As a copious rainy front keeps blessing the thirsty landscape around the city of Almeria, a group of agricultural workers spend their Sunday morning grumbling in Arabic under a dripping sunshade in El Puche, a poor suburb of Muslim majority. Here the employment options are practically reduced to black jobs in the greenhouses across the Andarax river. With the current tomato harvest disrupted by the weather, too many around haven’t got any earnings lately. To make things worse, the weekly market is unviable today, the cherry on the dominant melancholic mood.

A couple of hours before, the laborious dawn reveals a handful of brave souls stuck across the muddy vacant lot where the market normally takes place. They, even whole families, have been waiting for hours in the dark, zealously guarding their spot, dreaming of selling along the morning their precious harvests of waste scavenged in the middle-class containers. In the absence of a statistical study, it would not be surprising if the army of waste pickers in this marginal community surpasses the number of wage earners.

 Although the sun seems off for the day, not everything is misery in the downpour. With no other merchants around anymore, a stand remains firm in the middle of the vast waste ground, selling alive chicken as if distributing candy. A soaking wet Moroccan costumer thanks heaven for “having old Juan at hand”, while immobilising his unlucky purchase with adhesive tape around its legs. “In a day like today”, he says, “nothing like a warm broth”.

So many years dealing with livestock grants Juan a good deal of notoriety among the North-African immigrants. The sight of his antediluvian van full of loud animals becomes even providential on the eve of Eid al Adha, the main celebration of Islam, when believers sacrifice a lamb as a divine precept. Rather than the prices, obviously friendly, Juan’s success clearly emanates from offering a cultural asset very much missed by the European Muslim: the chance to kill their meat at home. 

But luxuries apart, the real strength of the EU currency in this sorry market comes from its ductility to be fractioned in order to gain fluidity. That’s why next Sunday, if the weather allows it, Juan’s van will look again like an island in a colourful sea of garbage. Cent by cent, part of this waste will be resurrected into its former life as a consumer good. The useless will be abandoned at the mercy of the elements, if not down on the Andarax, a mostly dry river bed turned into a disgusting dump by years of nerve and indolence. Of course, if rain keeps falling like this, chances are that the river itself take care of the rubbish, scattering it all over the nearby bay. ©flc54

The Andarax river bed. ©flc54

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