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!

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Almond factory revisited

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.

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Cervera/Càlig Rivalry

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.

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Visit with former mayor Manuel Anglés

June 14, 2011

Last year Manuel looked over my book of stories about Calig for an intermediate reader I would like to publish.  He was amused by an American’s view of Càlig and made some comments on the cultural content.  This year he agreed to read the chapters I had written on the oral history of Càlig and correct my Spanish.  (He taught primary school for many years and is now teaching adults.)

I had debated constantly about whether to write in Spanish or English, but the language I write in is somewhat determined by the audience who would be reading it and I would like for the people of Càlig to be able to read their own history.   Last summer the professor from the UNED who is working on the project suggested I write in Spanish even though I said it would be hard particularly since the people I interviewed were speaking their second language and my Spanish is influenced by theirs.  I struggled all year to write as well as I could only to be told this year I should write in English.

I also wanted the voices of the people I interviewed to be heard.  They had talked to me in their second language because they wanted to tell me their stories and I didn’t want their voices silenced as they had been for so many years.  Yet their way of speaking was not always clear and it was hard sometimes to decipher what they were saying.

Because Manuel had heard some of these same stories, he was able to make sense of them.  He knew what something that didn’t make sense in castellano was in valenciano and could then use the appropriate expression in castellano.  I began to feel encouraged again about the work I had done this year.

Most of all, it was fun to see Manuel act out some of the stories.  He caught the spirit of the people who had originally told them to me.


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Working Conditions in Càlig, June 12, 2011

It is always hard to work on a project in Spain because there are so many distractions:  people unexpectedly drop by, there is a ceremony in the upper part of the village, Martha has coffee with her friends, Fabián needs his beach time, and one has to shop daily for meals because food seems to mold in the new refrigerator.  When we do get down to business, it is more fun to work outside on the terrace than inside. Now we have two companions that stare at us:  a dog whose head appears from the terrace on the right and Pinou le lapin on the left runs around his cage. The rabbit is quiet and the dog only barks occasionally. The swallows plunge down flying close to the rooftops. When we arrived, they were busy constructing their nests and now they’re busy feeding their young chicks.

As we write this blog, we are sitting in a restaurant next to the sea owned by good friends having just eaten grilled artichokes.  The clouds are beginning to turn pink as the sun sets in the hills behind us.  Any frustrations with this overwelming project are temporarily suspended.

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Battle Scene Card

Friday June 10, 2011.

After some 30 years, Martha decided to dig out some papers she had found in the house after she bought it. From the box stuffed in the back of a closet, Martha and Fabián pulled out a stack of yellowed tax receipts, three schoolbooks from around 1930, and old family photographs. While flipping through the schoolbooks, Martha came upon a brightly colored cartoon card of knights in coats-of arms fighting.  It was an imagined scene from the 16th century in which the Catalans battled against Francis the 1st, a French King, in Pavia (now Italy) and won.   On the back was an advertisement for a Barcelona chocolate, Xocolata Juncosa.  Martha was astonished when she realized this was the kind of card what one of the interviewees had mentioned when recalling when she first heard in July of 1936 that war had broken out:“Great! Chocolate candy!

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Visiting the Senyoret

Martha and Fabián had a list of names from the Causa General starting in the year 1938; of people who had land or money taken from them by the anarchists for the Collective in Càlig. They didn’t know who some of the people were so they went to consult the present day Senyoret who lives on the other side of the village  in the family mansion, a beautifully restored five-floor house with a large garden and swimming pool in the back. Martha had interviewed his father, the town historian, in 1991 to learn more history.  The son, Juan de la Figuera, has been working on a genealogical database, which now has at least 20,000 names. Martha and Fabián were able to find out about families who had had land collectivized which the Anarchists had neglected to include in their lists.

When Fabián and Martha left it was raining and the Senyoret kindly lent Martha a beautiful light green umbrella that was a perfect match for the scarf she happened to be wearing.  She did however return the umbrella a few days later stuffing it into the mail slot in the large wooden door.

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