You know how us North Europeans like getting vegetables whenever we bloody well feel like it, regardless of the season? Well, the likelihood is that when you chow down on a winter tomato, it has come from Almeria in Spain. This once arid, deserted area of Spain has become a sea of green houses as far as the eye can see in all directions. Once upon a time the area was so dusty, dry and sparse that it was used as a backdrop for spaghetti westerns. Now it’s Europe’s biggest greenhouse.
In fact, Almeria is so unnaturally shimmering and bright that it has managed to change the overall temperature of the entire region. Whilst the rest of Spain steadily warms up year on year, Almeria’s temperature actually drops steadily thanks to the incredible amount of light the greenhouses fire back into space.
There are a lot of jobs in this world competing for the title of the worst; but being a worker in this vast maze of greenhouses is, to be frank, shit. Temperatures can easily rise to over 45 degrees Celsius and the pay is shocking. So guess who works there? Immigrants, some legal, many illegal, mostly from Africa. Because of their often illegal status they have very little in the way of rights, they are starving and/or ill. And thanks to the crash in the Spanish construction industry, many of those working in the sea of plastic can only find work for a couple of days a week.
Just a few hours drive from the Costa del Sol where foreigners sun themselves on beautiful beaches and slam down Full English breakfasts with their pints of lager, humans are dying for our vegetables.
As with any condensed industry on this kind of scale it brings its own environmental problems too: fertiliser leaching into the soil, salt water mixing into freshwater supplies, vast swathes of plastic getting dumped into the oceans. All round, it’s pretty bad news for anyone who happens to live in or around Almeria… except for the rich companies that run the businesses of course, they’re having a lovely time.
The photos in this article include photos taken by Reinaldo Loureiro who spent some time documenting the suffering and the hardships of life in the hothouses of Almeria. I’ve also included some aerial images from here to give you some perspective on the bewildering size of Almeria’s veggie industry:
(Click the arrows below to navigate through the slides.)