairs in rows, sway to the music. When a new face enters the doors of the worship hall, a tall, dark man opens the door to the stranger. Those seated at the back of the church look at the newcomer with amicable and interested eyes, as if to tell him that he too is now part of the family, and that they are there for him. The songs that fill the room vary from slow to upbeat. Worship time is a party for everyone. The low, soulful voice of the Pastor’s youngest son, David, is strong and carries the powerful lyrics perfectly.
David, and his wife, Isabel, are part of the church’s worship band, whose mission is to unite and accompany the community in their praise of God through the power of music. The great hall of Manantial de Vida is filled with David’s voice and is reflected, through his movements and his looks, in the faces of his three children, the pastor’s grandchildren. Samara, the youngest of the three, bounces to the rhythm of her aunt Sarai’s leg, on which she is sitting. Samara’s laughter shines, as if she knew that her first birthday was only five days away.
Six months before Samara came into the world, her mother, Cynthia, called David with doubts. On the other end of the phone, Cynthia was crying after an ultrasound. David, alone in France for work and very worried, asked her for more details. “They have detected that the baby is going to be stillborn, and if the baby is not stillborn, then it will have Down syndrome,” Cynthia relayed what she had been explained. The doctors suggested an abortion, but David and Cynthia trusted that everything would go according to God’s plan. Once David returned to Seville, theywent to the community of Manantial de Vida and asked everyone to pray for them and for the health of their unborn daughter. The couple went back for gynecological appointments every two months to see if their daughter’s health had improved. At the end of each appointment, the doctors always suggested that Cynthia have an abortion, and at the end of each appointment, when asked, they both said no. If God had sent them a baby, they would receive it however she arrived. At the end of November 2018, a little girl with black hair and big, fascinating eyes came into the world. Samara Lauriño was full of life and perfectly healthy. “I believe in miracles, and now I have my own little miracle,” says David, describing Samara.
Cynthia and David felt closer to their two families, biological and church, at this difficult time. Their prayers were answered. Everyone heard and understood them. “Samara is a blessed child,” people in the church say. Even her grandfather, Pastor Manuel, speaks proudly of her being an example of God’s will.
Manuel travels to many churches around the world to preach. He has been offered multiple jobs as a pastor in churches in other countries, but his heart and family are in Seville. He preaches the Word passionately, but also uses jokes that make the whole room really laugh. A perfect mix so that the message remains in the minds of the faithful and so that even children are not bored. After an hour and a half of preaching a sermon full of personal anecdotes and Bible verses, there are whole families with eyes full of tears. They all get up, hugging and greeting those around them with kisses and blessings.
Before the congregation walks out the door, Sandra, the church’s singer, grabs the microphone and reminds them to donate to the Christmas boxes for the orphaned children and poor families.
– We want to have all the little boxes filled for the families to receive them before Christmas. Please don’t forget!
She is Sandra Woo, 27, who not only organizes the Christmas boxes, but is also the regular worship singer. Sandra has a charming smile, similar to those of film stars, and long curly hair, dyed red, which frames her tanned and freckled skin well. Sandra’s passion for music arose during her childhood, thanks to her father. Her talent led her to be accepted into a music production school when she was 17. But, school was not what she expected. “You are not a talented person who has an aptitude for music, capable of doing something good; you are a product. They make you the way they want to sell you,” Sandra says. One day, her voice started to crack. She was probably going to be hoarse for three or four days. But, after five days, Sandra’s normally soft and sweet voice was remained hoarse, and worsened until she could no longer speak and she had to start writing on paper to communicate. Her mother took her to a throat specialist, who discovered that Sandra had a paralyzed vocal cord. There are two vocal cords, one next to the other, at the entrance of the trachea. When a person speaks, or sings, the cords vibrate. Sandra’s paralyzed vocal cord prevented her from speaking, let alone singing. Doctors explained that the symptoms were caused by a strain on the voice. “The strain I had put on my voice didn’t really correspond to what it would take for that vocal cord to become paralyzed,” Sandra says. The diagnosis was that she wouldn’t be able to sing anymore, and, if she continued, her voice would get worse and turn into a whisper. She would have to go to voice therapy to learn to speak and breathe again, like a child. Sandra left the office crying. It seemed as if her dreams were slipping away from her. All the effort she had put in was for nothing. She was frustrated that she could no longer sing, or even speak loudly. So, faced with her disability, Sandra tried prayer:
– “God, I don’t understand what’s going on, and I want to know what your will is. Why am I like this now?”
– “If you want, you can have that and everything else. I’ve given you the talent, and if you try hard, you’ll succeed. You’re going to be well-known, and you’re going to travel around the world, but I want you to sing just for me,” Sandra says God told her.
Sandra had to choose. The love she felt made it easy. She recovered her voice after a few months without surgery, although she must take extra precaution with her voice. If she drinks cold water, she gets hoarse. Who knows, had she stayed in that school, if today she would be completely lost within the plan they had for her. Her passion for music has become stronger by worshipping God, in front of a room with about 350 people, getting closer to that superior being that she adores so much to the point of trusting Him despite her fears, simply by believing. At church, she is appreciated for her talent and for the support she gives to all those around her.
Ana Chavarro, who has spent in Seville the last 11 of her 45 years alive, is among those who appreciate Sandra’s voice, dancing to her songs with a strength enhanced by the Holy Spirit. For Ana, that first dance at Manantial de Vida was a powerful symbol through which God told her that He was with her, through all her doubts, fears, and joys. Ana, who together with her husband Dúber, is in charge of maintenance and janitorial services at the CIEE building in Seville, also knows what miracles are. In 2014, her mother, who was still in Colombia, got a hemorrhagic fever caused by the dengue virus and went into a coma. For 22 days, Ana felt that she would never see her mother alive again. She was lost until her daughter Constanza told her: “Believe in God that mommy will be saved.” On the twenty-second day, her mother was healed, and Ana was able to say to her mother, “I have been here all along, and I heard when you cried and prayed to God.” Ana gently wipes away the tears that slide down her face, so as not to ruin her carefully painted eyeliner.
