By Paco Puche
“I am going to briefly tell you about a wonderful custom of country people, it is called a" pawn turn ", at least that's what we call it in Coín. It is about cooperating and helping each other among the neighbors when there is a task that requires more labor, for example: when the potatoes had to be removed, several neighbors would get together and rotate through each other's farms until they took them all out: today It's my turn, tomorrow it's up to you ... A precious gesture that made life more human and bearable "
Caring for the fields like the fragility of your own body - Jorge Riechmann
In the book that has just appeared in editions of the Genal, entitled Diario campesino de familia, and whose author is Cristóbal Hevilla, the editor opens the text with the following comment: “This book that you are holding comes from a very simple idea: that of gathering in a text all the letters that Cristóbal Hevilla, Jr., sent us each week by email to all those who visited the ecological markets near Guadalhorce (Malaga), precisely to announce the place, day and ecological products that we could find them in the post that the Hevilla family attended. On the way, it was started by peasant farmers ”.
This term if one looks for it in any general dictionary does not appear, it is therefore a neologism. Neither does it appear in a flamenco dictionary, as the phrase “it was started by campesinerías” suggests. It is common to say in the flamenco language that someone "starts off" when he begins to sing or dance without being able to remedy it, as if taken by the festive atmosphere. "Getting started by peasants" denotes a jump to talk about the countryside without remedy, or what the seventeenth-century Chinese landscaper, Schitao expressed so well, which adapted to the case at hand would say that: for Cristóbal writing is the result of the receptivity of the earth; the earth opens to the hand; the hand opens to the heart… and thus we save things from chaos.
We can say, without fear of being too wrong, that this book is, in addition to a treatise on peasant anthropology of the 21st century in the West, the “Columella” of this time. Another Andalusian who has his work in the field with an organic management and that can serve as a repertoire, not exhaustive, of good agricultural practices. If José Antonio Muñoz Rojas, the illustrious writer from Antequera, recounted "the things of the countryside" as a poet in love with rustic life, Cristóbal Hevilla transformed his artisan activity in the countryside into a poetry, a work of art.
As the book arises, in addition, from the attempts to attract people to the organic proximity markets that are held in the province of Malaga, in which some thirty farmers gather who directly sell their productions of organic and fresh fruits and vegetables and who are self-organized in an association, which also disseminates in schools and among the population the dignity of peasant work and the need for organic farming, we are facing what is now fashionable to designate as agroecology.
Some family farmers
But what Cristóbal spreads is an ancient knowledge, learned from many generations that preceded him, stored in his father, who at 83 years of age continues to help with the tasks of the fields and the markets, in his own way. A few days ago, in one of those weekly missives to which he has us accustomed, he told us: “But the one I keep learning from is from my father. (…), I observe him and rediscover in him qualities that I have learned and nurtured without realizing it, as many things happen in the family learning baggage. And it is that my father is excited and is more sensitive every day with what happens around, with life. Thus, you see him getting excited or tears come to his eyes at any daily event: news of social injustice, an image of a starving child, evictions from bloody banks ... but the same thing happens when he sees his granddaughter. , to his children carrying the field palante, of a lettuce that grows generously, of the delicious palate of a tangerine or what do I know ... of "you have to see that the carrots are born beautiful" and ZAS! the pouting face appears and the tears of emotion come behind. (…) Now I discover that over the years, what hardens the soul of others, has softened more if possible; only his skin has hardened and I see that it is all due to that wonderful ability to be surprised by life. I hope to learn it better now that I am more aware and, hopefully, that I know how to transmit it to my children in this beautiful and inadvertent way. (And that they did not study pedagogy or attend parent schools ... take it now!) "
The four children of Cristóbal, Sr., all with part-time peasant activities, write in this book about their family experiences. In all of them the family education sprouts, the gratitude for what they have received, the good and hard years of their childhood between the field and the studies and the presence of their mother. José Manuel, the eldest son of the family, expresses it very well in his letter when he says: “Ana, those tomatoes are for seed, I am telling you so you don't spend them! I heard this phrase every summer, when my father arrived back from the field. My mother was in charge of opening and carefully sifting through the guts of the tomatoes, each and every one of those small seeds, to leave them on a plate ”, and then save and reseed them in due course.
58 love letters to the countryside ... and 2 hopeful letters
The bulk of the text of this book runs through the four seasons, hand in hand with Cristóbal, in that intermingling of country activity, weather, flavors, hard tasks, uncertainties and joys that the garden and wildlife give.
