Uruguayans 'Sheep Shearers' Save Lockdown Spain

Published May 21st, 2020 - 08:09 GMT

Wearing a mask and a vest-top, Uruguayans grip the sheep firmly as he begins to shear off its heavy coat, his expertise bringing him on a more than 10,000-kilometre journey from Uruguay to the rural heartlands of northwestern Spain.

It's an annual trip he normally makes but this year, things have been upended by the global pandemic, with Canto and some 250 other Uruguayan sheep shearers arriving six weeks later than normal given the difficulties of traveling in a world under lockdown.

Spain has not enough sheep shearers. If you don't know how to shear, it's not something you can learn in two months. If they didn't come from Uruguay, Spain will lose everything.

They got down to work on the very first day, shearing some 1,300 sheep and another 750 on Friday morning at a small farm in Villabraz, a village of barely 100 residents in the northwestern Leon province.

In Spain, where freedom of movement has been dramatically curbed to slow the spread of a virus that has now killed more than 27,000 people, Helder's crew are staying together and avoid going out as much as possible.

The global pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions have thrown up a host of complications for seasonal workers and for the farmers and livestock breeders who rely on them.

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Uruguayan sheep shearers pose with their blades at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

Uruguayan sheep shearers pose with their blades at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer changes his blade as he works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer changes his blade as he works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

Uruguayan sheep shearers work at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

Uruguayan sheep shearers work at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP

Uruguayan sheep shearers pose with their blades at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer changes his blade as he works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Uruguayan sheep shearers work at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Uruguayan sheep shearers pose with their blades at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Uruguayan sheep shearers pose with their blades at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer changes his blade as he works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer changes his blade as he works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
A Uruguayan sheep shearer works at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Uruguayan sheep shearers work at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP
Uruguayan sheep shearers work at a cattle farm in Villabraz in the province of Leon in northern Spain on May 15, 2020. Some 258 Uruguayan shearers arrived in Spain on a plane from Montevideo this week to participate in a campaign in different parts of Spain. They underwent check-ups for the novel coronavirus before leaving Uruguay and before starting work in Spain where they will stay until July 20. CESAR MANSO / AFP