Since Ana moved to Spain, she has helped other members of her family move here as well. Her husband, Dúber, did so in 2010. Since he arrived, Ana has been inviting him to church. Sometimes he goes and sometimes he doesn’t. She would ask, “Lord, I want to be right with you, but if my husband doesn’t want to surrender to you, then what can I do?” Ana was praying and praying, until one day Dúber arrived at the church and came to know God’s love. Likewise, since her nieces, Angela and Lorena, arrived to Seville in 2019 (Lorena less than a month ago, hoping to bring her husband and daughter soon), Ana has been inviting them too every Sunday to celebrate together their love for God. Every day, they enjoy being a part of this great family more and ore. “Perhaps, they feel what I feel, that peace and welcome that I have here with my brothers,” says Ana without hiding her excitement.
The Girl Who Did Not Want to Dance
By Ariel Grier from Santa Clara Univesity. Originally published on December 18, 2018 in CIEE Seville's student magazine más+menos.
Pastora Galván has danced for as long as she has been able to stand on her feet. Born into an important flamenco lineage, she is one of today’s most celebrated flamenco dancers in the world. Beyond that, she struggles every day to provide a happy life both for her daughter and herself.
“I define my flamenco style as a mixture: pure flamenco, with perhaps something modern. Because in my house, I have both. I have my parents, who are pure flamenco, and I have my brother Israel, who is more contemporary, more linear, like a Picasso. I’m in the middle, I love every type of dance. And I like to learn because I believe that you never stop learning. I like to take from here, take from there; but, honestly, what I carry within myself, like Israel, is pure, pure flamenco. It’s my family, right? You hear flamenco and it gives you goosebumps. Flamenco is a lifestyle, and it has been my life because my mother danced with us while she was pregnant. When a baby is in the mother’s womb, the baby hears what is outside. I remember when I was a little girl, my mother would put on flamenco for me to watch instead of cartoons. Or when she was feeding me, she would clap her hands and say, ‘Ole, ole con ole, my girl, here comes the spoon’.”
“So, I have grown up surrounded by the sound of heels tapping, guitars, and singing. When I left school, I would go to my father’s academy, and that is where I played. Or, my father would go to work at the Tablao de La Trocha at night, and I would cry because my father was leaving, and I was very much a daddy’s girl, and he would say, ‘Come on, get your pacifier, and let’s go,’ and I would fall asleep in the stroller, listening to flamenco. Or, at one o’clock in the morning, when little girls get sleepy, my father would push three chairs together and I would lie down, and he would cover me up.
And now, I am also a mother. I danced while I was pregnant with my daughter up until seven and a half months. And when I had her, I was giving classes, and I remember that she would cry, and cry, and cry. And well, how could I calm her? So I would pick her up and tap with my heels holding her in my arms, and she would fall asleep. What you heard in the womb is what you carry inside. I remember when I was dancing at the theater, I would bring Pastora, finish dancing, and breastfeed her.”
THE GIRL WHO DID NOT WANT TO DANCE
“It’s not that I liked flamenco or that it was something I wanted to do for a living; it’s just that I grew up on it. I felt different from the other girls. Today, I am grateful to my parents. At first, it was difficult, because I didn’t have time to play. I would finish school, eat, and run to the conservatory. And then I’d run home, do homework, eat, and sleep. And all of my friends…birthday parties, playing, going out. A weekend would come and I couldn’t go out. My father enrolled me in the conservatory so that I could have a degree I didn’t want. In the conservatory, I didn’t just study dance; I had to study anatomy, costume, body expression, contemporary dance, dance history, music, a little bit of makeup. These are things that benefit you if you want to dedicate yourself professionally to dance or start an academy. And a dancer should know, if you break a bone, they want you to know which bone it is. So, there came a moment at fourteen years old, when I was tired. And my dad would say, ‘you have to go, you have to go.’ And I would respond, ‘I can’t play with my dolls, I can’t play with my friends. I can’t do anything but dance, school, dance, school’.”
Well, when I finished the conservatory, my father wanted me to take the stage, and I was dancing from the time I was 18 to 20 years old at the Tablao Los Gallos, in the Santa Cruz neighborhood. And later, my father took me [with his company] to the United States. He has taken me to France, to Japan, to Peru, to Cuba, to England…This, he did because it’s what he would have done himself. Also, when I was 21 years old, he entered me in a dance competition in Córdoba, where I won a national prize, and that was important for my career. After that, I began my solo career. But of course, although he helped me, I had to do the work myself. I had to show that I was worthy. Yes, today I see it, and I am grateful for it. I am grateful to my father. But, obviously, at fourteen years old, I was a little bored. My father was like Hitler.”
MANY WOMEN IN ONE
“I have a stage persona, but she is part of me. I remember when I was a little girl, when I was in my father’s academy, I never wanted to dance. It turns out that when you have dance at home, you don’t pay much attention to it. All of the girls would dance, and I wouldn’t take it seriously. But my father, at the end of the course each year, would rent out an important theater, like Lope de Vega or Álvarez Quintero, and bring all the girls to dance to show their parents everything that they had learned. And when the time came for the performance, I wanted to dance. And I would get angry with my father because I would say, ‘I want to dance!’ and my father would say, ‘no, because you don’t know a single step.’ And I’d answer, ‘I’ll do it! I’ll do it!’ So, when I went out to dance, I’d make it up, or imitate the other girls; if one put her arms up, well then I would put mine up, too. And the people would say, ‘look, she’s such an artist. That’s her father; he set it up this way to show her off.’
But it’s just that I had my own way of dancing and I still do, because when I dance, I get into the role: into what they sing, what they play. I feel it, you see? If there is pain, if it is funny, more serious, happier. My brother Israel created a show for me years ago, La Francesa, and I played various roles of different women. The flamenco woman, the abused woman, the cabaret woman, the more sensual woman. Many styles of women, and I fit well into them. There was a show called ‘Identities,’ where I represented the different styles of female flamenco dancers that there were in Seville during the 70’s. Because nowadays, almost everybody dances the same, but in the 70’s, everyone differentiated themselves. The good flamenco dancers were nothing alike, and they were all Sevillian. I did Matilde Coral, I did Manuela Carrasco, I did Milagros Mengíbar, I did my mother…Today, this doesn’t happen. The flamenco dancers have less of an individual seal, a persona. To be someone in the art world, if you don’t project your brand, you have no charisma; you don’t go anywhere.
Art motivates me a lot, whether it’s singing, painting, designer clothes, sculpture, home decorations. I love cinema, fashion. Anything that could be art inspires me. I like to go out with my friends, sing. I like singing a lot, but I don’t have a good voice. I would have liked to sing more than dance. But, I am a flamenco dancer, and I am also a mother, and I like the role of being a mother a lot, although it is very difficult. It’s hard to be a mother and father at the same time, a homemaker, a dancer. Because I raised my daughter alone– maybe because of that– I see myself as weak, when I find myself alone; I can never slip up. But when I’m alone, when I don’t have my daughter, or I’m not in the theater dancing, or teaching, well, at that moment, my body (aggggh…) collapses.”