Cristóbal is that sponge of vitality that has to explain to his readers how it is possible with about 50 degrees of temperature in summer one can be so happy and how with the stress produced by carrying out two professional tasks, that of a nurse and that of farmer, you are so overjoyed. Here is a small sample of Cristóbal's mood and talent, culled from his 58 love letters to the countryside, which cover a complete cycle from the end of one summer (2010) to the beginning of autumn of the following year:
Letter three, August 14, 2010
Or I do not know if rather hellish nights, because what a hot night, this has beaten the marks that I remember, at ten o'clock at night the thermometer still marked 38º C of temperature and also with a hot wind that worsened if possible the awful sensation of heat. This looked like Cordoba instead of Malaga.
Letter Four, August 21
Last week the August Fair in Coín ended and on Sunday, as I told you, we held the exhibition of vegetables and fruits and the exchange of seeds of local varieties. Although he was a bit humbled, the comments are all very positive.
Letter Eight, September 18
While I was listening to the crickets in the cool of the night, I was thinking about what I was going to write to you in the message today and last Sunday afternoon came to mind, and I'm going to talk about it. That day we carried out the family's third harvest in the garden.
Letter Nine, September 26
With this image that I have just described, I have wanted to bring you and draw your attention to the great culture that existed, and still exists, in the villages but is being destroyed by leaps and bounds, largely because of all of us (some more than others) we have taken it upon ourselves to despise and abandon it. A culture that we have recently seen is going to be vital for the future and that is also an unwritten culture, very local, that can disappear more easily than we think.
Letter Eleven, October 9
We are very happy with the large number of visitors to the fair, we believe it has been a success and that people's awareness of organic products is increasing significantly. We also want to apologize for any mistakes or minor mistakes we have made when it comes to serving you.
Letter Twelve, October 16
I am going to briefly tell you about a wonderful custom of country people, it is called a "pawn turn", at least that's what we call it in Coín. It is about cooperating and helping each other among the neighbors when there is a task that requires more labor, for example: when the potatoes had to be removed, several neighbors would get together and rotate through each other's farms until they took them all out: today It's my turn, tomorrow it's up to you ... A precious gesture that made life more human and bearable.
Letter Eighteen, December 4
The sky has given us magnificent days of rain, it has also been a "calm water" that the earth has been able to absorb quietly, so it has not only been great for crops but it will surely also feed the aquifers. And those who are sure to have liked me have been the farmers, who are delighted. You just have to look at my father, these rainy days, he is smiling and happy, singing joys and fandangos at all hours and when not, dozing warm in any armchair, taking advantage of the fact that he cannot work in the fields. So you can see that not everyone is melancholy about the rain.
Letter twenty-three, January 8, 2011
Forgive the delay, although today I was really aware of it, but last night was dedicated exclusively to children, you know: Horseback riding, preparing gifts, details, illusions ..., getting them to fall asleep amid so much emotion ... and this morning, the overflow, the big surprise! So until now I have not been able to find time to send you the weekly message from the market.
"Letter twenty-four, January 15
Well I leave you, I'm getting very critical. Oh, and look at the sky from time to time that they have begun the migration to Africa and it is not uncommon to observe groups of kites, honey buzzards, storks and many other birds heading to the Strait (of Gibraltar)
"Letter twenty-seven, February 12
The energy and speed that plants use in this role is admirable, when their time comes. The flowers are "painting" the landscape with color, transforming it day by day, it is as if they communicate with each other and sound the alarm: Come on, come on ... you blossom! In fact, there is recent research that supports this, confirming the ability of plants to communicate with each other by chemical messages that can even affect their own composition.
Letter Twenty-nine, February 27
Of course, the field continues to groom itself, every day more beautiful, not only in the orchards but also in the wild. To give you an example, gorse and rosemary are "out of it"
Letter thirty-four, April 3
To counteract so many good smells, we have dedicated ourselves these days to distributing sheep and goat manure and then plowing the land and cutting it off (making loins) and preparing the drip gums; all ready to plant the summer vegetables and watermelons.
Letter thirty-six, April 16
Without going any further, my brother José commented to me that he knew a "country woman" who sang to her onions because she said that they felt happier and they became more beautiful; I do not know if this has some scientific foundation like music and fetuses or music and laying hens, or it is simply that there was no other better audience to listen to it. But what has always been wonderful to me is listening to people sing while they work; It hardly happens anymore and this, surely, must be symptomatic of the bad times that run.
