I Left My Taxidermy Workshop to Become a Nudist at 74
"Life's too short and some days are cloudy. We have to enjoy the sunshine. Maybe this little fly will die in the next minute but as long as it's flying, it seizes the day."
This article originally appeared on VICE Spain
Fina is 79 years old, and five years ago she left her life in Barcelona behind to become a nudist. After he husband died, she sold their apartment, packed all her things and moved to El Fonoll – a town in Catalonia, that is also one of the most famous naturist communes in Spain.
Before leaving Barcelona, Fina worked as a taxidermist; preparing, stuffing, and mounting different animals, before selling them to individual collectors or museums. Fina's husband was a hunter, and apparently, her intention was to balance him out by keeping a part of each animal alive. To Fina, this lies at the essence of her naturist spirit.
"Naturism is a way of life. But the desire to live that way has to come from deep inside. I've been like this since a very young age. My husband and I would often go to nudist beaches. It might sound cliché but life's too short and some days are cloudy. We have to enjoy the rest of them – the sunny days. Maybe this little fly will die in the next minute but as long as it's flying, it seizes the day," she says.
I ask about her family: "My parents had me when they were in their forties. Luckily my mother was a very modern and optimistic person; everything I am, I owe to her," she remembers.
It goes without saying that the 79-year-old loves nature, maintaining that El Fonoll is the closest she has ever come to seeing paradise. When she gets up every morning, she thanks the Sun because he makes life possible. Before night falls, she thanks the Earth for everything she gives us.
Fina also rates trees highly – so highly, that she often hugs them to make sure they are aware of her appreciation: "First, I ask permission and then I hug them. But you can only hug the healthy trees and not the ones without leaves. Those without leaves need to rest to restore their power. I have learned a lot of things over the years. I've learned how to listen, be tolerant and love everything around me."
Fina came here alone but now she feels part of the extended family of El Fonoll. She has no children because she couldn't afford to raise any when she was younger. She has a niece, who she says is like a daughter to her but has never visited El Fonoll: "Her family are not naturists, so I never asked them to come over. I didn't want to make them feel uncomfortable," she explains.
She wakes up every morning at 6:30 AM, although that often depends on the time of sunrise. Around 9AM, she leaves her house and goes to feed the fish in the town reservoir. Around 11AM the sun becomes too hot, and even though she puts on homemade suncream every day – an ointment she makes with coconut and olive oil – the hard climate of Catalonia makes any activity impossible when you are completely naked. I can testify to this because, in order to enter El Fonoll and meet Fina, I had to go around naked too.
When she's done with her morning activities, Fina returns home to work on her jewelry, which she sells to other inhabitants, and the occasional visitors of the little Spanish village. "I'm not retired, I'm always working. I make earrings and pendants using elements of nature. I recycle leaves, roots and stones because I believe that everything on Earth has a soul. That includes rocks," she says.
One of Fina's favourite pastimes is hiking to the mountains surrounding El Fonoll and listening to the birds singing: "The other day I heard a young golden oriole that hadn't learned to sing yet. I knew it belonged to that species because there was an adult bird next to him, trying to teaching him to sing. The little one kept imitating the older bird but rather unsuccessfully," she laughs.
Catalan entrepreneur Emili Vives bought the abandoned village in 1998. His dream was to build Spain's first naturist resort so along with some like-minded friends, he set off to rebuild some of the houses that lay in ruins. These days, he rents out several properties, which include a hostel that can house up to 30 people as well as caravans that can be found scattered through the site.
El Fonoll's inhabitants, however, can live and eat there for free, in exchange for a few hours of manual labour every day; work that goes into maintaining the town's facilities as well as the livestock. The main rule being that as long as the weather allows it, everyone must co-exist in the buff. Fina experienced an important part of the El Fonoll construction process: "I spent my first two years here living in a caravan. When I first arrived, everything was truly in ruins. A little while later, I got my own room."
Her place is covered in leaves, bird feathers and souvenirs from her travels. A portrait photograph of Fina on a helicopter is hanging just above her bed – it's a memento from Canada, where she travelled more recently. "I love to travel and I am traveling a lot lately. It's my turn to enjoy life. I've been working since I was 8 years old, and as long as I am healthy, I will keep on traveling. Two years ago, I went to Peru. I went there alone but I usually travel with friends. I am lucky to have visited places that people my age often haven't had the fortune to see – like China," she says, before putting a stone pendant in my hands and kissing me goodbye.