Although many people tell me that I’m strong because of everything I take on, internally, I see myself as weak. I have suffered a lot because I am a woman misunderstood by men. I have been somewhat an abused woman, psychologically and physically. That damages you emotionally; it affects your self-esteem and it devalues you. All of my relationships have been chaotic. I don’t know why. At the moment, being with a man is impossible. My job really loves me. Men, don’t. (laughs) Really, something that has affected me a lot in life has been a lack of love. It’s incredible. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because men see me as a woman with a lot of stock, and they’re jealous. Men don’t see me as a normal woman, and it makes them mad that I’ll walk down the street and people will ask me for a picture or an autograph. This frustrates men. They aren’t accustomed to a woman with power, and that’s where misogyny comes in. They’re scared of me, but I’m a normal person, simple, it’s just that I have the power to get on stage and leave all my energy there. I’m not at fault for this. I haven’t found a man that doesn’t feel small because of me. That’s my frustration, to not have found love. But, I’ve found it in my daughter.”
Today, there are so many flamenco dancers, that there isn’t a lot of work for everybody. Also, an artist’s work depends a lot on the current politician, if they like art or if it matters to them, and if they want to designate more money for the arts. If a politician comes into office who doesn’t care, the culture suffers. There’s so little money. There are people who are just starting out and have more work than me because it’s cheaper to pay them. What I can do is keep preparing myself so that my career doesn’t decline. The life of an artist: as of today you have nothing, and tomorrow they call you on the phone, and you have to go. The life of an artist is defined by instability.
But still, I don’t want to start an academy. I want to keep dancing. I need to dance in a theater. To me, success is getting up on a stage and the person watching you rises to his feet– one and a half hours, or two, dancing alone, and that you have engaged the audience like that. Also, because it is part of my life since childhood, so many years working in something, it is what I want to share. I still don’t want to keep it for myself. No, my plan for the future is to raise my daughter well, healthy, and to dance a lot.”
Now I am working on being strong. My plan is to grab life by the horns, and that my daughter doesn’t want for anything. My philosophy is to not be mean to anyone, not hurt anyone, because that comes back to you. You have to try to make do with what you have, not be selfish or envious, and be a mentally healthy person, harboring no resentment, and trying to get everyone to get along. I want a lot of peace and harmony in my life, and if love hasn’t been a factor, I don’t care. I receive love from my daughter, and dance, through my parents. That’s it. I have to come to terms with this; I believe it’s right. Nothing is perfect.”
Born in 1980 in Seville, mecca of flamenco, Pastora is the fifth member of the Galván dynasty. Last November, she performed in the iconic production of La Edad de Oro, created by her brother Israel, for which he reimagined the show with her as the star, as a part of the La Bienal de Arte Flamenco de Sevilla.
“We give you the performance of the elegant and voluptuous Pastora, Pastora Galván,” the Canal Sur TV broadcaster announces at the end of the three o’ clock news. The audience sees a clip of the night of the 19th of September, in the Lope de Vega theater in Seville. Pastora fills the stage with all the power of her femininity, a power that, according to her, intimidates men. Her features are soft: full lips, a dimple in each cheek, and almond-shaped eyes that wrinkle remembering episodes from the past. Dressed in black against a black background, Pastora is alone on the stage. The naturalness of her movements comes from within, somehow suggesting that, to her, this vulnerability doesn’t matter. Her hips sway, her hands and head draw circles; the stage vibrates with the steady rhythm of her heels.
Off-stage, her way of speaking also follows a rhythm: slow, gently punctuated with an insinuating, raised eyebrow. As you listen to her, you discover that it is futile to search for the woman under the mask of makeup, because these women are one and the same. Pastora has created a strong persona for the stage and for her daughter, but flamenco is pure emotion, and it allows us to glimpse the fragile and disillusioned woman. The fringes of her dress spin with her, her chin always high. Pastora has nothing to hide.
A Love With No Price
By Marcela Hawkins from Elon University. Originally published on December 7, 2015 in CIEE Seville's student magazine más+menos.
Nuria Ligero is one of the stars of the women’s soccer team Real Betis Balompié. Having reached her maximum level as a female athlete, she knows that her options to become professional are limited.
Green. Green Everywhere. The perfectly manicured turf fields, the tall trees surrounding the perimeter, and the bright practice jerseys of the Real Betis Balompié women soccer players scattered across the field. Its almost overwhelming, and takes a minute for your eyes to adjust. As students from Pablo de Olavide University walk by the field, they slow down to watch them practice, some even stop. The shouts from the players are heard from the Metro stop 100 meters away; their contagious energy difficult to ignore.
All the players of Real Betis Balompié’s Senior Women’s soccer team have dedicated
a portion of their lives to the game. They are here for enjoyment, for their love of it. Not for money and not because they see a future playing professional soccer. For Nuria “Nana” Ligero, these practices are her escape.
“It’s my time to get away from the rest of the world. It’s my time to clear my head, to enjoy myself, and do something that is fulfilling to me,” she says.
Nana, who plays center defender, acquired her nickname while playing on a team with three other girls also named Nuria. To distinguish herself from the others, she was given this nickname due to her petite 4 feet 11 inch stature.
However, when she plays, her size means nothing. With every movement comes a burst of new energy. Every pivot is intentional, every sprint made to count. Her voice echoes words of support to her teammates. “Genial, buenísima,” she shouts after a beautiful cross is made to her. She’s confident on the field, yet humble. She is small in size, but has a big presence.
Nana’s entire life has revolved around soccer. She began playing when she was just learning to walk and run.
“I’ve always played, as far back as I can remember, since I was three or so,” she explains. “I don’t know my life without soccer.”
Nana, however, did not play for an official team until she was 13, her first experience playing with only girls. At 16, despite her young age, she signed with the Sevilla FC women’s senior team, where she spent eight seasons growing into her own and playing the sport she loves. Nana played at every level as they bounced up and down from Division I, Division II, and even Division III at one point.
In fall 2014, Nana made the difficult decision to trade in her red jersey for green and sign with the rival team, Real Betis Balompié. Not only was Nana offered a spot on the Senior Women’s team, but also a job as the physical trainer for the youngest of the three female teams, infantile.
