These photos are mostly from 1980, when I was living in Lagartera, and learnt a little about how to embroider, thanks to some very good teachers. Most of the photos were taken in Calle Licenciado José Muñoz. There is one taken round the corner, in Higinio Valero Sánchez, and one, of María, in Avenida Maestro Guerrero.

The people depicted in these photos include María, Hortensia, tía Almudena, tía Amalia with her husband tío Emilio, and in another photo, her sister, tía Lucia. Then there is tía Piedad, and her daughters, Maria Victoria, Milagros and Anabel. Tía Pilar is there with her daughter Carmen, and Milgros daughter of Cari (Carmen’s sister). Mari Cruz and Belén (Carmen’s daughter) are among the youngsters. And of course there is Magdalena, who used to have a videoclub.

Maria was embroidering outside her house in Maestro Guerrero, the main street that goes up to the centre of town. Her work was on display, in case anybody wanted to buy something from her. She didn’t need a shop, and she could advertise her wares, and show they were genuine, just by sitting there embroidering.

Some of you will recognise this street, as it used to be. This is Hortensia, outside her house with her neighbours.

Tío Emilio was always on this corner, making comments when people passed by. Tía Amalia concentrates on her work.

Tía Lucia, tía Amalia’s sister, with her traditional Lagarteran bun.

A group with the church in the background.

Tía Pilar in the foreground, and Carmen balanced on her chair!

When we were embroidering in Licenciado José Muñoz, we were in a group of family, neighbours and friends. People passed by, and we said hello. It was pleasant to feel connected with the outside world, yet at the same time be within a group. Today people talk about flexible work. Often that means working at home, isolated, in front of a computer. Embroidering in the street in Lagartera back in 1980 meant looking at work close to your eyes for a long time. That was not very good for your eyesight. But you could also look away now and then, to see what was happening in the street, and listen to people chatting.

When the children came home from school, they joined in the group and told us their news. They could play near us, close to their mothers, and have the freedom of the street.

Older people who were no longer able to work could also be part of the group.

You couldn’t earn much embroidering, but the quality of life was much better than in many of today’s work environments. And the streets were for people and not cars. There weren’t as many cars then.

At the end of the working day, people came back from the countryside, sometimes with a cart driven by mules. Carts are slow moving.

In the evening, people sat outside their houses and chatted to one another and passers-by. Today we have air conditioning, so people are more likely to be indoors watching TV. In 1980, the streets were cooler at night, but dustier because they were unpaved. Today it is easier to keep a house clean. We have made progress in some ways. Few people want to go back to the days when women worked long hours for little money, and had a difficult war against dust. Yet there are lessons that we can learn from the past. Being able to choose who you work with brings benefits, as does having space for people in the streets, and having cool streets after dark.

Alison Lever, Lagartera, Toledo, October 2021