Seventy-two-year-old Mario Torres comes from a small village, Aldeia do Souto in the Centre of Portugal.
The way his life developed was typical for Portuguese men during the times of the Salazar dictatorship that lasted until 1974; people had been impoverished which led to a massive exodus of the workforce. Like many of his compatriots, Mario fled the regime and became a migrant bricklayer in France for 41 years, until his retirement, when he moved back to Portugal.
"People left then (in the 1960 and 70s) because they couldn‘t earn a living under Salazar. Everybody left to go work abroad, a situation that has been ongoing since. I lost my father at the age of four. If I had had the means to study, I might have become an engineer. However, I left school at ten years and started working in the fields."
Nowadays Mario tends to his olive grove and his vegetable garden meticulously. Apart from having a problem with his leg and not being able to walk far, he is constantly on the move and working. Rare are the moments he sits down, besides having drinks and chatting away with friends in the village bar.
During the summer of 2022, the mountain range Sierra de Estrella on the fringes of which the village Aldeia do Souto lies, was devastated by wildfires and Mario feared for his village and its citizens. But Mario is in good spirits, with a clear mind and is happy with the life he leads.
How does it feel to be 72?
"I feel good. I have never been interviewed before. It is complicated for me to speak with you. Being photographed like this has been a big change in my life. However, if I didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t have done it. I worked in France for 41 long years, after retiring I returned to Portugal and have lived here since."
What do you look forward to?
"I’m looking forward to seeing the photos when everything is ready. I love being with friends and family and working a little in my olive grove and garden as a pastime."
What is your biggest concern?
"What makes me afraid is the life that is going to come. We don’t know where we are going. It’s not only me, but everybody says this. It concerns Portugal, France, everywhere. The majority of people can’t make ends meet any longer, this is what is on my mind a lot. People have a lot of problems they must survive. For me it’s still okay, but there are others that don’t know how to continue their lives. They don’t know what to eat. When these people look at the government and see what they steal from the citizens, I become afraid."