Winter in Paradise

  • Dates
    2020 - Ongoing
  • Author
  • Topics Portrait, Social Issues, Documentary

The first chapter of a much wider exploration of the less known side of the Balearic islands

In the collective imagery, Ibiza is a paradise of freedom, entertainment and exclusivity. Traditionally, each summer, the island gets flooded by tourists that enjoy its beaches and nightlife and spread edited images of happiness to the rest of the world.

Yet, this paradise hides a secret side. The Covid-19-induced crisis resulted in an empty summer and the subsequent shattering of its current economy is apparent to anybody who walks down its streets and talks with its inhabitants. Ibiza is no longer that prosperous place where job opportunities flourished.

The disappearance of transient employment is a result of an Ibizan economy almost exclusively based on tourism, construction and black money and is perhaps a hyperbolic symbol of the Spanish economy as a whole. The collapse of the insecure work market combined with extortionate rent costs have skyrocketed the number of people that live on the edge of poverty or in everyday destitution. Progressively more individuals have to resort to their neighbours’ and some NGO’s solidarity in order to eat. Others have no other option than leaving the island or living on the street, in unoccupied houses or in vehicles.

The literal queues that take shape outside the unemployment office or at the doors of various organisations that deliver food for free have become an everyday landscape of the island, along with semi-deserted beaches, wonderful sunsets or closed businesses, maybe forever.

Newspapers and news programmes have mainly just photographed the scene, accumulated numbers and created graphics about this precariousness and the impasse situation that has settled in Ibiza. With the aim of countering this cold tale, between November and December of 2020 I decided to go all over the island in order to humanise and portray the other face of paradise. I wanted to meet people and tell their stories, their reasons and motives: that which lay behind so many numbers.

The one that follows, then, is a story of persons, individuals with faces and names. It is the story of people that have ended up living on the street, those that regularly turn to food banks and who look for a myriad of ways to help each other survive winter in paradise.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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One of the best known images of Ibiza: the citadel seen from the port. The Marina neighbourhood is the location of Ibiza's renowned nightclubs that attract the summer tourists that allow the economy of the island to flourish for the whole year. In Ibiza a large segment of the workforce is active from April to October, however, in 2020, things have been quite different.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
i