Letter thirty-seven, April 24
By the way, if you like it and you have time on these holidays, stay one afternoon in the country and wait for it to get dark, that with a bit of luck you will listen to the cuckoo, the nightingale, the nightjar or the scops owl; they give a special tone to spring evenings, they are unique moments because they only visit us and sing at one time of the year.
Letter thirty-nine, May 14
Now the orchards are flying upwards: the zucchini will be released this week even if it is only a few pieces; cucumbers will do it in a couple more weeks; the tomatoes are already being tied to the canes (although the mildew with so much humidity and the potatoes so close together give me yuyu, let's cross our fingers…); the enramme beans are already "crawling" on the canes and the ground beans ("las nanas") can already see the flowers on the buds; the aubergines also show the first flowers; the watermelon bushes spread out on the ground; and the potatoes are showing their faces "saying: I'm ready for you to take me out." And in the fruit trees, the plums are already plump hanging from the branches; apricots are swollen; and the oranges are rushing little by little. The figs are already distinguished in the fig trees; the cherries are beginning to turn white (let's see if Fina, our ecological farmer friend from Jubrique, doesn't let us down this year, from here on a fondness); the almonds are already the maximum size they will reach; and the olive trees begin to clean the plot and in some the harvest can be sensed. In short, as to not stop looking and taking photos everywhere. It is a climactic moment in the effervescence of spring.
Letter Forty, May 21
But despite the humidity, the year continues its cycle and this is palpable in the landscape, which has already begun to lose greenness: the browns and yellows win the battle against the greens, the colors of the flowers in the grassy meadows are less noticeable, although the broom flowers still yellow strongly on the edges of roads and ditches, and the orange ones of the flower buds of the prickly pears are also observed. And to the sounds of the birds in heat, some new ones of this time have been added, such as the oriole, the flocks of bee-eaters at sunset and the nightjars and scops owls at night. How lucky I am to be able to tell you about this and have enjoyed it before! (sorry but I have noticed as I wrote). Well, it's okay for today that it's getting late ...
Forty-one Letter, May 29
I just planted some mangoes and tilled and weed a batch of tiny carrots and, uh, how hot you can tell. The wide-brimmed hat is essential, with the fresh water lollipop also close by to replenish the liquid element, that working in the field you do not see how it flows. That one is thin not only because of vegetables and fruit, that physical activity counts, and quite a lot!
Letter forty-two, June 5
Well, there we go around on the farms, picking potatoes, tilling grass for small carrots, planting new batches of lettuce, peppers, the gazelle horn aubergines (sausages) that were so popular, etc. And the summer crops are moving forward, you can see the lumps like balls between the watermelon plantation, the first beans have begun to bear fruit, we have plums, the loquats and apricots are finished and the Sanjuaneras knobs and figs will appear right now . As you can see, it is a wonderful time for the orchard, especially because you can eat fruits everywhere as if you were a blackbird raising your offspring, a luxury that one is not aware of until you see how other people enjoy incredibly when you give them the possibility of eating a fruit, taking it with their hands directly from the tree, while walking through the garden.
Letter forty-three, June 11
What a beautiful find I had picking oranges days ago! I came across a tiny nest of black-capped warblers, which is an insectivorous bird that bristles with a small crest of feathers on the nape, it has a striking and beautiful song. He is a charming garden helper and an infallible insecticide.
Letter forty-four, June 18
Well, this is equally applicable in agriculture, you start to get up earlier to work and it gets dark while you finish, with which the day lengthens a lot. This has its advantages and disadvantages. Just yesterday night while I was watering I was lucky enough to be able to enjoy the lunar eclipse in all its phases, while you hear a nightjar or a fox singing "filthy", and alerting all the dogs in the area that barked at him to give away his presence . Of course, the negative part is the feeling of limitation and overwhelm that your daily dependence on these tasks produces, especially now in summer when you cannot skip a day without watering, as it would be catastrophic. But here is one more of the pedagogical advantages of agriculture (these things are not mentioned in agricultural manuals): that you have to see the good part and restructure your thoughts to enjoy what you do and see the full bottle and not the empty, and this exercise is essential to face the many hardships that you will encounter in life, something like a preparatory psychological training to improve your attitude in life.
Some after this paragraph you will say: you have to see what this boy gets out of agriculture! And I thought he only produced tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers ...
"Letter forty-five, June 26
And it is that just an hour ago, while we were finishing watering the orange trees, a point of fluorescent greenish light caught my brother Sebas's attention in the dark and later on to me, when I passed by the same place in the orchard.