“Although it was a lower division, on Sevilla I was playing Division I, I came to Betis, who played in the second division, because it improved my professional situation and allowed me to work with what I had studied, which was sport physical activity,” explains Nana.
Now, at 24, she has reached nearly the highest level of play that a woman can, with the exception of becoming a “professional,” as women’s soccer has its limitations in Spain. When she was 17, Nana was invited to a training camp with the Spanish National under-19 team, very close to the next and highest level, which would be to play for the top Spanish National team.
“To receive news from the Spanish National Team is like achieving the maximum that you can in Spain, but for me it was just a three-day training,” says Nana. “The truth is that being called either by the Spanish, the Andalusian or the Sevillian teams is the only small reward that you get from soccer. You don’t get the financial compensation, but when you work hard and a National team calls you, living that experience is a very, very beautiful thing.”
It’s no secret that women’s sports are far behind those of their counterpart. The Real Betis women’s teams were just created in August 2011, despite the club being established over a hundred years before, in 1907. The gap between genders is increasingly evident in salaries. One of the most promising national players at the moment, Division I 19-year old, Dani Ceballos, who like Nana plays for Real Betis, has recently signed a contract close to a net $1 million per season. Meanwhile, women playing for the club who reach their highest level of play, do not receive economic compensation. Despite the growing successes of women athletes in Spain [in the London 2012 Summer Olympic games, women athletes won 11 of Spain’s 17 Olympic metals], their efforts seem to go unrecognized and unrewarded.
“Although some women are achieving a lot of success in sports, there is still little support to help them become professional. I know that I am going to reach my limit, because they don’t allow me to achieve more. At least not here. You have to go to England, Germany or the United States, where women’s soccer is much more respected,” says Nana without hiding her enthusiasm. “It’s sad that you have to leave your country because they don’t value what you’re doing as they do in other places.”
As an aspiring teacher, Nana believes that in order for women’s soccer to reach new levels in the future, teaching the proper mentality of respect to the youth is essential. She has been lucky to avoid sexism in her most immediate environment, but has witnessed offensive behavior towards young girls playing soccer.
“Two years ago, the kids team competed with both boys and girls because at that age there still isn’t a big physical difference yet. During some of the games, you would hear some ugly comments from the fathers in the stands,” explains Nana. “To me it seems like a lack of respect. If you hear your father saying those things to a young girl, who could be 13, what’s that boy going to think? Yes, things are changing little by little, but very slowly.”
Nana has never let gender slow her down. As one of the few girls in her neighborhood, she grew up kicking the soccer ball around with the boys, who were almost always older and much bigger than her. Nana was encouraged to play soccer by both her older brother, David, and older male cousins who also played.
“In fact, I used to get angry with my brother because he would always call me to play soccer. But then, when he and his friends would go to the movies or somewhere, he never invited me,” says Nana laughing.
Over a decade has passed and Nana is still playing with the boys. Apart from soccer, she works as a personal trainer and every other week is scheduled to work during the evening. This causes her to miss evening practices with her own team. In October this year, the club decided that when Nana could not attend the women’s practices, she would work with the Junior “A” men’s team in the mornings.
Along with the expected physical differences, Nana has also noticed some psychological differences when playing with men who, despite their young age, are already considered professional athletes and have professional contracts.
“They know that one day they can make a living from this,” explains Nana. “A lot is demanded from them, and they have to respond.”
According to Nana, women work with a completely different mentality. “You know that you won’t make it to the professional level, at least not at my age. Because of that, it’s harder to ask more from a player who isn’t paid. We come because we like to.”
Despite confidence in her abilities, Nana was nervous as to how the players, the coaches and the trainers would react. She was pleasantly surprised by the response. “They have welcomed me incredibly well,” she explains. “I do everything they do, but maybe with less workload in the gym.”
Due to limited time spent together and an age difference that ranges up to eight years, the borders into friendship are still slowly being crossed. However they quickly accepted Nana as a teammate once they witnessed her abilities. “At first, they were a little scared thinking ‘she’s a girl, we’re going to be careful.’ But from the moment that you give it your all and stick your leg in there with strength and have success, they see that you do know how to play soccer. They realize that girls also can play soccer and they consider you part of the team.”
This unique practice opportunity has allowed Nana to keep growing as an athlete. “The coaches say that I’m a tiny bit ahead, that my physical level is higher. But I don’t notice it, I just run as usual and try to give everything I can.”
The role soccer will play in Nana’s future is unclear, but one thing is certain, “The moment I stop enjoying this sport and stop giving everything I can, I’ll leave it for sure.”
One Man Show: Johnny Scarlata
By Bella Humphrey. Originally published on December 13, 2018 in CIEE Seville's student magazine más+menos.
At the corner of Plaza de San Román and Calle Matahacas, stands a small, half red, half sky blue house with a rusted iron door. On both sides of the house, pristine white poster boards announce “BIKE REPAIRS” handwritten with a black sharpie. Inside, however, there is much more than just a bike repair shop.
As you enter the door, you find yourself in a space no bigger than 40 square meters. The walls are covered in brown tile, and are decorated with five bicycles hanging one on top of the either. Deflated tires rest in a corner, waiting to be repaired. As you breathe in, a mixture of fresh rain and WD-40 fill the air. Although there are boxes of small bicycle parts, cables, and cameras surrounding you, it somehow feels like home. Behind the repair table, fixed on his work stands a character who evokes is a mixture between the Italian singer Adriano Celentano, the Sevillian rocker Silvio Melgarejo and the legendary singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury. “My real name is Lázaro, but I am Johnny Scarlata”.
Although he was born in Huelva, Johnny arrived to Seville at the age of four, “my childhood was a childhood … well, pretty normal. I played football with my friends in the neighborhood, but most of all I was addicted to music. I especially loved American artists.” After dropping out of school in the sixth grade, shortly after, Johnny began working as a mechanic. A few years later he opened his own small bicycle workshop in the garage of his home, where he lives today. Thanks to the influence of music from the 70’s and singers like Bobby Vinton and Frankie Avalon, Johnny decided to dedicate himself to the world of music. “I started with a small group of three friends, we called ourselves Scarlata Joe. After that ended, I became a one man band.”
Out of nowhere, the mail-woman knocks loudly on the old, rusted door, “Que pasa miarma,” she says as she leaves a handful of letters in Johnny’s calloused hands. With a big smile, Johnny’s friend closes the door and waves goodbye.
