The unfamiliar

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En el Rastro

Last Sunday, I decided to visit the “Rastro” of Valencia that I hadn’t done before. Following the suggestion of a friend, I visited it in the midday, when the bazar has finished and there are some leftovers on the roads and people seeking those treasures that have been left behind. If the willing passengers won’t buy them on time, the sellers leave them on the street till they will be picked up from the municipal’s cleaning workers around 3 o’clock. I had a destination, an unfamiliar one and an hour walk on it.

On the way to the Rastro, I had my alien antennas wide open.  Though, there was one thing stucking me back: I understand so little Spanish that I felt really uncomfortable starting speaking to a stranger. Suddenly, a passing woman got me out of this confuse. She started walking with me while she was showing with her finger up in the sky commenting on something. I didn’t feel that she was folowing me, instead I felt that we were walking together, in a common rhythm like if and we have been together since the beginning. When she finished talking with a face waiting for a response, I apologized but I hadn’t understood a word. She didn’t get disappointed at all, besides she asked me where I come from. – She had just come out of an exhibition that had enthusiasmed her a lot, her eyes and her movements had a lot of energy and excitement- When I answered Greece – there was one right response in the form of a question  «Do you know Sapho?» She said a poem of Sapho in Spanish, with a distinct theatrical way. She described her poetry as “profunda”, she helped me understand the meaning by showing deep in the ground with her hands, while we kept walking. Then, it was my turn. Where did she come from. “Toledo” she asnwered dancing. The “pueblo” of Don Quichote. She informed me that “Don Quixote” was wirtten in the spoken language of her home village, an ancient form of “Castellano”. We had an almost common destination, her home was very close to the Rastro and walked me on it. We said goodbye like if and we will meet again.

Finally in a square of land next to the “Mestalla” stadium of Valencia. People were very focused, all of them looking on the ground, breaking and selecting their treasure. The cleaners had already started from the one side, and there was an exciting time of really being in the certain moment and place.

Rastro was unfolding its treasures.

I found this photograph of Brassai a bit changed.
With a new piece of paper and the word “Αναγκη” written on it. Ανάγκη means “need” in greek.

A little further, there was a box of photographs all of them cut in the middle by hand. In some of them I could find the lost pair, in some others I improvised for a possible one. Most of the photographs captured either special moments or religious ones.

A possibilitiy?

Meanwhile, the last Sunday was the one following a big night for Valencia. The Valencian football team has won – after several years – allowing passionated football lovers and generally “proud” valencians to spread on the road celebrating, accustomed with the flag, and sounding like a buzzer. The celebration kept the following days.

I was informed by a young boy that the team was about to return from time to time to the stadium fo Valencia to continue celebrating their win. Many people, families, young boys, children and young ladies, were waiting in rows to enter the stadium, right next to the Rastro. Others,

The cleaners of the Rastro in front of one of lines for the stadium.


  1. Hydar Dewachi

    Thanks @daskalakiero.

    I once had a similar experience in an airplane with the passenger next to me. I was reading Fernando Pessoa and she saw the book and started talking to me in Spanish – a language I do not speak nor understand. We then found a common – albeit limited – understanding of French, but it was the body language and enthusiasm that got us through the conversation much more fluently. It’s also interesting that both experiences were bonded by a poet, which I think goes to say how much poetry – probably more than any other art forms – connects cultures and people. maybe it’s because poetry lovers always carry fragments of their passion with them wherever they travel.

    Somehow the found photos you presented here remind me of two artists work:
    1) Akram Zaatri and especially the scratched photo of the woman (
    2) John Stezaker and his collages of found photos.

    it would also be very interesting to hear what the cleaners think of the market and these “treasure”. For them, it’s probably nuisance and add more work to their day. What if one of the cleaner is also an artist or collector or “treasures”?

    I also wonder – like most street markets – if people go there looking for a particular object or if it’s like a lottery where they see what fortune brings them that day.

  2. Jennie Gubner

    @daskalakiero, very nice entry. I loved the photographs you placed together, making something new out of found objects. Much like Hydar said I have also had so many conversations like you describe, in in-between languages, where often the non-verbal parts of communication end up playing a large role in the ultimate encounter (the smiles, the enthusiasm, the shared confusion). Certainly would be interesting to do more ethnographic work in the market to see what kinds of “treasures” are found and what people do with them over time. I imagine perhaps at least a few workers might have interesting collections. In thinking about the photographs you put together, I am reminded of why I work so much to encourage people to bring artistic creativity into ethnographic practices. Allowing for a playful space of imaginative creativity can bring so much to how we see and share ideas about the places we go and people we meet. So much ethnography is done in such a dry way that it becomes dull. I really enjoyed seeing your creative process emerging as you also worked to evoke for us some of the ethnographic details of this space you encountered.

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