The Land of Dust and Plastic

8:16 PM Aida Alami 0 Comments


In 1956 Juan Goytisolo, one of Spain’s most influential contemporary writers, took a bus to the eastern part of Almería, a province in Andalusia. Under Franco, this was one of the country’s most impoverished regions, exploited by mining companies and neglected by the government. Goytisolo had come to tell the stories of the people who lived in its slums. “I remember clearly the impression of poverty and violence provoked so dramatically by Almería when I first took route 340 into the province a few years ago,” he wrote in Níjar Country, which was published in 1960 and subsequently banned, like many of his books. At the time he was living in Paris; three decades later he moved to Marrakech. He never again lived in his place of birth.

I read his book on a terrace with a view of the Alcazaba Moorish fortress one warm Saturday morning this April. I too had arrived in Almería by bus. I had come from Málaga and traveled along the southern coast, passing through lush fields and stunning scenery overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. As green valleys gave way to rocky land, especially dry this year, I could see why locals so often call Almería the “door to the desert.” Spaghetti Westerns were shot here.

As you get closer to Almería, you leave behind the olive and almond trees and enter an expanse of plastic greenhouses. According to governmental data, Almería yields about 54 percent of Andalusia’s fruit and vegetable exports—chiefly tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers—amounting to €3.7 billion in sales last year. They boost the country’s economy and allow Europeans to eat fresh salads year-round. Satellite images show a sea of plastic that extends from the foot of the mountains to the shores of the sea.


You can read the rest of the story on the New York Review of Books site.

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