I have the memory of my mother doing laundry in the rooftop of our building while she was singing. Sometimes I was taking care of my neighbor’s kid from upstairs while she was hanging the clothes on the lines. Another neighbor would appear to put her clothes to dry as well and my mother and she would start long conversations about their daily lives.

When I was a child I don’t remember seeing any men doing laundry in our rooftop. Nowadays it is easy to see them, but the difference with my mother and her neighbors is that now we don’t talk to each other, let alone sing. We just do what we have to do. Meanwhile the colorful clothes, bed sheets, towels and fabrics ripple in the wind without music.

Picture by Juana Ruiz. The baby is her daughter.
Todo es de color…
Todo el mundo cuenta sus penas
Pidiendo la comprensión
Quien cuenta sus alegrías
No comprende al que sufrió
Everything is colorful…
Everybody tell their sorrows
Asking for understanding
Who tell the joys
Don’t understand the sufferers

Flamenco song Todo es de color, by Lole y Manuel.

Who knows what other sentimental, cultural or anthropological reasons are behind my obsession with laundries, but the thing is that I love the beautiful landscape they compose and in every small Andalusian village in the mountains that I visit I always need to take a picture of its washing places. In some of my previous posts I have uploaded some of these kind of pictures that I love to collect. I have even made a very short tutorial about how to wash in the washing place of Guejar Sierra (Granada)

Luckily now there is no need to wash by hand, which is a very hard work, but not so long ago washing places and public laundry were one of the few meeting points for women. Collective laundry was also a way to socialize in the community, the female community. Water is a symbol of purity and fertility, two values that have been associated with femininity in our culture, and housework were (and still are in a high percentage) a female and non paid work. It is of course a question of sexism, but I like to think than within the social inequality, among the soap aroma and the cold waters, these women could find a fissure where they talked their sorrows, ask for understanding and also, of course, share their joys.

A group of women in the public washing place of Atajate (Malaga) Source:

5 thoughts on “Laundry

  1. Really interesting to read and to view the old photographs. A treat from the touristy captures of Spain 🙂


  2. How lovely to find you here again, Penelope! And what a beautiful post you’ve written. I love your various theories about why you’re so fascinated with laundry — and you’ve given me much to consider about my own fascination (especially in Venice, where everyone hangs their laundry outside). But you’ve made me a bit nostalgic too for the communal aspect of these mundane duties that has disappeared with our modern conveniences. It makes one wonder if there’s a deeper price to pay sometimes for progress than we realize …
    ¡Muchos saludos desde Minnesota!


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