From: Gino Hollander
Subject: Cortijo de la Yuegas
"How's about a start with building Cortijo de las Yeguas.. the talk of when and why the move occurred to me from on of the shoots.... this was late 1968.. only six years after arriving in Spain and well enconcenced indeed in La Chopera.. our home with the tower studio and lots a pluses... but with new airport planned and tourists coming (good for sales but not for living I thought) as I said it was a chispa de la vida.. the idea of doing the sorta ridiculous way out there.. especially in light of we were doing just great on the coast...and though getting along very well, had no money put aside at all to even buy the land no less build a place.... and besides never had built anything.
So to start I guess were only the land shots as we overlooked Emilio's bull ranch land (he the local butcher owned a brave bull ranch about 25 miles inland in the Valle del Sol (valley of the sun)...
There were three or four shots with Barbara and I alone, then with James Michener and another, landscape shots covering the lay of the land to distant mountains and others to rolling fields. Then, finally one of the exact spot we chose to build. Barbie said strongly, 'There is nothing growing on this land....no bush nor tree and I want trees and more tree!' 'Plus, there's no water, no electricity, no money and no knowledge...what are we doing here?!' Well, it was far enough out that tourist were NOT going to ever come, even though ever is a long time. But, not this far from the Mediterranean...and I just knew if all was put into this as coming to Spain newly a painter, it was gonna be done for not doing so wasn't an option.
So we bought it with a slight down payment plus five paintings of mine to Emilio and two to the bank in Ronda and I had five years to pay. It turned out that Emilio didn't actually own it yet having bought it from a bull rancher in Ronda and had five years more to pay for it himself! Also, as the first owner died within a few years it got a lil' sticky for a while getting our papers for the land but around year ten we did...with another painting bonus to ease the way. All this yack to fill you in on the ways and wherefores of a definite chispa de la vida.
The very beginning of construction: laying out foundation with some of the equipment being a cement mixer and some other stuff...an obvious beginning. Then some of us standing on the cement or viewing...seeing piles of derribo, building material from very old houses which were being torn down in Ocrdoba, Sevila and Granada , I mean 400-year and 500-year old houses, and palaces and stuff...(to make way for new construction in those places for the coming tourist boom that would hopefully put Spain on the map again...and they did and were right)....
Anyway B and I would take off at six every morn for La Chopera and go three or four hours by car to one of those royal cities and wheel and deal with my paintings mostly for the llave (the key) or the right to take at derribo prices whatever was in those huge building that were taken to the ground, and a lot of palaces included; like the iron rejas (huge wind iron grills all of hand-wrought iron and filagress designs et al...)at 2 paintings a kilo...which was the salvage material price...or a huge Cedarof Lebanon door with four-inch-thick hand carved double doors within doors at 9 feet high 8 wide..like 22 of them. And more...tens of thousands of mas grande de mano bricks, each weighing 14 pounds and many, many thousands of handmade massive roof tiles that were four, five, and six-hundred years old (made originally on the thighs of the men to achieve the right curve). Of course we had no design of house, no architect, no engineer nor permissions from any authorities. The time was such that the state, Franco's goernment had willed that anything any foreigner did that brought money in was doable and right and nothing should stand in way. Besides this was before any computers and no one understood English and all but no transportation (horse and donkeys and bikes, not motor bikes), no telephone except a couple in the 5,000 population local pueblo of Pizarra. For this particular period sorta anything you had the audacity to try got done if you stuck with it; for the Spanish campesino is one very inventive soul who'd been living off his guts and stuff for three thousand or more years and was one who really knew nothing was undoable.And they were with us, for we were providing the first work that had come into that valley in these numbers since before the early 1930's civil war.
We hired the then builder of Emilio's bull ranch cortijo,which had just been completed, on the spot. Señor Jose Valbueno...ayeeeeeeeeee what a man...que Hombre!!!! He was our lucky star as his background was, well, he was born in the Royal Palace of Arjujuez outside of Madrid. His father was the keeper of the horses of the royal family and Pepe (Jose) was brought up amongst those huge rock walls that even today leave such an impression on all that view that palacio. So it was sorta in his blood and he immediately sensed all that was old Spain, all that had lasted five centuries or more, was all he knew how to do. But being a Spaniard to the core and a gentleman, he would never disagree with anything el Señor (me) said so we did this ballet a deux...both towards the same wonderful end. Instead of a design, B and I one night figured out what would we want and need for a large family cortijo ten, twenty or more years down the line. And remember we were starting from having lived in 21 rooms at La Chopera...oye vey!!!! So thinking large was sorta already infused..
So we laid out a rectangle, one very large one in the orientation to the setting sun for the west side and entrance to east. In the same manor of the Arunjuez palace or of a casa de la inquisition of 1492 that we were seeing daily on our way up from the coast to our land. We copied the way of construction: 3 1/2 foot thick wall of stone, the rock hauled form our very land at first by mule teams, then wheel barrows. then finally a used tractor that I bartered paintings for (ah life)....leaving appropriate air space in the stone walls for climate control and reinforcing with steel rods all over the place. And tying it in with steel crowning as was NOT done 500 years ago and cement, cement, and more cement instead of the then filler of mulch, dirt and calcium (mud packing). A,ll considering we were out for the same 500 years with this cortijo and then forest still standing proudly there...vamos a ver.....let me know how it came out...you are young.
Pepe Valbueno turned out unable to read or write but carried all in his magnificient head...and what a head and soul! At least half of all the input for the entire magnificence of the cortijo was his doing though never for a moment would he suggest or admit to any contribution. Again, que Hombre!!! Que raro! It all came from him and the execution of all the construction was all his..and never a cross word between us...ever...ayeeeeeee! What a delight that construction was! And the speed, without machines...our steady work force was fifty locals from Pizarra, none of whom had ever worked on a construction other than making rebuilding their own casa mattas, that is taking from the fallen stones and stuff of the houses of the past and rebuilding. And, at that, not a stone was missed or mislaid; they knew how from three-thousand years of their families doing it. At one point, some eighty labors in work force from Pizarra were at work. At the beginning it was fifty cents a day for laborers and dollar a day for cement or brick workers and specialties; that in time doubled and doubled again. But by then I was on a tear painting, tourists were arriving on coast and I had two galleries: I started the NYC Madison Ave Hollander gallery and did a huge 'Gonna Build my Cortijo' sale to all past owners at 20 percent of the then prices. I sold over two-hundred paintings in three days and came away with eighty-thousand in cash...and built the mother of a home in less than a year....
un abrazo fuerte..nothing like love.