While he remains standing, Johnny takes a picture down from his wall full of star studded memories. “This is from a concert I did a few years ago in a lounge here in Seville,” he says as he looks at the picture with nostalgia. Suddenly, Johnny stands up again, grabs his i-pod and his air microphone as if he is ready to belt out in song. «Look, I’m going to put this song that I recorded in ’92». Cristina, one of his greatest, pop-rock hits, begins to play. While Cristina is written in Spanish, many of Johnny’s songs are written in what he calls “Johnny’s language”, a language that only he understands. Although his lyrics sound similar to the English language, they are completely made up. “I am an original singer, this music comes from within”.
Johnny’s creation method is simple. First, a friend prepares the instrumental for him. Thereafter, he then adds his own unique arrangements and lyrics.
Johnny jumps to his feet, his face gleams with an exuberant sense of pride. Excitedly, he says to the reporter, “I’m going to show you another song. This one is an instrumental version of a Phil Collins song. ” Johnny however, gave life to the song by adding his own lyrics.
Although most of Johnny’s songs are in his own language, it is in the songs he writes in Spanish that we can best understand him, and his raw thoughts. “One of my most poetic songs is called En aquel viejo hotel, listen.”
Like a light, you arrived
like a volcano you burned me
I chase you in my mind
but I cannot have you,
life goes on, but the night consumes me.
“This song tells the story of when I fell in love in Portugal. It was nothing more than a vision, something that did not become more than a dream.” With only his voice and a keyboard, Johnny’s songs sound completely natural, directly from the heart.
Johnny is an open book, and wears his heart on his sleeve, “The song that defines me the most is this one, it’s the song of my life, it’s called El Perdedor.” “And in your life, Johnny, have you been a loser, as the song title implies?”, the reporter asks. He looks at the ground, and looks back at the reporter, with a smile he replies, “completely”.
I dreamed I was the best,
That I would create a song, in the middle of an illusion
Then I wanted to be an actor, but no one understood me
So I tried to forget what had happened.
Without triumphing in love
I left my dreams behind. Johnny looks at the picture of his concert once more. He holds it in the same hand in which he wears his purple watch. Johnny looks up and gets lost in a daze. Out of nowhere, he stands up again, “Here, listen to another song.”
You thought that living would be easy
Walking without knowing
the night will kill you
And the moon will forget you
This world that gave us nothing
Submerged, we are
lost in the dark.
With the song above in the background, the reporter asks Johnny, “If you were 20 years old again, what would you do differently?” Johnny looks at the ground with melancholy. “I don’t know, If I was twenty years younger, maybe I would be what I wanted to be… but in another country. In America.There, I could have been who I really am, Johnny Scarlata.” The reporter offers to take her records with her to her country, the United States. Johnny’s face lights up like a child opening his gifts on Three Kings Day.
– I’ll see you soon in New York, Johnny.
– I hope so.
Johnny puts on his cape and sunglasses, ready to conquer the “dreams he left behind”.
Rosario and Her Two Hearts
By Andrea Salas de la O from Macalaster College. Originally published on May 16, 2019 in CIEE Seville's student magazine más+menos.
There are 12,657 South American immigrants living in Seville, of which 2,105 are of Bolivian nationality. Spanish on her mother’s side and Bolivian on her father’s, the young Rosario Marín talks about her experiences as the proud owner of a “double heart,” despite the difficulties she has found living in a society that’s commonly miseducated about and intolerant of her identities. She expresses all this while waiting to be picked up from the Santa Justa train station.
“I don’t remember, but my father says that as a child, I would go to tell him that the kids from my school called me names, like poor and black.”
Rosario Marín’s young and spirited face shows desperation when she speaks about the subject, for although she’s accepted what happened a long time ago, it still visibly hurts. Daughter of a Bolivian immigrant, Rosario endured taunting from school classmates as a child due to the color of her skin. Today she returns to that same memory while in the Santa Justa station, where she awaits her father to pick her up to have dinner somewhere close to the clinic where she practices medicine. As she faces the schedule of trains that come and go, she looks at the travelers illuminated by the setting sun, running to catch their own trains. Some are clearly tourists, with two cameras hanging around their necks; others are white Spaniards. Between them all, a multitude of Latino, Moroccan, Asian, and other European immigrants are heard speaking perfect Castilian Spanish. She looks at them with no special interest.
“For me, they are normal; although for other Spaniards, they are a spectacle.”
Rosario, also known as Charo by her family and friends, looks behind her, toward the lights and noise of the McDonalds that is situated inside the station, and she walks toward it to wait inside for her father. At 25 years old, she’s finishing her studies at the University of Seville, and she’s following in the steps of her parents who are both doctors. Her father, William Orgaz Jiménez, came to Spain after finishing his studies and working for a couple years practicing medicine in Bolivia. So, unlike numerous other Latino immigrants who are known to come to Spain in poor conditions, ready to accept whatever employment available, he was a licensed doctor, with a high economic status, and his objective was more than just to find work. It was to explore other places of the world and to learn other ways of life. William situated himself in Seville where 12,657 other South American immigrants also reside now, 2,015 of which are of Bolivian nationality. William found work, and thanks to his economic stability, was able to integrate into city life far from Macarena, where the Bolivians are known to live. He then met Rosario’s mother, married her, had Rosario and her brother, and the couple is now divorced.
“And while he was doing all that, he confronted the discrimination that existed then and that still exists in this country. But my father is a man of character, he doesn’t let others step on him, nor does he feel bad about what they say to him. And I admire him for that, and I thank him. I thank him for having shown me that I am not less than others because of the color of my skin and Latino roots. In school, there was this kid who bullied me and called me ‘black piece of shit.’ My father spoke to the kid, there was a hearing, and the school kicked him out.”
Sitting inside McDonalds, Rosario speaks softly and smiles after speaking about the incident. At her side, a young father and his child pass by; the girl doesn’t appear older than six. The father looks at the girl with a big smile, and she laughs back ecstatically. Rosario looks at the pair, and when they leave, she switches from talking about memories to the present day; from that bad kid as she described him, to men now who call her ‘hot-blooded.’
“Here, they look at Latinas as hypersexual,” she says, “or ‘Machu Picchu,’ a name I’ve heard a lot at this point, including by my friends. And I’m Spanish by birth . . .”
