Hard work, the struggle to get ahead, the atavistic parts of the human being, the collaboration between sailors and the harshness of the profession in post-war times are the essence of the project developed by Michel Díaz and Natalia Real on the dock of the fishing village of The coats
Michel Diaz and Natalia Real are about to complete the challenge of completing the mural “of a port with a lot of romanticism and very atavistic traditions in this framework of the South»: Los Abrigos. In the 385 square meters of the wall of its fishing dock, this couple –Asturian and Tenerife– paints “the life” of the town through eight people who represent eight special stories. The same ones that its protagonists or relatives tell in front of the cameras for the documentary that is recorded in parallel and that completes the project that supports the Municipality of Granadilla de Abona. «The work seems finished, but it remains to be defined», work in which they will spend three weeks.
The mural is already a focus of attraction and a point of passage for neighbors and even its protagonists. Like Sebastián, an 83-year-old sailor and fisherman of whom Michel Díaz is an admirer: “He has a beautiful story since his birth.” He tells that his mother, a fisherman’s wife, used to walk the region to Vilaflor selling fish. «She took sides in Atogo, where she gave birth, she split the umbilical cord with two stones and wrapped it with the fish blankets». She is one of the figures in the mural.
Antonio Celso Marcelino, 89, is one of the last riverside carpenters. «He does not know how to read or write and he is one of the best in a profession that in other places, such as Asturias and Bilbao, they study in the United States». He is another of the figures and a regular at the pier.
Juanita is 86 years old. Her image also stands out in her mural because she also appears together with her sister-in-law and her daughter María de Ella “as in a photo from 40 years ago, when they sold fish.”
Albert, a 20-year-old man, went one day to the dock in his town to clean the fishing boat. As he did so, he slipped, hit his head and drowned. “It is a fact that is deeply felt by the fishermen of Los Abrigos and in response to his request, it is portrayed in the mural.”
Like Manuel Díaz, “the head of the Brotherhood.” Defined as “a man who did a lot for the town and port of Los Abrigos and about whom everyone speaks wonders”, says Michel, who thanks him for his collaboration and who affirms that he is “one of those who push this place forward in a such a difficult time.”
And Blas, a sailor who died five years ago, at 53, “very loved by Los Abrigos”, who appears with two octopuses in his hand on his boat.
As in any fishing village, the Virgen del Carmen is very present and that will be reflected in the documentary. Michel and Natalia include it as part of this work that reserves a special corner for sailors. “From the front it will not be visible, but the fishermen will see it when they leave and arrive. There we painted San Blas, the protector of the drowned”, another reference to the devotions of Los Abrigos.
The field work allowed Michel and Natalia a more personal and in-depth knowledge of the history and way of life of this town in Granadilla de Abona. The mural on the Los Abrigos pier reflects “a lifestyle that is ending. We try to tell things that current generations are eliminating from their lives, such as the lost poems because the women of the sea who transmitted them are no longer there. Michel appreciates the experience because “in this world of technology and a fast life, the experience of painting the dock and being in contact with the people of this town pauses you and returns you to the human, to normality.”
Start and conditions
Since mid-December 2021 this project has been underway. It began with interviews with the inhabitants of the area and correcting the flaws in the wall to create the surface, work that Michel and Natalia did. In all this time, reside in a duly conditioned van at the Los Abrigos pier. “We get up at seven in the morning to take advantage of the first hours of the day to paint and move forward.” Michel tells it without it being a complaint.
«There is a lot of traffic and many tourists who ask a lot and entertain you. That makes us very happy, because it reflects that the work interests and likes, but it causes us many stoppages». They make up for it by lengthening the day by lighting up with spotlights, “although now the afternoons will begin to be longer due to the time change.”
Michel Díaz is enthusiastic about this project and its result, but especially about the experience of contact with the population of Los Abrigos. «I almost always paint facades, spaces in which you are a little apart from the people. Here they come, they ask you, they bite you and they congratulate you, but you are working and it is not the same». However, living in the port itself “makes us feel the friendliness of the neighbors to the point of creating a bond. Every day they come to see us, they bring us food… It’s very exciting, they take great care of us. They are wonderful people. They make us feel like one of the people. That is reflected in the mural.