Life at Casa Tyr

Our friend, Manuel Lopez

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Manuel with grandchildren Pilar and Manuela
It occurred to me that I often talk about Manuel and the amusing things that seem to occur when he is around.. While all I've said is true, he is no way a figure of fun, or a simple man. So I thought I'd provide a bit of background information on the man - he is amusing, yes, but is also a very complex man.

Manuel left school when he was 9, to help his father on the land. He was one of 13 brothers. His father was married twice, as the first wife died young from exhaustion and overwork.

Over the course of time, he and his father built the terraces on the land, by hand, moving stone to make dry stone walls. They built the first track into the campo, and in the winter would take mules into the forest to cut trees, using only axes, for firewood. Yunquera was a very isolated village at that time, with no main road in or out - trips to the coast or the next village would be made by mule, and take several days.

Manuel says that when he was a boy, times were very very hard. These were the early days under Franco, and Andalucia suffered quite badly during and after the Spanish Civil War. In fact, a corner of the local cemetery is devoted to the men in the village who "died violently at the hands of the Marxists" in 1936 - the men ranged from 26 up. During that time, brother often fought brother, depending on their politics - most of Andalucia was divided village by village between Marxist ("Republicans") and Francoists. Both sides treated harshly those with different opinions.

Manuel says that in those days in Yunquera, many people were starving, and you were lucky if you had land, because then you could at least eat. His mother was known locally as having a 'good heart', as she always handed out food to the needy. Many men in those days would work all day long in the fields (8 am -6:30 pm) just for the lunch they were always fed - thus came the custom of the "padron" (boss) providing lunch for the workers, which continues on to this day.

Later, as a young father, Manuel worked every year as an agricultural worker in France. He says this was very common, as there was no money in the village. He told me that during the summers, Yunquera only contained the old, the young, and women - all the men were away working in other countries, usually France, Switzerland or Germany. In France, the men lived in common rooms and cooked for themselves (no money was spent on restaurants, as all had to be saved for sending home to the family). This is why many of the older men in Yunquera speak a bit of fractured French.

Manuel is totally self-taught. He left school early, so his "book learning" is scant, but he always listens to the radio during the day, so keeps up with world events. Although one might think his world is very narrow, concerned only with things to do with the land, he is keenly interested in what goes on in the rest of the world, and we often talk about my life in the US, or what things are like in England.

He is a wonderful man - funny, witty, cranky and a keen observer of people. In short, he's our friend.