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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
Almost two weeks ago Fabian finished digitizing all 146 tapes. Now he is working on formularios (information sheets) with occasional input from Martha. In today’s world the interviews would be done on a digital recorder and the information about the interviewee immediately entered into the computer, but in 1991-92, the circumstances were different. I was working on an ’82 Kaypro computer which would not always function so I supplemented with an inexpensive typewriter or handwritten notes. Fabian and Martha are now adding this information also to the interview sheets. Goal: to finish this part of the oral history Project before August 23. Martha also hopes to finish revising by then. ¡Ojalá!
While revising Chapter 5 on the Spanish Republic in Càlig, Martha and Fabián reread the stories about the strike the CNT led against the almond factories in the fall of 1932 to secure better working conditions for the women workers. Amador Bonet, a leader of the CNT in Càlig, mentioned going to the factory a few doors down from his house on the Calle de Socorro where the factory owner, Enrique Añó, refused their demands. He then went left down the Calle del Rey to the factory of Joaquín Anglés who acceded to their demands. The women from that factory went up their street and demonstrated in front of the Añó factory. After a week Añó finally gave in. Conditions did improve and the women then worked 8 hours a day and received 2 reales (about 50 centimos in 1932) more. Fabían and Martha explored the factory on Calle Socorro in May which they were told belonged to Joaquín Anglés. The confusion was cleared up by a conversation with Rosita Fontanet whose father had worked for Añó and the testimony given by Joaquín Anglés to the newly-established Franco regime in 1938 in which he stated that all the almonds in his factory were carried up to Añó’s place. Añó was assassinated in a field near the road to Vinarós. I heard gruesome descriptions from several people of his unfortunate demise. At one point, el baile de la rosa was held in the entrance to the factory or in the street in front of it.
One reader posed several questions about the chapter on the Juez de Cervera, who was killed in 1907, as he passed through Càlig. The village stood behind the culprits and proclaimed that all the village had killed him (much as in the Lope de Vega play, Fuenteovejuna). What kind of judge was he? Were there any pictures? Do you have a map to show where Cervera is?
While I was in Càlig in June, I wanted to go to Cervera del Maestre, to see what information I could get. Cervera is a beautiful village on an abuttment with restored stone houses and a castle towering over the village. A dry river bed of silvery stones circles around part of the rocky ledge. One friend who visited me in Càlig years ago called it Shangri La when he caught a glimpse of it on a hike around the Ermita of Càlig. Only 7 kilometers to the West, it seemed like a pleasant excursion for four of us who ventured out one late June morning a little after 12:00.
The cotxet vermell (little red car) with Fabián driving took us along a narrow two lane road with olive, carob, almond, and orange groves on either side. Roads veered off, leading to an occasional house or farm, and one led off to the site of Roman ruins where, below huge olive trees, was a kiln for clay jars which were used to ship olive oil to Italy. Then the road dipped down past a medieval olive oil mill and upwards toward Cervera.
When we reached Cervera, we went straight up a narrow street to the Ayuntamiento (town hall). We parked a few streets away and entered shortly after 12:30—it would close at 1:00 for the day. The mayor came bustling out of his office and asked what I wanted. I tried to quickly explain my mission saying I was interested in learning more about the Judge of Cervera. I added that I was from Càlig thinking he would be more accessible if he knew I lived in the area.
“We don’t know anything,” he exclaimed. I asked one more quick question: “What kind of judge was he? A Justice of the Peace?” “Yes,” he said, and handed me a guide to Cervera where there was a good map. I muttered that I had written something on the incident and asked if he would like a copy. He gave me his e-mail address as he rushed out the door.
I then realized that by saying I was from Càlig, I had lost my opportunity to ask for photos or talk to any descendants. Càlig still remains the arch enemy of Cervera because now a waste disposal plant has been built on land within the boundaries of Cervera but owned by Càlig residents who have been very vocal. In addition to financial loss, there are ecological concerns.
The 1907 incident is still in the minds of citizens of both villages. Recently the ex-mayor of Càlig referred proudly to the role his grandfather, the mayor, had played in the demise of the unfortunate judge. The current Cervera mayor apparently bears a grudge against Càlig.
Despite the age old rivalry between the two towns, Cervera is a lovely area to explore. We spent several hours walking up and down the winding streets, enjoying tapas in the plaza near the town hall, and then driving around some of the olive groves nearby where we could look down at the meandering rambla (dry river bed) and up at the castle being rebuilt where Iberians, Romans, and Arabs had once dwelled. The past pulsates beneath the stones, new and old.