The difficulty of feeling worthy of both identities, when one is not valued or accepted by the community of one’s country of birth is an established problem. With more and more frequency, young Spanish-Latinos like Charo feel frustrated and embarrassed by their Latino identity, after seeing the hard and cruel stereotypes that remain about the group among Spaniards. Many of them have spoken on how they choose to hide these certain parts of themselves to avoid the racism and negative treatment they find even in their own communities.
“But, thanks to my dad, I’ve never stopped being proud of my identity. I’ve never hidden that part of me, and, throughout my life, I’ve been fighting and am still fighting for them to see me as just another Spaniard, in all sensess: personal, academic, and professional.”
Staying close to traditional and cultural related practices associated with her Bolivian identity has also helped reaffirm this pride. She relates how she has memories of herself in her youth being a part of the Bolivian parade associated with Carnival that takes place in the city. For her, the act of dressing up in traditional clothing from Bolivia, with the bright colors and the feathers and the headdresses, listening to the rhythm of the flutes, dancing to the music of Los Kjarkas, and finally, eating her favorite Bolivian dish, salteñas filled with chicken, beef, and egg, made her feel closer to her other identity. At the same time, seeing the smiles on the Spanish who watched the parade made her aware that that same identity, although dismissed by some in Seville, was accepted by others.
“I felt Bolivian at heart.”
Rosario hasn’t eaten anything at McDonald’s, because she hopes that after her father picks her up and they go home, she’ll be able to have her favorite dish: Spanish omelette. In that moment she receives a message from him; he’s waiting for her at the entrance of the parking lot of the station. She gets up and walks toward the exit, letting out a profound sigh. She seems to be relieved to finish talking about immigration, identity, and racism, and about a society where several members do not accept her as one hundred percent Spanish. But, she is conscious of the fact that this conversation has to continue to be had if things are going to change in the community that she and her father form a part of.
“Years ago, I told a Spaniard that my father was from Bolivia and he responded that I spoke Spanish very well. So as long as this miseducation persists in this country, and as long as there are people who tell me, ‘You are only Bolivian, you are not Spanish,’ the conversation is necessary. Because the truth is, I’m both.”
A Better Life
By Emily Bidencope from the University of South Carolina. Originally published on May 16, 2019 in CIEE Seville's student magazine más+menos.
The lack of housing is a problem throughout the world, and Spain is no exception. Javier, a homeless man from Seville, is the best example of someone who has had bad luck in life and ends up living on the streets. Every morning, he approaches the convent of Santa Isabel de Sevilla to receive his breakfast from the nuns, as well as a bit of hope for the future. His dream? To recover the happy life he had as a child and to create his own family.
It’s nine o’clock in the morning. In front of the large brown doors of the convent of Santa Isabel de Sevilla, men and women form a queue waiting for them to be opened. They come to receive the help offered by the Philippian nuns of the order of the Daughters of Mary Dolorosa, just like every day at this time. Around the convent, the life of the neighborhood unfolds, starring, at this moment, parents and children hurrying to school, and neighbors who stop for a coffee with milk in the Tavern León de San Marcos.
In the queue, the majority are men. Finally, the door opens, and everyone walks in silence towards a small barred window in the corner of the convent courtyard. On the other side, wrapped in shadows, sits a nun who gives each person one or two sandwiches, depending on how hungry they are. In total, between 15 and 40 sandwiches will be distributed today. The requirement to receive one is simple: that the person needs it.
“And there are many people who need it. There are so many of us who are homeless, living in the streets and sleeping next to the shops…”
Javier is 47 years old and comes every morning to the convent. Today, he arrived at 9:30, waited in the queue for about 10 minutes, talked with the nun in the window for a few moments, and left the convent for the nearby Plaza de Santa Isabel, where has eaten the big ham sandwich he received. Not far from there, in the same neighborhood, is his house: a streetcorner where he keeps a mattress, blankets, and some belongings, and where he has been living since February. He is one of the many homeless people who live in Seville and its surroundings, 500 individuals, according to the 2016 Seville city council census; more than 1000 according to a report from Doctors of the World, who have all arrived at this situation for different reasons. There is the economic crisis suffered in Spain, of course, but also the increase in unemployment, the decrease in income, addiction to alcohol and drugs, or mental disorders.
Some breadcrumbs from the sandwich have fallen to the ground and several gray and black pigeons swirl at Javier’s feet and fight over them. Unperturbed, he closes his eyes and remains that way for a few moments. Then, he starts to tell his story.
Javier was born in Seville and has lived in this city his whole life. “My childhood was happy. I was the youngest of three brothers, and my parents were good to us: we did not want for anything. My father was a butcher, and our table was always full of delicious foods …” After high school, Javier finished studying and started working right away, but he had great difficulty making money. “It’s because of this disability.” Javier shows his feet, whose ankles are turned inwards leaving the soles of his feet facing each other. “I have clubfeet; I was born with them. And because of this, my options are very limited. In recent years, I’ve had difficulties not just keeping a job, but getting it. “
Walking is difficult for Javier; moving around the city is a problem he faces every day. “Do you see the walks I have to take? And driving is also difficult, so I cannot afford to take a job that is far from here. I need a job that I can easily go to and from that also gives me enough money to live. This is complicated. There are not many options …” The pigeons have not left a single crumb of bread on the ground, moving restlessly between Javier’s feet. He looks at them in silence. Maybe they’re still hungry.
“Also, I’m alone. And so, everything is even more difficult.”
Javier’s parents have died already. And his two older brothers live in the province of Cádiz with their families. They are not as close to him as he would like but, at the same time, he acknowlesges that this way, he is motivated to face his situation on his own, without depending on other people, and to fight every day to have a better future. “Maybe I still have time to start a family, as I always wanted. And to start my own business: a butcher shop, like my father…”
After five years in the street, without a roof to provide shelter and far from the family that remains, Javier could have lost hope, but he hasn’t. “What I would most like is to be happy with myself. In my circumstances, it is almost impossible not to be unhappy. But I know that it was partly me who got myself into this, and just as I got in, I’ll get out as soon as I can.”
Javier gets up and goes to a trash can to throw the sandwich bag away. On the ground, next to the bench, the pigeons peck at invisible crumbs. He looks at the convent of Santa Isabel. “Every act of generosity that I receive brings me closer and closer to a better life. I am very grateful to all those who are helping me…” Javier moves slowly away from the convent, which has already closed its doors. Tomorrow, as every morning, serenaded by the cries of the children running to school, the nuns will open them again and the long queue of homeless men and women will go to their patio to receive their breakfast.
