Glimpses of Mazarrón Life in 1931
During February 1931, the readers of the women’s page of the new British newspaper The News Chronicle (only launched in 1930) were treated to a long article on the delights of living in the Murcian town of Mazarrón.
The article was obviously targeted at reasonably affluent British women who had problems recruiting and retaining their own domestic servants, because the writer, Simita de Laredo, pointed out that there were no shortages of maids, cooks, and other domestics in Mazarrón. Moreover, the writer emphasized the fact that the Mazarrón population were, on the whole, happy with their lot: Most of the men, in what was fundamentally a working class town, laboured in Mazarrón’s lead and silver mines, whilst the women either kept house or were trained to work as domestic servants. Although the tone of the article was undoubtedly rather condescending, it still depicted a Mazarrón of relatively full employment and limited poverty, where even the smallest house was connected to the electricity supply system.
The article highlighted some of the major advantages of living in Mazarrón during the 1920’s and early 1930’s: First and foremost, The News Chronicle’s female readers were told about Mazarrón’s glorious weather. Readers were informed that the town “lives for 11 months of the year under a brilliant blue sky, in brilliant sunshine”. Moreover, for 10 months in every year, evening dinners could be served and eaten outside, in gardens and terraces, such was the warmth of the Mazarrón climate. – Clearly, the prospect of regular sunshine and warmth was as attractive to Britons in 1931 as it is today!
The many local roof gardens and terraces, where oranges, lemons and figs grew in great profusion, were also highlighted as one of Mazarrón’s greatest attractions in 1931. In addition, the readers of The News Chronicle women’s page were encouraged to visit Mazarrón in order to sample its typical ‘rustic’ cuisine. A normal Mazarrón breakfast was described as being of coffee, rolls and fruit (never fish, meat or eggs). At noon, The News Chronicle reader could choose to dip into a traditional Mazarrón ‘puchero’ of beef or mutton stew, accompanied by all kinds of vegetables and herbs. This puchero was also best served alongside a light red wine, which – according to The News Chronicle – was drunk by absolutely everyone in Mazarrón (because wine was so cheap in early 1930’s Spain). The perfect Mazarrón day could then be rounded off by an evening ‘merienda’ of sandwiches, coffee and cake.
No specific Mazarrón hotels were named in the 1931 article. Even so, readers of the women’s page might well have sought out one particular unnamed Mazarrón hotel mentioned in the text, which was staffed entirely by a group of seven women, the youngest of whom was a 15 year old girl named Ramona. Outside the hotel, these women often lived quite restricted, chaperoned lives. Girls out with their boyfriends always had to be accompanied by their mothers, and dancing with anyone but husbands and/or fiances, at social occasions, was strictly taboo.
Inside the hotel, however, things were very different. The seven women did everything, from the heavy work of luggage portering and harnessing horses, to waiting at tables, cooking and cleaning rooms. In the evening, these very same women were also engaged in mending the silk stockings of female guests (not a service likely to be offered in many modern hotels)! Once issued with their expertly repaired stockings, the hotel’s genteel British and other north European female guests would then take a stroll (or carriage ride) around popular local Mazarrón landmarks such as the fifteenth century Vélez
Castle, San Andrés Church, and the Town Hall, before retiring to some shady inglenook for a well-earned puchero or merienda.
Adrian & Dawn L. Bridge