The Weight Of The World On Our Backs

It's 9 am,  and despite the early hour, the blistering sun was already making life harder for the hundreds of Moroccan women, known as the "Mule Ladies", who make a living carrying huge bundles of Spanish merchandise, across the Barrio Chino border, destined for Morocco's domestic market.

For Fatma, a 70 years old porter, the day had started at 3 am. For the past 20 years, the ritual has always been the same. She got up in the middle of the night in her brick hut, cooked her family what little food they had, and got on the first bus headed to Melilla, one of Spain's enclaves in the Northern African coast. She needed to  arrive before dawn if she wanted to beat the crowds. Only the first ones to arrive are able to get the bundles, and the competition is fierce. On a good day, they might make up to 5 euros for each crossing, but most people don't earn more than 10 euros a day. It's a meager pay for carrying bundles that can weigh up to 100 kilos.

The routine is straightforward. From Monday to Thursday, trucks loaded with products arrive at the dusty border control, accompanied by a swarm of men and women that come running behind it, screaming and fighting. From the harassment by police on both sides of the border, to the regular brawls that happen when the bundles are scarce, violence is a constant in a porter's life.