And Javier, again, will be among them.
Flour, Oil, Water and Time
By Sarah Klearman from Santa Clara Univeristy. Originally published on December 28th, 2018 in CIEE Seville's student magazine.
When the financial crisis left Manuel Ruiz and Sergi Arnán out of work in 2008, each began to consider becoming self-employed. They met in 2010 and by 2012, La Hogaza, their artisanal bread-baking business, was already active. Since then, the company has grown, though not without its fair share of hardship. They do the baking themselves, beginning at 11pm and sometimes finishing as late as 11am the next morning.
Manuel drives, while Sergi stares out the passenger window. It’s cold out – the sun is long past set – but Manuel rolls his window down half an inch so he can smoke while he drives. The silence between the two men is companionable and comfortable, filled only by the anonymous voice of a host on Canal Sur Radio. At this hour, most streetlights are blinking yellow, out of commission for the night, and there aren’t many other cars on the road. From the Arch of the Macarena, at the north end of the historic center of the city in Seville, it’s about 20 minutes to San José de la Rinconada, where their warehouse is.
As Manuel pulls up outside, Sergi hops out of the car to open the large gate barring the way. Upon arrival, the two men sit at a small table in the corner of a larger part of the warehouse, smoking hand rolled cigarettes, drinking coffee out of glasses, preparing for the night ahead of them. The outer shell of the warehouse is painted white and bathed in florescent lighting; it’s almost garage-like, with an unassuming concrete floor. Further inside is the kitchen, equipped with stainless steel tables, two industrial mixers, bags of ingredients, and an industrial-sized oven, walled off in the corner.
“How many kilos of the whole wheat bread?” Sergi wants to know.
“Two,” says Manuel, without looking up from the night’s work order. Coffee is made in house, albeit somewhat haphazardly – the pot is broken and missing a handle. “We haven’t had the time to get a new one,” Sergi says. For now, he grips it with a kitchen towel, swearing as the heat burns him even through his improvised glove.
The two change into their eclectic uniforms – sweatshirts, loose-fitting patterned pants, bulky black shoes caked with flour, small white hats. “They’re work clothes; they’re comfortable and they can get dirty without consequence,” Sergi explains. By the end of the night, the men’s shoes, pants, sweatshirts, and hands will be tinted with splotches of white flour and patches of dried dough.
Even having just started their workday at one in the morning, they’re both brimming with energy. Both men are built similarly, thin and wiry, their open faces set with determination. They started La Hogaza in 2012, having met while both trying to teach themselves to bake bread at a communal oven in a community garden in Seville, the Huerto del Rey Moro. Before the financial crisis in 2008, when Manuel was laid off, he worked in construction, building solar technologies. Sergi lost his job in 2008, too, as the computer-engineering firm he was working for closed. He spent two years unemployed. “After the business closed, I started to realize that I didn’t want to work for other people anymore,” he says. He took a short course, followed by an internship at a bakery in Bormujos, west of Seville. “It helped me realize what I wanted to do, and I started trying my hand at baking at the Huerto del Rey Moro.”
After meeting, the two then joined Proyecto Lunar, an initiative of the Junta de Andalucia (the regional government) to support new entrepreneurial projects. The support they received included a subsidized lease on the warehouse, which is owned by the Andalusian Center for Entrepreneurial Initiatives in San José de la Rinconada. They would have preferred a location in Seville, but all premises had already been taken.
The process of baking bread is not exactly complicated so much as detailed. They begin by portioning out ingredients for the different kinds of bread –this much flour for the base for the whole wheat, this many grams of salt for the molletes– and setting it aside while the fermented base is mixed by one of the two large machines in the kitchen, like oversized blenders with two mechanical hands. These industrial mixers start the process of the mixing slowly, gradually speed up, and then slow back down as the dough matures. “This process depends greatly on the type of flour,” Sergi says. “Even with a fixed recipe, you have to be observant, because it’s all in relation to the flour. Some require more water, some less oil, things like that.”
He keeps his eyes on the dough. “This flour is from Catalonia, from Lleida,” he says, changing the speed of the mixer. “I’m Catalan,” he adds, and there’s a hint of pride in his voice. He’s originally from Penedés, from a small town next to Villafranca de Penedés, called Sant Pau D’Ordal. His family still lives there, but his partner, María, a high school biology teacher, is from Seville. They met in Dublin, where they were both studying for a year, and eventually moved back to Seville. They have three sons Unai, eigth, Marc, six, and David, who is almost three.
Once Sergi and Manuel are both in the kitchen, they start a second base of dough, placing it in a second, older looking machine. It thrums to life, pounding the dough, producing a rhythm like a heartbeat while it works. “She’s called the ruidosa,” Sergi says. They bought it from a woman whose business was closing, who told them she’d bought it second or third hand – and “we’re sure,” Manuel says, “that there were other owners before that.”
Sergi laughs. “I like la ruidosa,” he says, “but if she made less noise, I would like her more.”
Manuel grins and walks the length of kitchen. He always seems to be moving in and out of the kitchen, checking the summary of the night’s work on the table outside or taking a drag of a cigarette. He has very bright eyes and olivecolored skin. For the moment, he is sporting a beard, although pictures lining one of the windows in their warehouse show that his facial hair has changed through the years. He’s 40, but he looks much younger – something about his per sona, maybe, his hyper but easy laugh, his sense of humor. “The first loaf of bread we ever made,” he says, “was absolutely terrible. We ate it, though. It was like the first spark.”
They went without pay the entire first year of La Hogaza. It was tough to get started: their only clients were their neighbors and their friends. “More than that, we had invested a ton of money. To start a small business in Spain is incredibly costly,” Manuel says. “And it takes a lot of time. We had a lot of luck starting out that allowed us to continue on.”
This Wednesday night is a calmer one, the baking only lasting about six hours from start to finish. It is exactly six in the morning when the two men finally exit the kitchen, change into their regular clothes, and walk to Manuel’s car, brisk from the cold. On these calmer, lower production nights, the two make around 40 to 50 kilograms of bread; a busier night, they’ll spend 12 hours in the warehouse to make as much as 150 kilograms of bread, and there’ll be no time to sit at all, only a moment or two to sneak a sip of coffee or a drag of a cigarette outside the kitchen, and then it’s back to work.
