Sunday 11th of March, the second Sunday of the month, time for the returning biological and ecological market El Tenderete in Santolaya. The hamlet of Cabranes is known for this monthly event, not in the least by expats. “If you want to encounter expats, go to Santoloya the second Sunday of the month”, that’s what I was told for so many times. Finally it was time to experience this particular atmosphere myself. Although I was really curious for this happening, I was expecting a rather slough gathering, where my presence would pull down the average age by at least 10 years. The Asturian equivalent of tea and biscuits on a Sunday morning. But as so many times, imagination was not consistent with reality.
With only 1052 inhabitants over 38 km² in Cabranes, numerous desolate fields and forests must be crossed before reaching Santolaya, the center of the town. A winding road through dense vegetation, where two cars can nearly pass each other, doesn’t seem to lead anywhere. But eventually, a convivial spectacle reveales itself. The city hall, a bar or two and a bunch of houses surround what looks like a fleamarket.
A pleasant crowd prevails over the town square. Merchants are selling biological bread or artisanal jam, second-hand stuff is being sold and a man dressed up like a sultan is transporting people on his “flying carpet”. In the background an Argentinian duo is playing cheerful songs. It strikes me that many of the sellers are still quite young, some are even in their twenties. One of them is Gerda, a young blond German girl, who prefers not to be photographed.
“Me and my boyfriend, who’s from Valladolid, wanted to go live in the mountains. We met people from here and so we lived here for one week, it became one month, and so on… We fell in love with Cabranes, so we actually plan to stay here. On this market I’m selling bread, but I’m also cleaning and working in a hotel sometimes. And I have a big garden where I grow crops, so it’s quite a mixed work.”
In the middle of the market the information stand is located. From here on Angela is regulating the market, she’s a cheerful woman in the end of her 40’s. Her wide green pants, messy hair and tattooed dots under her eyes betray the hippie life she’s living. She goes from stand to stand to collect the inscription fee of 5 euro. Since five years she is organizing this market on a monthly base.
“In June we will celebrate our fifth anniversary. We noticed that a lot of people were returning to the countryside and started to grow their own vegetables and fruit. For themselves, but also to sell. Because this didn’t fit in the normal economic model we wanted to help them and offer a market. There wasn’t a one in this village back then. So I decided to participate in the workgroup for the market. We said, let’s try this a year and we’ll see. We started an association to cover insurance and make it possible for the people to sell their products legally, which was difficult before. We tried to survive that first year and only had some small objectives: we don’t want resale, but local production, people can buy food and second-hand clothes and stuff here. The first month we had eleven vendors. During the first three months we saw that people really liked it and that their was much enthusiasm for it, so the market continued.”
The square is a nice mixture of people from different ages and different backgrounds. I meet British, Germans, Mexicans, Cubans, but also a lot of Spanish people. Not all of them are originally from Asturias, Diego has moved four years ago from Galicia to Cabranes.
“What’s so nice about this market and this place is that it’s such a mix of people.
Why I chose this town to live in? It’s not touristic like the coast and the cities, but still has the beauty of Asturias. I’m living a self-sufficient life, on the market I’m selling focacio’s and cake, but I’m also building a house, like many people in here. Because I have children now, I plan to stay here, I’m also studying psychotherapy right now.”
It’s striking to see that the market isn’t a very local phenomenon only. The visitors and sellers come from a variety of places across Asturias. Hans and Ana, a retired German couple, are enjoying a nice beer in the sun. They are living in Colunga for half a year now. It’s part of their plan to travel the world before going back to Hamburg, Germany. The beauty of Asturias has drawn them to region and made them stay a long time. They are regular visitors of the market.
“We saw an announcement about this market a few months ago, and so we came here. There aren’t many markets like this in the region, so it attracts many foreigners. We too like it in here, it’s already our thirth or fourth time to visit.”
Or René and Hilde, a Dutch man and his German wife. They live in Gijon for 17 years to serve a specific cause. Because the Evangelic church only accounts for a very small percentage in Spain, they made contributing to that religion their life mission. Asturias is for them the ideal place to live.
“It’s not always easy to get in touch with the local community when you emigrate to another place at a later age. But in Asturias we are understood better by the people.
Why this market is so popular among foreigners? I think the alternative atmosphere helps. In here people accept foreigners better, this attracts so many people from abroad. Because so many people sell similar stuff, it works. It’s our hobby to make jam, peanut butter and cake. So it’s nice to sell it here.”
It’s a peculiar sight, this combination of young hippies, older “bon vivants” and local ecological farmers. I’m fascinated by this friendly ambience that hangs above the place. I’m wondering what the glue is that binds this community of locals and expats, and get to talk with Alejandro, a man whose life purpose is to grow trees in a biologically sustainable manner.
“Cabranes is a precious town, it’s in the low mountain range, so there’s no snow and it’s not too cold. It’s a very pure life in here, with fantastic fauna and flora, and good food. This market signifies the soul of Cabranes, the people here share values. They have respect for the nature, want to live a pure life, with much care for their health, and practise traditional agriculture. There’s much friendship among the people here in this market, everybody talks with each other.”
The people on the market of Santolaya don’t seem to be the richest, at least not in a monetary way. Many of them are practising many activities to make a living. It seems nonetheless that they are all very happy and prefer this lifestyle. And although their stories and stage in life are different, they blend nicely in this varieted community where everybody who has his heart on the right place is welcome.
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