The Book of Sand tells the story of the Dune of Valdevaqueros, a metaphor for the absurd will of humanity to dominate nature. The dune has been witness to stories of the military, frontiers, wars, deaths, climate change, immigration, oblivion, and environmental degradation —which are all interconnected.
The setting for this account is the Cape of Punta Paloma (Tarifa, Cádiz), a paradisiacal enclave on the Spanish coast of the Strait of Gibraltar, where tourists travel to enjoy spectacular views from atop the great moving dune. Yet, the dune was not always there. In 1939, as the Spanish Civil war was ending, Franco’s regime ordered the urgent building of a powerful defensive system in the Strait of Gibraltar, due to an unfounded fear of an invasion by the British and the French. Some 324 bunkers and coastal batteries were built over ninety kilometers of coastline.
Before this intervention, Punta Paloma was a huge dune system made up of small dunes measuring two and three meters, which had been stable since the last glaciation at least six thousand years ago. Because of the strategic geolocation of this cape, the military built two bases. But the flow of sand obstructed the movement of heavy machinery. To stop it, a sophisticated project was ordered to fix the dune and revegetate the zone.
The dune has not stopped growing to this day and it is currently out of control. It has been proven that the intervention of the military in 1939 radically changed the physiognomy and the climate of the area— generating long-term environmental and social consequences that remain to this day.
María Primo’s work interrogates the relationship between humans and nature in the Anthropocene. She uses photography to unveil the changes in the environment, revealing multiple layers within. Her connection with the Andalusian landscape and the history of the Strait of Gibraltar comes from her early childhood; a rich cultural legacy that awakened in her an interest in diverse cosmologies. This led her to pursue her studies in Anthropology and the Environment.