Passed down from father to son, the importance of audio and the love for radio is a main component in the life of David and Irina, who make a living selling their personal belongings at El Jueves.
There she is: wearing jeans, a simple sweater, and little black shoes. She’s not hard to find with her short blonde hair sticking out in the gray morning. Always in the same spot, she never changes. When she sees me, her eyes light up. With a nod of her head, she raises her raspy voice.
It is an unusually calm morning on Feria Street. There is a gentle rain quietly falling onto the small puddles that have collected on the ground. It is just past 11:00 in the morning and the vendors are starting to put out their best objects for sale. There are not as many people milling about as normal but it is still early.
Irina is a 45-year -old mother , wife and vendor at the market. The wrinkles around her eyes show her age although they still sparkle with the glimmer of youth. She was born and raised in Bryansk, Russia, where most of her family still remains. At Bryansk she owned her own women and children’s shoe store, which after 10 years, she decided to close in order to make more money. She chose Seville because of the warm climate and kind people. When she arrived, she found work assisting elderly people at their homes.
Today is different . Her bags are closed and the dingy blanket that lies on the ground in front of her is empty. She seems hesitant. Like many others, Irina has to obtain her permit each week. Her husband leisurely saunters away to retrieve the small card, which costs two or three euros. Although some vendors have a permanent permit, the shadowy areas off the main path of the market usually serve the temporary permit holders.
Soon, Irina begins to place a few items out. She seems to enjoy herself as she leisurely surveys each item before placing it down. She stops to model a new scarf made from furry white ferrets.
“I have two of these. I really like them. I might sell one and keep one.”
She beams with a child-like amusement. A few people walk by to check out her merchandise. Everything is normal. Everything seems fine but in just a moment, the scene changes. The tranquil atmosphere is shattered by a sense of urgency. Rush. Fear. The police are here.
Irina begins to quickly stuff the items back into the small suitcase that just moments before she had lazily emptied. The potential customers sulk off in annoyance, but Irina doesn’t notice.
“The police again.”
She murmurs under her breath as she fumbles over the objects. She’s bent down with her hands moving quickly with concentration. She’s not fast enough. The policeman, wearing a neon yellow vest over his dark uniform with his hat pulled down low over his eyes, approaches her. Quietly, without force, he asks her to leave.
Irina nods knowingly and not once looking back for her husband, she collects her bags and saunters off. Not mad. Not embarrassed. No shame. True to form, she looks over her shoulder and yells out to me.
“Goodbye, beautiful! See you later!”
Irina has been in Spain for almost 10 years now and her explanation for migrating is simple.
“To get paid , to earn a living,” she says. Soon after arriving in Seville , she met her husband, David, who used to be a security guard and a janitor at the Triana food market, right next to the famous Triana Bridge. After working there and in other markets, he decided to quit because the pay was little and is now searching for new work. The flea market on Thursdays, together with other markets in which they sell objects on the weekends, is the couple’s only source of income. Their daughter, Alexandra, will be five years old in May–the same amount of time that Irina has been selling items at el Jueves.
Irina says she has no e-mail address and cannot afford a telephone. However, there is one thing that this family has: radio.
The blue Estrella AM radio is sitting proudly on the ground in front of Irina and her husband. It sells for five euros, a small price in comparison to the grand influence it had in the life of David. It was his father’s radio.
“My father has always loved radio . He sleeps with a radio. I don’t know what he listens to now because I don’t live in the same house as him, but he still listens to radio. I like radio more than television. I don’t support television. I like to listen to a CD or the radio but the television, no. It’s too much commotion.”
Growing up in an era where television was non-existent, and with a father who adored radio, David has acquired a variety of them. Unfortunately, the need for money is now greater than the family’s need for entertainment, and their precious radios are being sold one by one.
“I have a small radio in the shape of a boat, a yacht. It’s precious. My grandfather had it and then passed it down to my uncle. My uncle then gave it to me and we now have it in our home. We have another small radio from Morocco. We use this one the most. It was my mother’s,” he says.
Entertainment , sports, and news were the most popular programs for David’s father. Although too young to remember clearly, David recalls his father learning about important announcements through the small, plastic speaker of the blue Estrella radio and sharing them with him.
“I was six when Franco died . My father heard about it on the radio. I’m sure of it. My father and my grandfather… they heard it,” he says.
Like father like son , David says that the radio was special to him as a child. “I slept with the radio on at night. My father would listen to it during the day and then place it by my bed at night. It helped me fall sleep.”
Irina is attentive and silently listens to David gush about radio but when he finishes, she pipes up. “No. I like the television better because I like to see who’s talking. I like to see what’s happening, she says”.
Radio has been a part of the daily life of the Spaniards for more than seven decades. Radio Nacional de España, RNE, the public state broadcaster, officially began in Salamanca on January 19, 1937. With the victory of the nationalist’s after the Spanish Civil War, Franco censored all private radio broadcasts by the official political party of the state. After the dictator’s death in 1975, private broadcasters were free to determine their own individual content for their programs.
Nowadays , radio is available online, with live transmissions and podcast downloads. With new technology such as iPods, traditional wave radio may seem like a thing of the past, but Irina disagrees.
“I think radio is going to be around for a while. Yeah, some people say it’s outdated, but I don’t think so. They are changing the technology and making the new products better… I think they’re enhancing radio too.”
David is selling his devices but not his childhood love for radio. He shares it now with his daughter Alexandra. “We like to listen to programs together after school… just like my Dad and I.”
Not everything at El Jueves can be bartered for. Irina and David may have this object for sale, but the memory lives on in their hearts.