Linda, pictured with friend Pilar, has lived in
Nerja for over 30 years :: G.P.
A Nerja resident recognised for her contribution to community spirit talks to SUR in English
There can be few international residents in and around Nerja who have played such a full role for so long in the community as Linda Maria Zima. Indeed, so integral to so many associations, businesses, causes and events has the woman affectionately known as ‘Little Linda’ been, she was recently recognised at a gathering in the town’s cultural centre by the local authorities for her “outstanding contribution to community spirit”.
“One of the real joys of living here on the Costa del Sol is the amount and the variety of activities that you can get involved with,” she says.
British-born Linda Maria made the permanent move with her Portuguese husband and their then young son, Charlie, to Nerja in 1983, but the couple had been long-time visitors before that.
She explains: “From the age of 17 I was a professional dancer, choreographer and fire eater. I loved to travel and I was lucky that my work took me to countries all over the world, including Switzerland, Belgium and Japan.
“I met my husband in Portugal and from there we would often visit my mother and step-father who were living and working in Nerja. We immediately fell in love with the place and soon bought my parents out of the beach bar they were running at the time.
“My professional training came in handy at El Salón [the beach bar] and I would - probably because once you’re an entertainer, you’re always an entertainer - often get up and entertain the guests with a fire eating show, or flambé a diner’s pancake or something, during our barbecue events!”
Today, Linda Maria, 60, says that she still does “a bit of fire eating when asked to do so”, typically at charity events and Nerja fiestas, but has “drawn the line” at flame throwing since disaster struck in 2012.
She tells SUR in English: “I had been fire eating and flame throwing for 43 years with no problem whatsoever when, in 2012, during a performance at the Nerja Arts Festival, the wind suddenly picked up and the flames engulfed my face and neck.
“I was taken to the Carlos Haya Hospital’s burns unit -where the staff are my absolute heroes. I had to have surgery on my neck and was also given an ‘involuntary facelift’. I now look 20 years younger thanks to the treatment!” she laughs bravely.
Consistently self-employed, Linda Maria’s other Nerja-based business ventures include The Acorn Inn, a popular bar in the town centre.
“I had a great time with the bar as it really did become something of a social hub, especially for new and foreign residents. It was a great meeting point, a focal point. But I sold it in the mid 90s, as I wanted to be around more for my son, Charlie, who was growing up fast and developing his passion for football.” He later went on to play for the likes of Atlético de Madrid and Malaga CF.
From the hospitality trade, she moved into the tourism sector, working as a tour guide and representative for two international tour operators, specialising in luxury holidays in Nerja.
She was subsequently headhunted by a major holiday villa rental company for a supervisory role, which she still retains today. Alongside this position, she also runs her own internet-based property sales and rental firm that she has “built up over 15 years by using her contacts and winning the trust of homeowners and buyers.”
Speaking to Linda Maria it is clear that she enjoys a healthy work-life balance.
She comments: “Over the years I have been a loyal supporter of ‘Casa Abril’ [a care/foster home for children] and have, I believe, really helped raise awareness and much needed funds for this amazing cause.
“I have also been, again probably due to my background in entertainment, heavily involved with the theatre group, The Nerja Players, which puts on a variety of shows, including A Christmas Carol, pantomimes, and Old Time Music Hall shows, at the cultural centre. Typically these shows are in aid of local charities. Similarly, as I mentioned before, I’m regularly asked to perform at the nearby ‘ferias’ and ‘fiestas’, and other celebrations too. “In addition I also take a pilates class,” she adds.
One of the causes closest to Linda Maria’s heart is ‘Todos Los Ciudadanos’, a volunteer-run association led by her friend and local school teacher, Pilar Medina.
“The idea behind it is to encourage both children and adults to engage with the concept of integration with other nationalities and cultures, and to promote solidarity, equality, respect and peaceful resolution to problems. “One of the practical ways we do this is by providing free English and Spanish conversation.”
More than 30 years since she moved to Nerja after “falling in love with the place”, Linda Maria is evidently still enamoured. Speaking to SUR in English this week she said: “The mountains move, the sea sways and the land laughs here. It’s a beautiful place to live. I can quite understand why Nerja’s population has more than doubled in the three decades I’ve been here!”
The Sur in English connection- “The pen is mightier than the sword”
Last summer, Linda Maria Zima was one of many SUR in English readers who took part in our competition to design a new logo to celebrate the newspaper’s 30th anniversary.
Her logo suggestion used the iconic image of a Templar Sword, traditionally used in a knighthood ceremony, and recommended the name ‘SUR’ should be changed to ‘SIR’.
With her logo submission, she wrote: “I, and many expats from Nerja, have enjoyed your free paper for the last 30 years. Nothing but nothing beats the anticipation of opening SUR in English on a Friday over coffee under the sun. Sir, I applaud the good work.” Speaking this week about this newspaper, she added: “SUR in English is proof that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’.”