One of the most beautiful and best known images of Ibiza: the citadel seen from the port. The Marina neighbourhood is the location of Ibiza's renowned nightclubs that attract the summer tourists that allow the economy of the island to flourish for the whole year. In Ibiza a large segment of the workforce is active from April to October, however, in 2020, things have been quite different.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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One of the first impressions that attract the attention of visitors in Ibiza is the amount of homeless people on the streets. Some have voluntarily adopted this way of life and others as a result of alcoholism and other addictions. The very same dynamic of living on the street can become captivating, claim a few. Mike, Craig, Steve and John (in the picture) meet up every day in the port area.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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In different times, the town’s streets used to thrive with people. In the summer of 2020 the streets were almost empty, as the number of tourists dropped dramatically. As a consequence, a multitude of businesses and shops have closed their doors and quite a lot of people were left with no job and no alternative but to live in a situation they would have hardly imagined a short while ago: the impossibility to pay rent, the need of resorting to food banks and even migration from the island.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Traditionally, agriculture and the natural richness of the local landscape had a predominant role in the island’s economy. Ibiza was a fertile land home to subsistence farmers. Over the last few decades, the economic activity has become focused almost exclusively on tourism and its related businesses. Other productive sectors were abandoned and 'all the eggs were put in the same basket' as the locals say. It was not unforeseeable that the consequences of a blank summer have been so devastating.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Francisco, born and raised in Ibiza and a professional chef, has been living on the street for over four years. He turns to the support of Caritas and other charitable organisations in order to eat. He hopes to find a proper shelter during the coldest weeks of the year and dreams of leaving the island to build a new life all over again.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays up to fifty people wait in line outside Caritas headquarters in San Antonio to receive food. They can access this service twice a month. In the queue it is common to meet both people that suffer from chronic indigence and others that just a few months ago enjoyed a much more comfortable life. Similar scenes can also be seen at Caritas headquarters in Ibiza town and Santa Eulalia del Río, as well as outside the Red Cross and other relief organisations.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Lina is part of Equip Voluntari (Volunteer Team), an organisation that originally carried out different activities, such as managing sports events or cleaning up the island beaches. However, the pandemic and the extreme conditions of many families have redirected their efforts towards the basic needs of individuals. In the picture, Lina is tidying up food on the shelves before it is delivered. This photograph was taken on a public holiday as volunteers work incessantly, because, as they say ‘hunger does not take any days off’.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Carmen, a cleaning lady and a single mother, lost her job just before lockdown and has not found any work since. She receives help from Caritas and from an association that protects victims of gender-related violence.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Each summer, these kiosks in San Antonio port used to organise a myriad of boat trips to Ibiza’s best known places. Over the last year, many jobs directly or indirectly related to this activity have been lost.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Juan, the manager of a tattoo shop in San Antonio, has lived in Ibiza for over forty years. The back of the shop is now his home, a space of a few square metres distributed among a bedroom, a bathroom and a small kitchen. Before 2020, every summer up to ten people could work in his shop, whereas over the past season there was just enough workload for him and another tattoo artist. The income barely allowed him to pay for the rent of the shop, since 90% of his revenue used to come from tourists who did not appear this year.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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As with every alleged 'paradise', Ibiza is a place of lights and shadows. The image of Ibiza that is exported to the rest of the world is the one of a relaxed yet hedonistic lifestyle, of a hippie Eden and of a glamorous vista of luxury boats filling its coasts each summer. Yet, this island, which can reject or hook anybody who touches it –like a local cliché recites– is a place now torn by contradictions which had previously survived in a precarious balance. In Ibiza some people live in lavish mansions and a few kilometres away there can be others who live in caves like the one in the photograph above.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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After living in Mexico and France, José Manuel, a Venezuelan lawyer exiled from his homeland, came to the island to work as a chef and make the most of his greatest passion: electronic music. Like so many others, the pandemic has halted his plans. Currently, he lives in a caravan in one of the most beautiful areas of the island.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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In a hidden corner of the forest in which José Manuel has settled, he has built a special refuge with materials that he has recycled from garbage containers and other thrown away goods. Over a few weeks, he has made his own Robinson Crusoe’s island, with a vegetable garden, a wooden kitchen and an open-air living room.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Elisabeth and María contemplate the landscape of Es Vedrà. This year they have had to resort to the help of social services for the first time in their life. Elisabeth used to manage the rental of luxury properties all over the island, but the effects of the Covid-19 crisis has left her with no income, to the extent that she can barely afford to pay for her own rent. María, her partner and a single mother to a child, used to work as a waitress. Last summer she only worked for a month, before her hotel closed again. They both complain about the difficulty of accessing official help from the local administration and the frustration of unproductive months of negotiating the bureaucratic requirements.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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The only sector that has apparently resisted the effects of last summer’s crisis is that of super luxury estates rentals. Houses can easily be rented for up to 250,000 euros per week. It is no secret that during lockdown, the super rich kept arriving in Ibiza. Whilst locals were locked in their houses, those that could afford it continued to arrive by private jet or huge yacht to escape to their own paradise, far removed from the rest of the world’s plight. However, isolated from the everyday life of the island, their visits scarcely contributed to the stranded economy of the other Ibiza.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Rachele arrived on the island from Italy over two decades ago. Like many others, she affirms that the current crisis in Ibiza should not be limited to this year. In 2020 the crisis has become progressively and exponentially worse. The salon that she managed for over nine years was shut last September and since then she has survived taking care of the hair of a few of her clients in their own homes. Her customers range from humble neighbours to the multimillionaire DJ David Guetta. Rachele also cooperates with charitable organisations, from whom she received help when she most needed it.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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The billboards that announced the prosperous hot season keep talking about a summer that overwhelmingly did not happen. Ibiza has cultivated the economy of a party island and its transient entertainment clashes with the day-to-day life of its locals. Ibiza lives on summer tourism, which, prior to this crisis, became progressively anti social: drunken tourists asleep on the streets, uncontrolled prostitution and the rental of mattresses used to rest for a few hours a day.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Marc used to travel to Ibiza each year to work as a chef during the summer. For the winter of 2019, he decided to stay and try to work for the rest of the year. It proved impossible: the pandemic and the fragile nature of most jobs trapped him on the island. Now, he lives in his van on waste ground alongside others who have also made the decision to live in their vehicles. Marc relates that they have created a form of neighbourly community that shares mutual support.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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For some, living in a caravan is an option, whereas for others is an obligation. Couples that live the Ibiza hippie dream of connecting with nature share space with people like Rafael and Luisa, an elderly couple with almost no resources. Rafael has cancer and does not want to record his interviews or be photographed, as he is afraid of being discovered and being evicted from this last refuge. Camping in vehicles on public ground is forbidden everywhere on the island.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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One of the most striking views of the island is the amount of abandoned partially constructed houses and hotels. As described by locals, another axis of Ibiza economy is real estate speculation and, consequently, a thick weave of black money, jobs with no contract and labour precariousness. Many of these constructions, either incomplete or with no administrative licence, have been occupied by people who cannot afford decent housing.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Substandard housing is common on the island. In the rental market, cash generated from illegal practices is a common currency. In Ibiza it is common to offer for rent balconies (where people can sleep in summer), garages or tiny rooms at exorbitant prices. Natalia lives in a small structure with scarcely any daylight, located for the most part under a swimming pool. Natalia has been paying more than six hundred euros per month for a dwelling that has no habitability certificate. Despite her efforts, her home smells like dry smoke and stuffiness. She refers to it as “my hiding place”.

© Chiara Ferronato - Image from the Winter in Paradise photography project
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Ibiza lives at a waiting rhythm. Between resignation and faith, its inhabitants constantly hope for a new season to make the island resurrect from its own ashes, once the pandemic has passed. Ibiza awaits, towards light and life, another spring miracle.

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