Xistopedia

What are you going to eat, Manuel?

What are you going to eat, Manuel?
villages and territory
Manuel is an inhabitant of Pinhal Interior, the area that burnt down almost completely this summer.

Take care of each other. It’s your only chance for survival.
Nicholas Ray

Manuel is an inhabitant of Pinhal Interior, the area that burnt down almost completely this summer. Manuel is in his 70s and on his land he had a vegetable garden and some cattle, vines from which he proudly squeezed wine every year, olive trees that he had planted with his father and grandfather, and some beehives that he could go to in his shirt sleeves because the bees had always known him. There on his land, next to the house now without windows and with a collapsed roof, was also an annex where he kept agricultural implements and a pen for half a dozen goats. The others were found charred on a path they had always taken and to which they instinctively fled without realising they were heading towards the heart of the fire. There are no strawberry trees either and no mushrooms this year. Perhaps not even in the next few years. And now what are you going to eat, Manuel? You won’t have cabbages for Christmas, so you shouldn’t miss the olive oil to season them, as abundantly as you liked, poured from the two jugs that your olive trees produced every year. The vegetable garden is grey, your skin is soot, the landscape silence. But outside there is a lot of noise, from outside there are cars and the black suits of dismayed passers-by and noisy flashes. They say a lot of things very loudly facing the cameras with their backs to you, and they speak with wild gestures that you don’t understand. Don’t you understand, Manuel? So don’t you see the recovery, the plans, the measures and the technical entourages, the strategic hubris and the sympathetic condescension coming? It’s the national organisation, man! These are people who never thought about this and now are overthinking it. Come on, let’s go, now it’s for good! We are working for the country, we can’t just look at your vegetable garden. What are you going to eat, Manuel? In the meantime, accept charity, wear what is not yours and eat what is put in front of you. Anyway, Manuel, you have to understand that this is the ongoing plan, this is the world turning and this fire has laid bare the small beer that we are. There are very few of you here. And old ones at that. Everyone is in the cities and more and more people want to go there. It is a worldwide trend, what is to be done? They are more manageable there, you know? Nobody has vegetable gardens, they don’t even know what that is, so they eat from the owner’s hand... pardon me, from the shelf. In the cities, the more shelves, the more “freedom of choice”, they confuse loneliness with individuality and get drunk on pleasure to deceive their fear. Don’t you understand what I’m saying, Manuel? Yeah, you’re not hip, you don’t have apps in your pocket or you’re not a resilient entrepreneur - you were autonomous, but that’s not a buzzword today, it doesn’t produce a soundbite. The only thing you know is when to prune and graft trees, to grow food, to make cheese and bread, to talk to the bees and the goats, to pick herbs for teas for different ailments, to build a stone wall and carve stumps, to look at the sky and taste the air and guess the weather that is coming, you sense the cycles of the land and anticipate all its animals, you know the moods of the river and the fights in the village café, you know that between heaven and earth you are you and everything flows from them into you in order to renew itself. But what is that for? Now for nothing. However, if you are lucky, maybe someone smart will integrate you into the statistics of some “smart” project. Even better: you might be called upon to mimic one of these things you knew in front of tourists. It’s the fashion and it’s better than nothing, which is what you have now, after all. Hold your hunger, swallow your tears and be happy to be alive. You could have evaporated and nobody would have come to help you. You know that this protecting people and property it is a hassle, the important thing is to control the deficit and take out of the rubbish, even if we have to throw you in there, Manuel.

Bruno Ramos
Director of Communication for ADXTUR - Schist Villages Tourism Development Agency

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