José, Virginia and Mely

Sunday afternoons the sounds of laughter drift over our next-door neighbor’s wall – deep hearty laughter, the sounds of friends enjoying pleasant conversation and probably good wine. José and Virginia and his mom Mely run a small neighborhood grocery store just down the hill.

José is a bricklayer by trade, but jobs are scarce. Mely’s husband died a few years ago, so they all help keep the household together. And Sunday afternoons, their only free time during the week, they relax. And laugh.

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Pepa – Seamstress / Málaga, Spain

My son needed a suit adjusted. (You’re wondering why a seventeen-year-old kid would wear a suit. It’s for a play.)  He’s fairly thin for his height so the jacket, trousers, vest and shirt all needed some tailoring. No problem for Pepa. A few pins here and there and she was done.

A week and a half and twenty euros laters he had a great fitting suit. And Pepa and Inés, the shop owner were quite willing to let me come back and take some photos.

I was surprised to learn that Pepa is my co-worker’s landlady. But then this part of Málaga is really a just a small town, with a small town feel.

María – Baker / Málaga, Spain

Manolo came into the store and María slipped him a couple of hard rolls. Then she scolded him for something he had said, just like a mother would. Manolo is a hoarder and he smells really bad. But María is really kind to him. She is kind to lots of people. Once she told me that there is more to life than money.

Pictures María took in places like Peru and Norway used to cover the walls, but slowly shots of her granddaughter Nebraska are edging them out – also Bruce Springsteen posters. Maybe when the economy gets better María will start traveling again. She told me she would like to visit India and maybe Canada.

My friend James / Málaga

After three weeks in the hospital my good friend James was very thin but had a full beard. His future mother-in-law brought in contraband food–bananas and steamed carrots– to augment the white rice he was receiving.James told me he was very tired and not to stay very long. Friends can say that.

He survived and is now married. His mother-in-law did not like the beard. It has since disappeared.

Enrique – Shepherd / Horcajo de la Ribera, Spain

Enrique and other men and boys from his village herded sheep ten months of the year, in Castilla León in the summer and Extremadura in the winter. In his early days they moved the sheep on foot and horseback, and later in trains and trucks. I found Enrique enjoying the sun on his daily walk outside the village, now only populated by old people and summer visitors.

Morning break / Junta de los Caminos, Málaga

Just outside Puerto de la Torre, where several roads come together, is a small group of houses and cafes. I parked my scooter, ordered a café con leche (un mitad doble in local speak) and sat down to enjoy the late morning air on the patio. These men didn’t arrive together, but seemed to be old friends, in no rush to get back to whatever was waiting for them. In Spain drinks are consumed slowly and sitting down, with plenty of conversation.

José Antonio – shoe repairman / Málaga

If he says they’ll be done by Thursday, they’ll be done. José Antonio runs a small shoe repair business in the Málaga suburb of Puerto de la Torre. I’ve often wondered how he can survive charging so little. He has a friendly smile and knows my name. That means a lot to me— that, and knowing my shoes will be ready when he promised.