August, September, October, November and December. They are the five pages that Joaquín Hidalgo has yet to tear out of the calendar, those pages that his granddaughters have used for a few years to draw while they keep him company in his jewelry workshop where he has spent so many hours in solitude. And it is that, with the last page of this 2020, his retirement will come after a lifetime dedicated to a guild that he came to for love and with which he ended up falling in love. «It was by chance, when I got a boyfriend with what is now my wife, Elvira. His brother was a master jeweler, very good, and in those days I would go to his workshop for a little while, another little while, and another...», until he fell in love with the profession that he was learning with his teacher, Quimet (Joaquín in Catalan ), which many in Villanueva de la Serena remember for its jewelry on Ramón y Cajal street.
"I was learning the trade thanks to him, who taught me well," he recalls about his training between 1976 and 1980, the year in which he began to work as an employee. A decade later, in the 1990s, he decided that the time had come to fly solo. This is how the Joaquín Hidalgo Jewelry store was born on Carrera Street, which will close for good in a few months. «More than 40 years, a lifetime. One of my greatest pride is to retire after so many years in my union, something that is very complicated.
That was his greatest challenge, reaching retirement still giving shape to the latest jewels under the overhead light of his desk, that particular space in which he now creates the wedding rings of a couple getting married in October: «Many of the clients, I say feminine because they have been the majority, we have seen them grow with gifts for their communion and years later for their wedding. With a fidelity that I think does not exist today.
A fidelity linked to numerous life stories, also anecdotes. Like that married couple who thought that those automatic watches that worked with the movement of the wrist actually did so with the pulse. "The lady said that the clock was losing time and that her husband forced her to have a glass of cognac to get her pulse," she still remembers with a laugh, "there are many such stories."
Now he wants to spend more time with his family./ E. Domeque
With that same smile, he continues talking about his clientele, for whom he only has words of gratitude. "The list of clients and friends of all these years would be endless, thanks to them is what we have reached this moment and this happy ending," says Joaquín, who is seeing how many of them come these days to buy that last detail. "What do you want to have as a souvenir of your visit to this jewelry store?"
Do you retire happy? "Yes Yes Yes. Although eager because you no longer have the same illusion, nor the same strength, but happy to come to fruition, "he replies. The joy of the years lived contrasts with the last throes of a profession that he knew at its best, but that is now going through one of its worst. "Jewelry is a very beautiful profession and the guild is very suitable for living from it," he recalls about the past, "but we have had a very difficult few years, especially with the Internet, which has brushed off small businesses and shops in towns . All you have to do is look at Calle Ramón y Cajal or Plaza de Maura, there are more empty premises than occupied ones. It's a shame, especially for those of us who have known him as he was before. Although there are many causes, not just the Internet.
She also understands that the trends are different, "before, jewelery was inherited from mothers to daughters and granddaughters"; The materials have also changed "going towards silver or steel, which is the antithesis of a jeweler from before"; and the age of the customers, "because young people are not seen in jewelry stores, so I think the union is doomed." But the lived experience also leaves room for self-criticism, "that we merchants have also done something wrong, we cannot blame only others."
His challenge was to reach retirement in the guild./ E. D.
He understands that he leaves a guild touched, but not sunk, with hope set on the new generation of younger jewelers. "I have always been in love with my profession, with my time in the workshop, but lately there has been little work and you are almost disappointed," he laments along with an emotional column of clippings from the newspaper HOY that is observed as soon as he enters the workshop. What began with a photograph of Juan Carlos I and Adolfo Suárez, which has now become a mural of memories and of some friends who are no longer here.
But this incipient disappointment does not tarnish his long journey, «in which there has been everything, but the important thing is to find the average after very important and complicated crises, also after very good times. I have five or six months left, I am a small boat that carries the water and I hope it will leave me on a calm shore ».
A ship that may remain tied to his native Villanueva, from which he barely moved to do the 'military service'. Now he has to enjoy his family and, above all, his granddaughters who are already drawing the last pages of that calendar in the workshop before closing their blind for the last time.