Of course, it could not be anything other than a FIRE FLY! And you will say: so much party for a little bug-lú (that's what we called it in our childhood). But I can't help but get excited every time I meet them. Let everything be said, there are fewer and fewer encounters. Unfortunately, it is one of the most sensitive insects to insecticides and other phytochemicals, in fact, I think, in some studies they consider it a quality bioindicator. It is still curious, magical and fascinating that such a small animal can produce light at night, with so much technology that we boast! Our solar panels continue to have that handicap, at night they cannot produce energy.
Letter forty-six, July 3
Well, in the thread of the firefly, or better, in the light of the firefly I comment on another reunion that I have had this week: the aluas. And some of you may wonder, what are aluas? Well, it is about the ants that at this time of year, converted into successors to the royal throne, and adorned with the luxury of having wings, come out at a time of day and fly with the idea of forming another "ant monarchy", away from his maternal anthill and his regal mother. Luck is to be able to see them just at that moment, when they are accelerating out of the hole. They go up to a blade of straw or to a nearby plant…., And as soon as the breeze blows they spread their wings and zuuuummm to fly! What happens to them is not what happens to the children of today, who do not leave the mother's bed or push them, everything is timed here. Well, this moment was a show for the children, we ran to warn each other if they found a boiling anthill of "flying princesses", and there we dedicated ourselves to playing with them.
Letter Fifty, August 7
Uumh! Even if it is very late to write to you, I have the advantage of night and summer as allies, and it is that right now in the silence of the night ... through the kitchen window I get the freshness and the aroma of the lady at night and, of course, the incessant song of a cricket installed at the entrance of my house. But we'll see in the morning who gets me out of bed.
Letter Fifty Five, September 10
On the farms it is an intense time to sow: cabbages, red cabbage, cauliflowers, broccoli, lettuces of all kinds, carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, chives, potatoes, beans, broad beans, arugulae ..., the list is even longer, but as the heat is still fighting, you have to be very aware of the initial support waterings until the plants already grip well and can "pull" themselves. It is time for grapes, mangoes, melons, quinces, almonds, carob beans, dried figs and, Right now, the pomegranates and persimmons begin. Of the latter I have already seen some maturing, but the first as always are for blackbirds ("myrrh" in Coineño). It is the revolutionary tax that must be paid until they are well fed up and there are enough persimmons for everyone.
Letter fifty-eight, October 2, 2011
Uhmm, how cool it is better in the morning, "snuggle up" with the blanket and the bedspread does not feel like getting up. But the field awaits me, the potatoes are whispering to me that they have a lot of grass and they need me to till them. Up! No more frolicking in bed. (… And in the end it concludes) !! A big kiss, see you… !!! ”
And from the letters of hope and gratitude we select these two texts, the first from Federico and the second from Fuensanta:
Federico: “Anyway, that day and that night were special and I am the one who feels grateful to the people of Coín who welcomed me and who have welcomed me several more times. I don't know where these people came from, but I still think that Cristóbal, Salvi, Bartolo and their respective families, and many more people whose names I don't remember, are people who have been (and are) very important in my life, they are wise and loving people and I, who was going to “teach”, learned that I have a lot to learn and that it is a gift of life to meet these unusual people.
And I have also been forever hooked on that marvel that are Aloreña olives. "
Fuensanta: “We feel an intrinsic part of our land, our culture and our traditions and we feel the deep pain of how they are not valued in their proper measure nor is there the necessary interest to treasure and transmit them (…) Thanks again Cristóbal, continue So, do not decay, there are many of us who feel the vibration of life just like you and we feel comforted by your feelings. A hug."
The book concludes with calendars of seasonal vegetables and fruits, local varieties, sowing and transplanting and with a local peasant lexicon, from Coín. As a sample, we copy what is said about the term "potato" from the aforementioned lexicon: "Pope: it is called" potato "in other regions, but in Andalusia, and in most Latin American countries, the original name is preserved Quechua "potato". Some say that when this name was mixed first with that of "sweet potato" it gave rise to "potato"; Others claim that the Pope of Rome could not allow himself to be mistaken for a tuber, so he tried to change the name. Andalusia was not allowed. "
The book, in its own climax, informs us that: El Diario Campesino de Familia finished printing one calm and sunny day in autumn 2011 when the aluas hovered over the Huertas Viejas party in Coín
We will conclude this review of an extraordinary book, which we highly recommend, with a motto that these family farmers display when they attend the local ecological markets weekly. It is a legend engraved on a piece of wood, sculpturally cared for, and that reads like this: The Hevilla family feeds us and gives us life.
Keep it up.
Paco puche - February 2012 - Spain