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Francisco Núñez, the last 'albardonero' of the Axarquía

Francisco Núñez, in his workshop in Calle Baja, Torrox.
Francisco Núñez, in his workshop in Calle Baja, Torrox. / E. CABEZAS
  • For more than six decades, this 82-year-old made tack by hand for mules, donkeys and horses, a profession that has practically died out

Francisco Núñez, who everyone in Torrox knows as Paco 'el albardonero', becomes emotional when he talks about what the street in which he has lived and worked for over 60 years used to be like. "All the animals would come down here on their way to Granada, loaded up with fish, cereals and fruit," says the 82-year-old, whose family have been in Torrox for generations.

Although he retired over 15 years ago, he is still very proud to have been the last great 'albardonero' of La Axarquía. This refers to the craft of making by hand the tack worn by mules, donkeys and horses. The profession has practically died out now and only persists in a couple of places, thanks to Carlos and Antonio "who I taught some years ago," says Paco, proudly.

Despite his age he has a prodigious memory and his hands, which have crafted so much leather and worked so much fabric and threads over the years, are still strong and firm.

"Absolutely everything used to be made by hand," he says, indicating some of the pieces he still has in his workshop, which is now used by his son Roque, 53, for his upholstery and awning business. Sometimes his other son, Sergio, who is 47, helps out in his spare time.

"Neither of them wanted to learn from me, they used to say there was no future in it and in a way that was true. When more people started driving cars the animals weren't needed as much as they were before," he says.

The items he used to make are now only of interest to horse lovers who want to "dress them up" when they take part in a festival or similar event.

First sewing machine

"Nowadays it's much quicker to make a saddle; we used to have to make them from scratch, and the bridle, the reins, the chaps, the esparto baskets for the goods, because I was a saddler as well," he tells us.

Paco Núñez learned his trade from his father. "He bought me my first sewing machine when I was eight years old, and although at first this wasn't what I wanted to do, later on he bought me a calf, so I used to spend all my time between the workshop and the field," he says.

When he looks back, he becomes emotional again, remembering all the clients he has had during more than six decades of dedicated work.

"Things are very quiet now, especially with the works going on at the Casa de la Moneda (the council is restoring a building near his workshop and is going to turn it into a museum), there are practically no cars down here in the mornings," he says. Nevertheless, as tourism gradually starts to return, the last albardonero in the east of Malaga province hopes he will once again be able to show visitors the items he keeps in his own small museum.