Yesterday I went to Sancti Petri.
I wanted to know if the Tuna Fish Wall Art was still there. The last time I was in Sancti Petri they were tearing down old buildings. They had already started demolish a building with stunning wall paintings. I parked my car and had to control myself not to run.
At the moment you enter Sancti Petri, you feel something special. The village is located in the outskirts of Chiclana de la Frontera. When you drive alongside the water, you pass ruined houses, an old church, fisher boats. The first time I was here, I couldn’t get my head around it. What happened here?
The village breaths a story of decay and at the same it has an artistic and authentic feel. Astonishing murals with fish, turtles and fishermen were all over the place. I look around and a man starts talking to me. He speaks the type of Andalusian the older generation still speaks, a heavenly accented Spanish and I have to concentrate to understand him. He tells me about the Almadraba, the sustainable tuna fishing. An ages old fishing technique. He points at the building in front of us. Thousands of people once worked here. The tuna factory. The base of the foundation of the village of Sancti Petri. Until they decided in the 70s to stop the Almadraba and close down the factory. A drastic turn of events that turned the lives of a whole fishing village upside down. All of a sudden a whole village unemployed and forced to leave to find somewhere else employment. Today it is an abandoned place full of memories of the past.
I look at the group of men sitting on the terrace of a kind of bar with a sign ‘Association of the Village of Sancti Petri’. They looked bored, sitting there and accompany one another through boredome. Did they once lived here? I thank the man for his story and walk towards the ruins while it goes through my mind how an external decision can have such an impact on a considerable amount of people.
I pass some old small fisherman’s houses. A couple of them are occupied. I wonder if they have running water and electricity.
This time the first thing I wanted to do is to check if the paintings which were vividly in my memory were still there.
The Fishwoman behind the church, the tunafish next to the Fishwoman, the fisherman at the bar.
To my relief, they were all still there! Also the tunafish on the wall which they had already started to demolish.
I spoke with a local who told me that they were still debating whether to tear down the old buildings or not. They had put gates around some of the old fisher houses in front of the harbour. It was a sad sight, as if they were awaiting their sad fate.
How can people throw away such an important heritage.
At home I found out that the creator of these pieces of art is Antonio Gabarre, a Catalan artist who is living since the 80s in Chiclana.
Fish and fisher people are the protagonists of his murals and symbol for the old spirit that still lives in Sancti Petri.
With his art Antonio wants to pay tribute to the sea and to the Spanish traditional village that Sancti Petri once was. Originally from the North of Spain, he came to this almost hidden piece of land and inmediately fell in love with it.
Another reason why he voluntarely makes this appealing art, is to make people aware that Sancti Petri still has a lot to offer.
The fishwoman behind the church seemed to be painted – in collaboration with Antoni Gabarre – by Nicole Salgar, an artist from Miami. She made this mural as a tribute to all the women who worked in the Almadraba factory. It’s an allegory of the’ Virgen del Carmen, patron saint of fisherman’.
I have to say I understand the motivation of Gabarre. Since I first set eyes on this half hidden place, I am fascinated by it. I just love this part of Chiclana de la Frontera and deeply hope that it will maintain its authenticity.