Interview with Jesús Belmonte, Interior designer and founder of the “Manilva Solidarity Factory”

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A little less than a month ago, the name of Jesús Belmonte Llavero, was known merely as that of a professional interior designer from Jaén, married and a father of three children who moved to Manilva to “be close to the sea and because being on the Costa del Sol could be good for business”


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Today, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, to mention the name Jesús Belmonte is to speak of the “Manilva Solidarity Factory”, and it is his commercial premises at the entrance to the town he now calls home, that has become a makeshift factory producing essential personal protective equipment in this health emergency.


Jesus, how was this wave of solidarity and your mask factory born?

It all began with the lockdown, when we couldn't carry out our usual business and so my wife and I decided, taking advantage of some materials that we had in stock and our machinery, to manufacture 2,000 masks to donate to the Town Council and for them to distribute.


But you kept making more and more masks

Yes, from that moment the production has not ceased and I have to say it is all thanks to the motivation and support from the very beginning by the Mayor, Mario Jiménez, and the government team.


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How did the collaboration between you and the Council come about?

During one of the deliveries of masks that I made to the mayor, it coincided with a point at which, due to the State of Emergency, the council were forced to lay off several women who were on temporary contracts. It was at the point that I proposed that these women could be employed in the newly set up mask factory, serving a dual purpose: avoiding having to send these women home, and increasing the output of masks.

The Mayor immediately agreed, and today we see the result of that decision.


At this point in the interview Jesus asks us to make something clear

It is fair, and it must be said, that I am the visible face of this initiative, but there are many people contributing their bit, with their work, effort and encouragement that are also important. The Town Hall purchased the material for the manufacture of the first masks once we had finished our own stock of material and that allowed us to continue our efforts.


To date you have manufactured more than 10,000 masks

Yes, thanks to the solidarity of a whole town, of companies and of the town council itself, we have manufactured more than 10,000 masks and more than a thousand face shields, all of this, as I say with the solidarity of a whole town and its people, it brings tears of joy when someone comes and gives you two metres of foam rubber or any material that allows us to make 4 or 5 protectors.


What is your current daily output?

We are producing between 700 and 800 masks plus face screens, we do everything we can from 8 in the morning to 10 at night with stops for disinfection, which are carried out every four hours.


You have discarded the night shift

Yes, although we considered it, we realized that it is necessary for the workers to be rested and also in this way all the material has a few hours that is necessary for its disinfection.


Precisely this work, that of disinfection, was the subject of a complaint

Yes, the complaint was made by a member of the Manilva Fire Department, but he does not deserve a minute of our time to discuss it, the important thing is to continue with a job and work that is necessary for many people.


Also at that point you received the support of the whole town, as well as the Council.

Indeed, we received the support of a whole town and even of this man's companions at the Fire Station who voluntarily carried out the disinfection work, and again I am left with a phrase from our Mayor, Mario Jiménez, and that is when he told me , "Jesus, here we are and we are going to die standing".


Jesus, these Manilva masks have also been sent further afield

Well yes, I am proud that from this small town on the Costa del Sol, masks have been sent to my home city of Jaen, as well as Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, the Guardia Civil, health workers, ultimately to all those who are working hard for us.


Jesus, how long will this "Solidarity Factory" continue?

I can tell you that this factory will stand as long as we have materials to make protective equipment for all those who need it.


We have to finish Jesus, do you want to send a message?

Yes, I want to ask people to think, we have to be more supportive, have more heart, nobody is above anyone and it has been shown that together we can achieve a lot and everything works out better”.