Presentation of Salir del Silencio. Voces de Càlig 1900-1938. Onada Edicions. julio 2013




ImageThere will be two presentations in Albuquerque of Salir del Silencio:

Thursday, January 30, 5 p.m.  National Hispanic Cultural Center, Education Bldg., 1701 4th St. SW;

Saturday, February 8, 3 p.m.  Bookworks, 4022 Rio Brande Blvd. NW.

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¡Viva la República! (The Second Spanish Republic 1931-1939)

When I am in Càlig, I try to drop by Rosita Fontanet’s house in the late afternoon to chat a moment with her  and her neighbors.  In the summer, they sit out on the street for a couple of hours when it begins to cool down. That particularly Sunday, July 15—a month ago now––Rosita invited me to sit down next to her.  On my other side was Serafín, who lives across the street from me, and facing her was another Rosita who lives across the street from her.   Neighbors in the lower part of the village, they are all in their late 80s. 

The conversation drifted to memories of the Republic when they were children.  There was the Casa Grande, the large 17th century home which belonged to the Vallterra family (torn down in 1971) and the hostal on the Plaza Nova which belonged to doña Gloria who lived in Vinaros and made her fortune from selling tobacco.  She and Pepe Bayarri, a lawyer, had houses on San José. 

This was interesting to me because during the first two years of the Civil War (1936-38), the hostal was collectivized and served as a cooperative for the collective and Bayarri, I learned this summer, after he had his land collectivized, joined the collective.  

Then as if we were looking down the street at the beginning of the Republic, Rosita recalled the young Republican women who lived two doors down, las Republicanas, who wore red berets and red and gold sashes.  Suddenly she burst into song, recalling songs from the Republic.  Reliving Republican fervor, her voice did not falter.  Then she recited a long ballad about the Republic. I was amazed at her memory. 

“I had a good head for learning,” she said, “but my parents couldn’t send me to school.”  

 Oh, why didn’t I bring the digital recorder? Yet, I had had a long day and I was just going to sit with these old friends for a few moments before they put their chairs back inside and retired for the evening. 

Then they all began remembering the names of the streets during the Republic.  The other Rosita said that Calle Nova, one street up,  was called 15 de abril (when the Republic became a reality after a popular vote in 1931).  The street we were on was Pablo Iglesias, considered the father of Spanish socialism.  Three streets over is Sant Roc, the long street that goes directly to the top of the village , which was called Ramón y Cajal, for the distinguished scientist who won the Nobel Prize in 1906 for his work on the structure of the nervous system.  Two other streets in Càlig were named for martyrs of the Republic – Galan y Garcia (now Calle del Rey) and Capítán Sancho (Santa Bárbara). 

I feel privileged to be able to sit out on the street on a summer evening and listen to the remembrances of an era long gone but still in the minds of some Spaniards, and not just the elderly who lived it.  Four days later, during a huge street demonstration in Madrid protesting the raising of taxes without going through the Parliament, signs depicting the Republican flag were seen and on the subway going home, someone was singing songs about the Republic.

As one of my sources wrote:  ¡Viva la República!




The Broken Republic, painting  by Emilio Martínez



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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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Carrying on

Writing a blog during the last few months when Martha was correcting the manuscript did not seem to have very informative material.  She was learning more about grammar than stories about Càlig.  Carmen Julia had red inked the manuscript for Martha to plow through. She was very conscientious and did a thorough job.  Sometimes Martha had to decide when to leave a word or phrase because it pertained to Spain and not to Mexico.  For example, in Spain the term for left is las izquierdas and in Mexico it appears to be la izquierda.  Maybe Spain has more diversity on its left.

In the first chapter in one of the stories told by Amalia Tomás Ortí, aka La Beata, she tells how her family got the apodo Beata. Carmen questioned the use of Beata as an apodo.  Perhaps in Mexico Beata would not be an apodo, which can be translated as a nickname or a name that identifies a family usually referring to something that happened in the past.  In Càlig they sometimes say it is a mal nombre, or bad name.  La abuela beata in the story told by her great granddaughter was very pious, always praying.  She had just butchered a pig, which the neighbors were anxious to share, but she was more willing to give the meat to the angels than to her neighbors or grandson.  The angels turned out to be two neighborhood boys, who, according to the story, came down the chimney in a basket and filled it with all kinds of sausages.  Then they pulled it back up and much to the beata’s shame, mooned her. According to Dr. Salvador García, who was also present when I taped and videoed this story, it has ancient roots in the Iberian Peninsula.

