Jimena is not a wealthy village. In the street on which I live there are a number of families who have no work. Others earn their livelihood working the land in Los Alcornocales national park that surrounds us. Hard graft!
Traditionally the people of the village and countryside have lived off what the soil provides – and many still do. In recent years there has been a steady market created for the mushrooms and fungi that can be harvested in the woodlands.
A number of years ago Jimena, to much fanfare, opened its own ‘lonja micológica’ where the collectors could bring their harvest and sell it directly to wholesalers at the going rate. This was the first market of its kind in Andalucía and other villages have sent people to Jimena to see how it operated so they could duplicate this mushroom market at home.
Well there would be no point in their coming now. Fran Gómez, the coordinator for Izquierda Unida in Jimena, tells me that the doors of the lonja are firmly shut.
In January the town hall announced that it was closing the marketing because work would shortly start next door on the construction of the new local police station. This would mean the electricity would be cut and access would be restricted.
However three months on the work hasn’t started and the market has remained closed. This has coincided with a period of good mushroom harvests brought on by the rains. As the mushroom collectors can’t sell through the market they are left dependent on selling at lower prices to buyers who then capitalize on the abundant harvest themselves.
At this time of economic crisis, when many families are living below the breadline, the mushroom collectors should be helped and not hindered in putting food on their tables. This is a tale of a small village in Andalucía but tragically it is mirrored throughout Spain where the poor are not helped yet miraculously the rich get richer. Wasn’t it ever so?