Anne Harvey and her husband Graham have been living in the charming village of Tolox for sixteen years. During her time in Spain, Anne has coordinated a women’s club that teaches skills such as drawn threadwork, embroidery, cross stitch, crochet, and bobbin lace for the ladies of village that felt that such skills were slowly being lost. Anne is someone that has not only fully integrated, but is an active part of the local community.
I joined Ann and the other group members in the Centro Municipal de la Mujer in Tolox for her weekly group, where she teaches the ladies of the village the skill and helps then with their on-going projects. All the ladies present were working on different bobbin lace projects, which seemed to be the most practiced skill in the group.
So, how did you find out about the women’s group?
Anne: I was in front of my house making bobbins lace and some women approached me and asked me if I would join the association but I was little hesitant at first as I didn’t speak a lot of Spanish at the time, but I decided to give it a go and then things went from there.
And did the group exist before this time?
Anne: No, this is the first women’s group in the village, it started eight or nine years ago. The women actually had to fight to have their group in the village. Eventually the Town Hall gave in and granted them their own space with an official plaque outside. A long time ago bobbin lace used to be taught in schools in the area but now the tradition has been lost. First it was just me and two other ladies and more and more women started to join. Once you know how to do it, there’s no need to come every week, just when you need a little help with whatever project you’re working on.
Do you you think it’s difficult for expats to integrate into their community?
Angelina (one of the members): Not if they want to. Ana has integrated, she’s done it.
Anne: I think that a lot of has to do with the confidence you have with the language. For example, sometimes I struggle to find the right words, but the ladies here help me and I’m learning more and more.
Angelina: I have another English friend here but she speaks barely any Spanish, doesn’t take part in any of the village events.
What problems did you encounter?
Anne: I think one of the main problems is the difference in cultures, in a Spanish village there is a mi casa es tu casa way of mind, but in England, your house in your fortress. You get this here in the campo. In the countryside your house acts as that fortress whereas in the village the door is always open.
Angelina: Here, everyone is welcome in my house.
Why do you think it’s important for foreigners to become an integral part of their local community?
Ann: Personally, I’m just really nosey. I like to meet, find out about other people and go to the village meetings.
The association is held every Thursday from 17.00 to 19.00.
Do you know of anyone who is making a difference in their community in inland Málaga? We want to know about them!