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Juan Martínez | Pelayo: ’94 Lucid Years’

Martín Serrano · Photos: Fran Montes

Juan Martínez | Pelayo: ’94 Lucid Years’ | Campo de Gibraltar

He get’s up at the crack of dawn every day and makes his way to the bakery to pick up a roll for breakfast. He cleans his clothes, makes the bed, feeds the chickens; he keeps his house in order and then goes to the family bakery in Pelayo ‘to lend a hand’.

His name is Juan Martínez, and in December he will be turning 95. He confesses that he has had health issues; pancreatic cancer 17 years ago and pneumonia “which I have been very weak from ever since”, but this does not seem to deter his happiness.

“I was born and raised here in Pelayo, and I’ve worked here since I was a young boy. When I was a child my father became very ill and my mother became a very young widow with 5 children to look after. I worked whenever I could, although my jobs have always been in some way linked to the bakery.”

Now he lives a much less stressful life, “although, I believe that there is more evil in the world today”. He does not hesitate when he talks about his past, and you can tell by the way he speaks that he knows his life-story is a beautiful one – probably much more interesting than those who have lived a much more financially successful life.

He married late, “at 35, although I had been going out with my wife for 6 or 7 years before we had to get married, but I knew what she was like. We celebrated our wedding at the ‘Pavo Real’. There was little to drink, no banquet and a lot of people who knew each other well.” Remember, that back in the day your friends would enjoy ‘Los Chocleros’ by Juan Pepe and Antonio, “dances were held, one Sunday yes, and the next no.”

His girlfriend at the time, Antonia, worked at Huerta Serafín, where “fat yellow plums were collected. This is where it all began.” And now it has been 24 years since she left, “we didn’t have children, but I do have family.”

Since then he has lived alone in a house in Pelayo, a few metres from the bakery, “I drive down myself, sometimes I get some food and make a stew with chips and chorizo.” You can see the clarity in Juan’s eyes, an essence that weighs on everything that he has lives through.

“Ever since I was little, I have worked; from a mule driver, in the field, in the bakery, delivering bread throughout Algeciras for 20 years and then I retired. I have a small garden now that I tend to.”

So, what does the day-to-day look for this man who leads such a simple life?

“I get up at 6 in the morning, I go to the bakery, eat a little bit of bread for breakfast, feed the chickens and do what I can at home and at the bakery. I watch TV and when I can, I take a trip, although that is very costly.”

Juan Martínez, the ‘hero’ of our story, is a wise man with an orderly and calm lifestyle; “I knew all four grandparents, my grandmother María Marín Rojas had a prodigious memory.”

My Home in Pelayo

The Pelayo neighbourhood is renowned for its bread and for its unique atmosphere, “in my time it was so beautiful. The young and the poor were the first to spend the summer as well as those who visited to serve Don Francisco Cos of Cádiz, the engineer of Ports and Canals or a certain Rogelio, from Algeciras.”

He adds, “rich people came here because we have an ideal environment to ease respiratory diseases, Pelayo’s water is another wonderful thing that we boast about.” Writers, and marquises visited too, Don José Posada, Manuel Valdayo, the Millán family all “had great mansions and would spend their summers here.”

And life now; “It’s beautiful, I live very well, and I don’t listen to politics.” A fully-fledged story full of beautiful chapters about this man who will be turning 95 next December.

Juan Martínez | Pelayo: ’94 Lucid Years’ | Campo de Gibraltar

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