As Paloma Arroyo says ”Villages evolve, they evolve more slowly, but little by little, they also lose part of their identity and a great way to make them last in time is photography and painting’ Carlos Gorrindo has been spending his holidays in Lagartera for more than forty years, painting pictures, which has allowed him to preserve images of how the village was, a nice gift for us to remember how Lagartera was some 40 years ago.
In these landscapes from 1979 (oil on canvas), we can see that the built-up area of the village was smaller, although there used to be more inhabitants.
The expansion of the pueblo is very noticeable in these two paintings, both from 1982, oil on canvas, which show the olive groves where the care home now stands.
Here we see Maestro Guerrero Avenue in 1980 (oil on canvas), with the soft pastel colours that were more common in the old days. On the upper floors there are some ‘solanos’, rooms with a large window that covered almost the entire wall, where women sewed in winter.
Other details can be seen in this painting of Licenciado José Muñoz Street in 1979 (oil on wood). There used to be more ornamental ironwork on windows, as can be seen on the right in this painting. The countryside came more into the town, symbolised by the cart. And most of the streets were unpaved.
Farmers’ houses had large doors for carts to enter, and space for livestock, as well as a courtyard for people. Smaller houses had only one door opening into a courtyard.
Here is a door in Condesa de Orgaz Street in 1990 (oil on canvas). On the outside there is a wall painted with lime, and inside, in the courtyard, there are flowers in pots. The courtyard is a public/private place. When the door is open, the neighbours can enter. When the door is closed, it is a private place. Forty years ago, it was common to have the kitchen and the bathroom outside the main house, in the courtyard.
Condesa de Orgaz Street is in Toledillo, a neighbourhood with many old, small houses. Now, the larger houses in Toledillo tend to be modern, without a patio, with the bathroom and kitchen inside the house, some with a front garden.
In Toledillo, there used to be more small houses painted with lime, as seen here in a 1979 painting (oil on wood).
Leaving Toledillo, you can see more limed walls in this 1975 painting (oil on canvas) of a street above the church.
And here is the cloister of the church, in 1977 (oil on wood).
Near the centre of the village, there is little land to build on, and when new houses are built, they often have no front garden, as seen in this painting of ‘Rompeculos’ Street, 2004 (oil on canvas).
It is in the north, the flatter part of the village, where you can see more modern buildings, while, as you go up towards the old town, the buildings tend to be smaller, as seen in this painting of Santa Ana Street, 2013 (oil on canvas).
These paintings show us some changes seen from the street that also give an idea of the changes inside the houses. There are now fewer old doors, and fewer houses with the entrance to a courtyard, a space that can be public or private, depending on the mood of the inhabitants of the house. Courtyards offer a pleasant atmosphere, where shade can be created in summer with a vine or an awning, and leaving the door open facilitates social contacts.
Carlos Gorrindo has shown us how the pueblo has changed. These changes partly reflect changes in lifestyle here. Women no longer embroider in the street. It is easier to heat a modern house in winter if the kitchen and bathroom are inside the house. You feel more like having a shower if the bathroom is nice and warm. In the summer, you can put the air conditioning on and watch TV, instead of sitting outside with the neighbours. There are now more inhabitants with cars, who use the street as a car park.
We live in a more ‘modern’ world with cars and air conditioning. But the shrinking of pleasant public spaces also causes changes in our lifestyle, especially by reducing the opportunities for social contacts. There used to be more nooks and crannies and details in the streets such as ‘poyos’, stones and steps where older people would sit and chat. These details have been removed to make it easier to drive in the pueblo streets. Paving the streets has meant a rise in temperature after sunset in summer, and this is made worse by hot air coming out of the air conditioning devices. There are also more parked cars. Now it isn’t as pleasant to sit in the street, and social contacts have decreased.
Social contacts are good for our physical and mental health, especially for people who don’t go out to work or school, such as the elderly, mothers, and those who work or study at home. Being able to go outside to play with their friends also helps children’s development. And it’s important for young people to have meeting places to play sports, or just to talk, or look at their mobile phones. One advantage a village can offer over a city is the quality of life, a place where children can grow up outdoors, young people can get out of their flats, those who work can relax in the open air, and older people can enjoy more social contacts.
When a town opens up to cars, the role of public squares and parks becomes more important as places where neighbours can chat, and children can play. In Lagartera, there are the portals in the Constitution Square, where you can sit, there’s La Corredera, where children play, and there’s a corner of the Plaza de la Fuente with benches and trees.
Of the three main squares, the Plaza de la Fuente has changed the most, as can be seen in this painting from some 40 years ago (oil on canvas),
and in this one, painted in more detail, in 1983.
The Sports Centre is the most well-kept of the parks, and especially attracts young people, children, and mothers. There are also some places with benches and trees, for example, in front of the care home. We have to be more creative in the upper part of the village where there is less room to create pleasant little spaces, with a nice view, shade in summer, and a place to sit. It makes sense to put benches where they will be used the most, for example, to rest for those who go shopping, and on routes where people walk the most, even outside the town centre.
We like air conditioning in summer, a warm bathroom, and to be able to travel where we want without having to wait for the bus. These developments bring with them the need to think more about public spaces, and for decision-makers to listen to all those who use these spaces, such as men who want to rest after work, mothers, the elderly, and young people. This makes it possible to improve everyone’s quality of life.
Text by Alison Lever, Lagartera, December 2021
Thank you to Ramón Lopez de Lucio for comments on this article.
Paintings by Carlos Gorrindo