“We are not puppets of the climate”

I do not want to nor can I forget the place in La Mancha where I met thirst. Virginia Mendoza's essay begins with a lapidary phrase that invites us to relate the lack of water with death, but also with life. “Thirst” (Debate), she says, is the driving force of the human being. Behind what we were, there is always water and its search. La La Mancha starts from a family history, irremediably linked to drought, to show us that thirst pushed our ancestors towards survival. And it still pushes us.

Why the thirst? Why not “water” or “drought”?

Because we are not puppets of the climate, much less in the middle of a climate change that has been caused by humans, with some being more responsible than others. Thirst speaks about us, for better and for worse, and how we respond to drought.

Where did the idea of ​​writing about thirst come from?

She had already worked (and was still immersed) in uprooting people who were displaced by the construction of dams. I wanted to know why they interested me so much and I understood that they were not so foreign to me, but that we shared history. We are two sides of the same coin.

In fact, he uses his grandfather's story to tell the universal.

I was only clear that the starting point was my grandfather, who was the water manager of the town (Terrinches, Ciudad Real) during the drought of the 90s, which is the one that affected me the most and the one that affected my neighbors the most. Everything was at the same point: on the hill where my grandfather had his garden, there is a site associated with the motilla culture, a sanctuary attended by people who lived through one of the worst droughts in history, a few years ago. four thousand years.

Today La Mancha is a dry land. What happened?

That culture was born and lives during a megadrought lasting hundreds of years, but it has nothing to do with the current one. What's more, the motilla del Azuer, which gave them water at that time when civilizations all over the world collapsed in the midst of a drought, today does not carry water. What happened was that, in the case of La Mancha, the surface water practically disappeared, they discovered underground water and built some fortified wells around which the grain silos were located. Whoever controlled the water, had the power.

In his book, he goes further: drought is not just a lack of rain. What's behind?

Droughts, in general, do not usually go alone. It is enough to take a look at some historical events to see that famines and riots were preceded by serious droughts, but there were hoarders and despots who took advantage of them to their advantage, for example, to blame the drought for the famine, as if some few would not have been keeping the grain and water, in many cases.

It comes out of the tap every day, but does water receive the importance it deserves?

I don't think so. Water should be something sacred because we come from it, it gives us life and it can take it away from us if it goes away. It sounds cliché, but it is true that we are water and I think we live trying to return home. Joaquín Araújo says that drinking is as important as breathing and I agree.

Do you think the next wars will be over water resources?

It's possible. It has always happened and is happening. It's not always so obvious: the first war we know of was a water war, but exactly what they were fighting for was fertile land.

What can we learn from our ancestors to avoid thirst in the future?

Rather, I have seen what those who stayed along the way have in common and I believe that we can learn from them so as not to repeat mistakes. What I have seen in common, in many cases, has been a weakness of social ties, isolation, abuse of power, exclusion of the most vulnerable and mismanagement, as if it were an infinite resource.

Today we see a Spanish field exhausted and standing.

It's not a surprise. Months before it happened, a book titled “The Revenge of the Country” by Manuel Pimentel was published. It is a topic with too many edges to give an answer in such a short space. There is also a confrontation within the countryside and it is perfectly understandable that those who live off it, especially the small farmer and the shepherd, cannot take it anymore. They haven't been able to take it anymore for a long time. Many surrendered long ago to a bureaucracy that takes up so much of their time that it does not allow them to work nor does it allow their work to be profitable.

If you interviewed yourself, what would you ask yourself?

As an anthropologist, also as a journalist, what interests me are others. The first person is only a temporary resource that allows me to go further. In “The Thirst”, it really doesn't have as much to do with me as it does with my grandparents and my neighbors. It serves to make clear where I write from and why, but little else. What interests me is knowing what my grandmother has in common with a woman from the Kalahari. I hope I never interview myself (laughs).