La Chanca is a colorful but impoverished community of gypsies and immigrants hanging from a mountainside on the outskirts of the city of Almería in southern Spain. The inhabitants painted their homes using whatever ingredients were available, resulting in a multicolored patchwork. Ruins still remain of a nineteenth century lead mining and transport operation that ran down the mountain to the nearby port. Throughout the past century, including four decades of Spanish dictatorship, the community served as a conflicted symbol of both oppression and resilience, attracting a stream of artists, writers, and social reformers. The neighbourhood of La Chanca has long been home to a diverse population, including fishermen and their families, a strong community of gypsies, and, more recently, immigrants from Morocco.
In recent years, La Chanca has been gaining international attention for its unique model of social organization and integration. City services do not extend up the steep, winding streets along the hillside, so residents have developed cooperatives to clean and maintain public spaces. The public school includes classes in Arabic language and culture, and students learn about the diverse history of the region through musical performances and festivals. At the same time, however, the neighborhood remains isolated from the rest of the city. A local organization is working to gain UNESCO recognition for La Chanca as a cultural World Heritage site.
I have a personal connection to the region through my mother's family and have been exploring, researching, and photographing La Chanca over the past two years with a goal of understanding its conflicts and visible layers of history.