Antonio Cedrés delivered the mail in Mácher for 38 years before retiring in March this year. Born and bred in the village, he’s seen the way it’s changed, got to know the locals and handed over hundreds of thousands of parcels, letters, bills and Christmas cards.
Has this always been the post office here in Mácher, Antonio?
No, it used to be another building on the hill over there, but there’s been an office in the village for over 100 years. This was an important area for the tomato packaging industry on Lanzarote – women used to come up from Puerto del Carmen to work in the packing plant, and onions were also important.
Is this a job that runs in the family?
Not really. My father delivered the mail for a while during the Civil War when the postman was called up to fight, but it wasn’t his official job. He and my mother ran Mácher’s general supplies shop from this building, selling everything from groceries to fabrics, hats, cleaning products and even petrol.
In 1965, we installed Mácher’s first public telephone in the shop. You had to call the exchange in Arrecife to place every call, and the operator would tell you how much each call had cost at the end. Every month my mum would go into Arrecife to settle the bill, and we’d keep 20%.
This also meant that we’d receive telegrams. My father would note down the message on a piece of paper – for example, “ The tomatoes sold in Barcelona for 6 pesetas a kilo”, then he’d type it up and tell me to run out and deliver it.
I liked doing that. I still remember who’d give me tips I got when I delivered the telegrams, and one local man had a very attractive daughter, so I always wanted to go there.
How did you get the job of official postman?
The postman who worked here asked if I was interested. He used to take the mail around on a donkey, but was retiring. I said I’d love the job, and so he went into Arrecife to have a word.
On the 23rd March 1981, a van stopped, the driver threw a bagful of mail outside the shop and he told my mother “Tell the boy he’s got the job and he has to deliver these.”
I didn’t have a clue what to do. So I went down to Yaiza and talked to the postman there. Finally, I delivered the letters. My first wage packet was 10,621 pesetas.
Do you have problems with lack of numbering on houses?
It’s total chaos. People change their house names, they don’t display the number and the Ayuntamiento hasn’t sorted things. I usually go by the name on the letter– if I went by the address I’d only confuse myself.
I was delivering in La Asomada, Mácher and Puerto Calero until the year 2000, when I complained that my route was too long, so Correos sent an assessor to follow me and note down the distance, time and amount of letters. That day, 828 letters arrived, and it took us three and a half days to deliver them all, over a distance of 150 kilometres. They appointed a postman in La Asomada and in Puerto Calero shortly afterwards.
Any problems with dogs?
I’ve been bitten three times and have fallen off the motorbike a couple of times, too, but it’s not a dangerous job.
Did you find you were the bearer of good news or bad news?
Not really. People get really bad news by telephone, not post. The day-to-day bad news is the bills and fines. I once told a German woman who lived here about the death of César Manrique and remember her bursting into tears, but that wasn’t to do with the post.
But you must have known a lot of people over the years.
Oh yes. Often I was the first visitor people who’d moved to Mácher would see. I liked to chat and talk to everyone – sometimes older people get lonely and you have to give them some time. My son did the route for me recently and completed it much faster, but they don’t know him.
Who’s taking over now you’ve retired?
They’ve appointed a stand-in for a couple of months, but then the office here in Mácher will close. There’ll still be home deliveries, but if people need to pick up a letter or send a parcel, they’ll need to go to the office in Puerto del Carmen. That’s a problem, because there’s no bus and if they take the car they have trouble parking.
How are you finding retirement, Antonio?
I’ve been working on my finca, and have lots of stuff to do in my home, so I’m busy. But I have to admit I don’t have as much enthusiasm for the day when I get up. People say “Come around and see us any time”, but it isn’t really the same. The job gave me that excuse to meet everybody. But I’ve got plenty of plans.