A life between newspapers at one of the oldest newsagents
When some businesses died they take good memories with them. The history of José ‘Paco’, and his wife Maria, is the story of a newsagency. “It took us all the effort of the world,” told these merchants of the printed word. Since 1960, its tiny window was only down for a handful of days; it was half a century of relentless work that will write soon its final point. Paco and Mari will retire, and with their departure, the kiosk will close.
They paid 20,000 pesetas over 20 years, which was the price when they were newlyweds. “Loads of bucks,” says Paco. Forget the honeymoon. Forget any breaks the next two decades. It was all about working Monday to Sunday from 6 to 12. “Rest? At New Year and Christmas. That was it. Early in the mornings they had to collect all the material because there were no distributors. So at 5am they were already standing; then 18 hours solid of work.
In the mornings they used to sell copies of ABC, Ya or Arriba. In the afternoons it was the Alcazar, Madrid Pueblo, Information and others. And if someone did not have time to come round the kiosk, they did also home delivery. Paco used to go, for example, to the Milagrosa Hospital, which he served for decades. While Mari ran the newsagency. For him the press business was not new. His mother sold newspapers on a bench in the street, and used to leave her son in a bar with a pile of newspapers to make some extra cash.
History has passed through Mari and Paco’s newsagency. Since the election of Kennedy to the world cup in South Africa, the end of the cold war or the arrival of the man to the moon. Thousands of headlines have passed through their hands. “I remember three days in particular,” says Paco, “Fabiola’s wedding, the death of Manolete and the Normandy landings. With the latter we made the most money in the whole Spain,” he added. “I left the shop with stacks of newspapers, and none made it to the kiosk. They all were sold out on the way.”
When Prince Felipe and Letizia got married, things were much better. By then the couple gave themselves the luxury of taking a few days off. They had moved closer to the business, and were no longer working in the evenings. But they missed weddings, baptisms or communions. Even their parents’ funerals were cast after the morning working. All that earned them the bronze medal awarded them 30 years ago the Ministry of Public Works for being one of the best selling jobs in Spain (now rumoured to aspire for gold). And they won the hearts of customers one after another, who insisted that Paco and Mari should stay there for life, because they can not imagine the neighbourhood without them.
Their marriage, with so many years together leading up their kiosk, has not lost its complicity. When you bend, the other takes to get things over your back. A perfectly synchronized choreography attesting to the years they have been practicing this craft. Living together in their little hole, far from wearing out, it seems that they have made one. “And the first house we had was half,” says Paco. “What a burden,” says Mari. And they smile. Then Paco realizes that he has exhausted the newspaper that provides daily to one of his sons. And apologies to run at full speed to buy a copy from the nearest kiosk.
They have two children. “One economist and one chemical engineer,” said swollen with pride. They have been able to study and have good jobs. “And everything,” says Paco excited, “thanks to this small house.”