The same fate that put two persons on opposite sides of the law unites them now in memory.
aphael, old by now, is sitting tranquilly in the warmth of a gentle sun as another man approaches. His face is also lined by age. It is somehow familiar, but that is just a vague feeling lost in a past time. Then the new arrival starts talking and his words bring back memories of a long gone day, when Raphael had turned to smuggling for survival’s sake.
The memories become images and we, too, turn back in time to discover the story of a smuggler who sees a gendarme arrive and who then hides his load of rice under some stones to come back later and fetch them. The clever smuggler seems to have taunted the gendarmes again, but… that man so many years later must confess something to Raphael…
RaphaelA load of salt on his shoulders and a lot of warmth for the Italian friends in his heart.
The gendarmeIt is his role to observe and control, but often it is difficult and the situation requires turning a blind eye.
The border zones frequented by the smugglers were wide areas of a territory that was difficult to control by the small groups of customs officers and gendarmes stationed in the border villages. The alpine cabins provided outposts where the goods that had crossed the border were deposited until the right moment came to transport them down to the valley. The position of the customs officers was signalled to the smugglers by sending children to warn them or exposing bed sheets that could be seen at a long distance.
The relation between customs officers and smugglers was kind of a positional warfare, in which the smuggler had the people’s solidarity and an infinitely better knowledge of the terrain on his side. And if he was surprised there was a last possibility: bribe the gendarmes and guards by ceding a part of the goods to them.
Ottonelli Elisabetta – Il Contrabbando – Storie di contrabbando per i colli di Viso – Comunità Montana Valli del Monviso – Progetto Alcotra Vis’Oc
Ottonelli Elisabetta – Les contrebandiers – Histoires de contrebande entre Queyras et vallées du Viso – L’ Office de Tourisme du Queyras – Projet Alcotra Vis’Oc