A Short History of the Oral History Project in Càlig

Written 3-22-12

This post, meant for the beginning of this blog in September of 2010, will be included now.  Martha began listening to stories and taking notes when she first came to Càlig in 1978. In 1988, with a Rockefeller Foundation Summer Grant, she began taping interviews in Càlig about the changes that occurred in the village between 1978 to 1988. The mayor, Agustí Mercé, provided her with fifteen names of gentlemen she could talk to:  5 on the right, 5 on the left and 5 center or neutral.  Besides those men, she interviewed neighbors and friends Not only did she find out about improvements in the village, she also learned about traditions, tensions between generations, and some of the difficulties of life during the Franco regime.

In the academic year 1991-1992 she was given a National Endowment for Humanities Award for the project “Seasons and Cycles in a Spanish Village:  Today’s Voices, Yesterday’s Memories.  She originally planned to learn about how the village changed during the Franco regime and which traditions had been lost.  Quickly she discovered that there were villagers who wanted to talk about the Civil War as well.  There were even 90 year olds who began with their own childhoods and included traditional stories that had been passed on through the generations.

The most recent count is around 142 hours of interviews and about 100 people interviewed since 1988 (not including 2011 interviews).  A couple of these are children under 10; twelve others were present in an interview and contributed spontaneously.  Of course, Martha could not interview everyone who had a wonderful story to tell.   Generally one person interviewed would suggest other persons to talk to.  Not every door Martha knocked on had a willing participant inside.  There were 47 women including those who accompanied the principal interviewee.   While political leanings were not questioned, there were more self-identified interviewees on the left than on the right not surprising during a period of socialist dominance in the village.

Martha learned the history of Càlig through its people because when she began the interviews, she was not familiar with their history.  Therefore, she was not influenced by outside sources when she did the interviews. By studying the interviews over the years and consulting more recent publications including government documents from the Franco era, she has been able to place information provided her in an interview in its historical context.

Personal and village experiences in the interviews included the build up to the Civil War, the Collective, violence during and after the Civil War, evacuation of the village in 1938, immigration, the Cooperative, generational conflicts, education, agricultural practices and improvements in the village and in living conditions.

When the interviewee told his/her stories, it was if Martha had heard the story before or he/she had told the story so often that it was not necessary to include elements of the story.  Perhaps memory failed during the telling.  The interviewee did not necessarily tell the story the way the audience expected to hear it with a definite beginning, middle and end complete with where, when, why, how which presented challenges in the retelling of the story and\ or placing in its correct historical context.

The interviews, except those since 2008, have been transcribed and categorized.  At some point in the future, the transcriptions of all of the oral interviews should be checked.  All of the interviews have been digitized but not transferred to CDs.  Interview information sheets have been largely completed

Martha has used stories from the interviews in a book of readings for intermediate students, a collage for the Rainbow Artists’ exhibit The Telling in September of 2000, in several talks for the Oasis program in Albuquerque, and several talks in Spain. Most recently she gave a talk for the Resolana series at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico entitled Revolution Within a Civil War.  Càlig, Castellón, July-September 1936, which was well attended and well received.   Currently she is completing a book in Spanish on the traditional stories and history from the beginning of the 20th century to 1938 when the Franco troops passed through Càlig on their way to the Mediterranean.

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