Another participant in the Càlig Oral History Project is Margaret Blue, who has a very sharp eye for misspelled words and missing punctuation.  Since I first wrote a piece in English on the Collective in Càlig, she has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Project.  Marge is also enchanted with the stories and the people Martha interviewed.  When Martha would get discouraged with correcting and revising, she would say that the stories should be known.

E.A. “Tony” Mares, historian and poet, enjoys reading about the reaction of people in Càlig to the Revolution and the Civil War.  Tony is fluent in Spanish and voices no problem with Martha’s Spanish. He hopes to refer to some of the stories in his poetry about the Spanish Civil War.

Rena Yufera, who lives in Toulouse, France, and whose parents and grandparents were from Spain, has read the manuscript and given suggestions.  When she finished the last chapter on the Collective of Càlig, she said it made her feel proud of her ancestry.  Rena believes that the book would be very useful for university students in Spain (and Toulouse where many Spanish descendants live).

 Mike Connealy of Albuquerque has also been a reader as the chapters unfolded.  He liked reading about people in an agricultural village and their reactions to their world in the twenties and thirties.  His suggestions were always right on the mark.  A few weeks ago he put to use another of his talents, photography, to shoot a picture of Martha for the Albuquerque Journal.  He also videoed the talk at the NHCC for the Resolana series.

One day Martha, very discouraged with revising and correcting,  mentioned to Joanna Salinas that she would like to burn everything, Joanna replied:  “Call me first.”  Martha hasn’t had to call her yet.

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Fabian in Galicia

A major contributor to the on-going Calig Oral History Project has moved on to a new adventure. Fabián Armijo, Martha’s valuable assistant from August of 2010 to the middle of September, 2011, is now a cultural ambassador, i.e. language teaching assistant, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. His calm demeanor, his willingness to help at all levels, including deciphering calijo, his technological savvy and his enthusiasm will be greatly missed. Here’s to a great year in Santiago, Fabian!

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Lectures Published

On my first night back in Calig in the middle of September after our trip to Italy and my visits to Barcelona and Tarragona, Aureli Querol, the editor of Vila de Càlig, brought over his latest Supplement, the two talks I had given in Calig, Voces del pasado (2006) and Salir del silencio (2008). He had painstakingly translated them into valenciano, the first language of Càlig but which older people have trouble reading as they were taught in Castilian. Only a few copies had already been distributed and the day I left Càlig the rest were given out so I didn’t hear too much commentary. The son of one of the interviewees was very touched to read about his father and was impressed by the amount of information in the talks. Because there was no acknowledgment of the translator, he assumed I had written the talks in valenciano and congratulated me on how well I could write it. Then I received word that in a political meeting someone quoted from the first talk on the theme of destruir, construir, which a 94-year old man interspersed throughout his interview in reference to war, loss of historical monuments, and skirmishes in Càlig with people from the nearby village (in 1907).

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Working in Military Archives in Madrid


Fabián and Martha decided to follow the advice of Dr. María García Alonso, Professor from the Universidad de Educación a Distancia (UNED) and go to Madrid to work in the Archivos Militares in the Ministerio de Defensa for three days in June.

They took the train from Castellón which passes through the mountains near Cuenca. It was raining heavily and the sky was a dramatic gray against the patterned green fields.
After a three-hour train ride they were in the metropolitan city of Madrid. After two metro changes they reached the apartment of Martha’s good friend Selma. They enjoyed good food and conversation before heading to bed (Fabían’s was on the floor).

The next morning they took the metro for forty minutes and reached the University area of Moncloa where Cristina Sánchez was waiting to guide them through the labyrinth of military archives. She was also working in the Memoria histórica section doing research on the records of victims found in mass graves in Extremadura. Martha and Fabián learned how to enter into the archive: nothing but pencil and paper and computer.  A few euros were also essential for the coffee break.

Martha and Fabián had some names of Caligenses who had been in Franco’s jails. One file at a time they would read the accounts of what the prisoner was accused of, which jails he or she was placed in, and any defense they could muster. Some got out in two or three years, others in five or six, and some were immediately shot.

Martha spent a long time reading two of her interviewee’s files where she learned the role of village gossip in the accusatory testimonies. Because she had also studied the documentation on line of the Franco regime reports in 1938 and 1944, she was aware of additional names of people involved in the hair-raising events at the beginning of the Civil War. Some of the testimonies read like short stories. The drama of those days is intense.

After three days working in the archives, Martha and Fabián had added to their understanding of life in the village at the beginning of the Civil War as well as in prison at the beginning of the Dictatorship. A lot more research could be done at some point.

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