El Puche is the area of Almeria more in the outskirts, squeezed between a railway and the riverbed that marks the eastern limits of the Andalusian city. This place was a dwelling for the Roma culture until the turn of the century, but a recent wave of North-African immigration has turned it in a community of Muslim majority. At times, walking over the train tracks feels like crossing an international border.
But apart of that much hijab everywhere, streets are named Manolo Caracol, Antonio Mairena or any other Roma folk milestone, and that is a true reflection of social reality in this neighbourhood. In other words, the very essence of El Puche still is the weight of the original Roma families that for decades cultivated a public domain rather veiled to the outside, where police and so on had to do just the strictly necessary. Such a foggy legal frame was, in fact, both the lure for so many irregular immigration desperate for a spot in the euro sun and what keeps such unlikely blend as the Roma and the Muslim united by a basic strategy of urban survival: free trading. A petty trading, insignificant perhaps by regular standards, but vital for a community crippled by political discrimination.
El Puche will be a recurrent source for future posts on this site. While that keeps coming, I want to introduce my work here with a gallery of nocturnal images. I choose the night because the first time I set foot in these ramshackle streets it was jet-black late, and that first impression is what basically keeps me coming back and feeling home. Besides, after some time around, it seems clear that the three pillars of the local culture are in fact intrinsically related with the night: the Roma celebrations, the month of Ramadan and the frantic setting of the weekly flea market. ©flc54