In one of these slower moments, Manuel stares at the clock, noting that it’s still an hour ahead, left unchanged from daylight savings a week and a half ago. He takes it down off the wall and brushes a thin layer of flour from its face before changing the time. “It dictates our lives, the time,” he says.
They began with a wood-burning oven that could fit 12 kilos of bread – they’ve now expanded to their current, electric one, which can fit 40. They regularly cater to between six and seven stores, a hotel, and three or four restaurants, as well as orders that come in from individual customers. The business has grown substantially, but still, they feel that nothing is for certain. “We keep pushing forward, but each day is a unique challenge,” Sergi says.
They pay a business tax of 350 euros a month to the government as self-employed workers, 500 euros a month for electricity, and the salaries of their two employees. “The price of goods keeps rising, and so do taxes,” Manuel says. “We need between eight and twelve thousand euros a month just to pay everything.”
Pressing, too, is the subsidized lease on the warehouse, which will run out in June. They’ll either have to find a new, non-subsidized location for their business or attempt to apply for an extension on their existing lease. Although they know being granted the extension is unlikely, if they choose to move the business to a new location, they’ll face a sharp increase in costs. The two are still unsure of what they’ll decide to do come June.
Monday nights are the most grueling production-wise, because they come after the weekend, and there’s usually high demand after two days of no bread. They give themselves two nights off a week – Saturdays and Sundays. Weekends, they “eat, sleep, and not much else,” Manuel says, laughing. They spend time with their families and their friends as they can, working around the schedules of their wives and friends, sometimes going for a beer or spending a day at home. They close each year for the entire month of August (the slowest in Seville, largely because of the heat) having decided the first year that they needed a month off from the toil of a nocturnal work schedule. “The body is meant to sleep at night and be awake during the day,” Sergi says. “Monday, the first night back after the weekend, it’s like doing it for the first time. We’ve talked with people at other bakeries and they’ve told us the same – the body is resistant to this kind of schedule.”
During their month off, they spend time with their families. Last summer, Manuel drove to Germany in his Volkswagen, traveling up the coast of France to Dusseldorf, Germany where Manuel’s partner, Claudia, who also works as a high school Biology teacher, is from. He’s been taking German lessons – he can order a coffee or say thank you. They’re expecting their first child: a girl, to be named Carlota. Once his daughter is born, he hopes she’ll be bilingual. Claudia’s due date is December 4th – they’re expecting an induction – and during a quieter moment in the night, the two men hunker over the table hosting their broken coffee maker and cups, staring at the calendar. They’ll probably need someone to help the night of the 27th. Definitely the night of the fourth. Should they close from the first Wednesday of December to the following Tuesday?
Manuel’s mother is staying with him and Claudia now, too, anticipating the baby. He’s from Los Barrios, some 200 kilometers away in the province of Cadiz, near the Strait of Gibraltar. His family – his mother, his brother – still lives there. His dad died young, but he was also a baker. “He couldn’t teach me, and he never gave me any recipe – he never told me, with 100 grams of flour, this many pinches of salt, and this kind of dough, you make bread,” Manuel says, “but I still feel like it’s something familial.”
Most nights, it’s just the two of them baking in the kitchen, but as they’ve gradually expanded, they’ve been able to hire some help. Th company has twoemployees, including Hector, who also does the deliveries. “Before we hired Hector, we were doing our own deliveries,” Sergi says. “That was good for us, financially, but spiritually – not so much.”
Once, with the help of Manuel’s brother, they made 100 roscones de reyes (Three Kings’ cake) the night before Kings’ day, on January 6th, a holiday in Seville and most of Spain. Even with an extra set of hands, including preparation, baking, and delivery, that work day lasted 23 hours – the longest they’d ever logged.
They’ve also hired Maricarmen, the woman who minds the storefront function of the factory in San José de la Rinconada. Tuesdays and Fridays it’s open to the public, and the two men sell whatever they’ve made that week or whatever’s been made to order; tonight, while waiting for the dough to set, they’ll make torrijas. They’re typical of the Semana Santa in Seville: bread that’s been left a day to harden, then dipped in a mix of milk, lemon zest, vanilla, and eggs, then fried in olive oil, and finally marinated in a mix of honey and water, something Manuel calls almíbar (an Arabic word, he says). They’ll sell them Friday, at store opening.
“Torrijas,” Manuel sighs, as Sergi cooks, and the outer shell of the warehouse begins to smell warmly of something fried and sweet. “Torrijas, torrijas.” They each take a box of four home. “That leaves nine,” Sergi says aloud, to Manuel, but also to himself. “Nine boxes of four to be sold at 3 euro each. That’s 27 euros.”
Besides Manuel’s brother and a handful of friends, the list of people that have spent an entire night with them is relatively short. Sergi’s kids have come a few times. “On top of that, they didn’t stand still the whole night,” adds Manuel.
Both Sergi’s parents have come – his mother made macaroons last week that they’re planning to sell on Friday. Everyone who has come has helped with the molletes – small, white rolls usually eaten for breakfast. Before going into the oven, they must be shaped from the dough, patted down into fist -sized slabs. Once they’re in the oven, they’ll only take about 10 minutes to bake.
The smallest rolls, about the size of a fist, go in the oven first. They take about 15 minutes to bake. They’ll be delivered to a hotel, one of La Hogaza’s best clients, after Hector arrives around seven in the morning to slice the larger loaves once they’ve cooled. The larger loaves can take up to 40 minutes; they usually bake them last, after the molletes, and any other orders they have. When the two did their own deliveries, even shorter nights could end up lasting 10 or 12 hours – six or seven hours baking, time spent waiting for the bread to cool down so it could be sliced, packaged, and ultimately delivered.
Tonight, though, after the last round of larger loaves has come out of the oven, the kitchen gradually loses its heartbeat. The mixers are turned off, the oven is left to cool, and even Manuel’s pacing has slowed. They’re tired, but the two men don’t look like they’ve just worked a seven-hour shift that began at 11pm. “Honestly, we sleep the same as any other person, just in pieces,” Manuel says. “Two or three hours here, afterwards four there. Really, this line of work isn’t as tiring as one might think.”
The two change out of their uniforms. Most of the residual flour has disappeared from their hands, faces, and clothes. They count the loaves of bread they’ve made for the morning’s deliveries, both in good spirits. They’ll return both tomorrow and Friday night for longer shifts before the weekend. Manuel shrugs at the thought, and smiles. “I feel like the most fortunate man in the world, baking bread,” he says.
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