Almond Factory

Shortly after arriving, Emilio, an artist living in Càlig, showed us pictures he had taken of an old almond factory that had belonged to Joaquín Anglés. We had written about the importance of the almond factories in the thirties because they had provided women jobs that were close to their homes in the village. Amador had led worker strikes here for better working conditions and pay. A few days later, Fabián and Martha entered the old almond factory,  cameras in hand, and made their way around broken boards and chipped cement steps to snap some pictures of an abandoned structure where women had sorted and cracked open almonds for shipment to distance places.  There were still burlap sacks piled up against one of the walls.  Later the building had been the scene of dances in the upper part of the town—the dance of the roses.

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The Project Goes On: Getting it all together

Chapter 6 on the Revolution within the Civil War is finished for now.  It took a long time to sort out the information in the government document written in 1938 where testimonies were taken of events during the “dominación roja”.   Martha has no way of knowing how much is correct but she got a clearer idea of the tumultuous times in the village during those first months of the War.  Some testimonies corresponded to what she already knew; others were unfamiliar to her.    Martha is pleased to get dates for momentous events such as the burning of religious images, when the nuns were rescued from the convent, killings of priests and Conservative extremists, and the collectivization process.

During the first three weeks the villagers experienced a profound change in their lives.  The Left came into power and governed through an Anti-fascist Committee that hoped to bring about a peaceful Revolution.  They lost control when Anarchists in other places like Barcelona or Benicarló began to dictate what happened in the village.  That is when the ruthless killings began although no one in Càlig pulled the trigger, so they said.

Martha feels for people who were aware their friends or relatives were being killed and they didn’t know how to help them.  “We hid in our homes,” one woman said.  Her brother realized that if he had tried to save a close friend, he would have been killed.  Only those with some authority in the new village regime could prevent a killing, such as the medical student who was the nephew of a beloved priest, “el canónigo rojo” or one of the members of the Anti-fascist Committee who saved a wealthy friend on the Right from wild-eyed Anarchists from Barcelona.

Martha is looking forward to writing up the interviews on the Collective, particularly those from the collectivists who felt those days were the happiest of their lives.

Fabián is organizing the files of the interviewees on the computer, filling in the information sheets, and digitizing tapes.  We have begun looking through the journals Martha kept and finding nuggets to include both on these sheets and in chapters.   Fabián is also transferring the videos from the interview year 1991-92 from the Costco DVDs to an external hard drive.

The oral history project is now backed up in cyberspace and on various external hard drives which in itself has been a lot of work.

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Will it work?

Martha finally decided to get a new iMac after 7 years with the old one which was on the verge of being disconnected from the Internet, but it had a wonderful glare free monitor.  The new Mac has great search capabilities which are essential for this project.  Now if Martha can remember a quote but can’t locate the file, the Finder does it for her.   If only the Mac could organize all the files for her.

What could be Chapter VI about the Civil War period is proving very difficult to put together so Martha and Fabián have resorted to working on one section at a time.

Martha has finished the part about sacking the church and is trying to deal with the stories about the killings that occurred in the first few months.   The grisly details were mostly found in some official documents prepared by the new Franco regime in the village.  However, two sisters and a brother I interviewed were friends of some of the victims.

One of the challenges was reading the handwriting of the government official who reported the happenings from 1936 to 1938 which were from the view of the Right.

While we did make out that a Ford truck and a Phillips radio were confiscated in the early days of the Revolutionary period, we couldn’t decipher the model of the car which was “borrowed” for two weeks for the cause.

The Revolutionaries took several pairs of  overalls (the proper dress of the Left during the War) from a local dry-goods store in the plaza where the town hall is now.  One day walking near there with a friend, we encountered the daughter of the owner of the store (which is no longer there).  Without thinking,  Martha asked her where the Anarchist casino had been which Martha knew had been nearby. She walked away without answering.   Martha’s friend then  told her the story of the overalls.

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Painting and skiing

Some days I compare writing a book on the oral history of a village to creating a painting.  Not that I am a painter, but I have friends who paint and listening to them describe how their work is going seems very similar to my project.  I have to take a step back and look at where the book is going.  I need to add a quote here, a citation there, like brush strokes added to a work of art.  Then I must take out a repetitive statement, put in another interviewee, read more about the period.  The work continues to grow. My artist friends and I create for similar reasons: an urgency to express something that won’t leave us alone.  Nor do we have any idea what will eventually happen to our work.

Now if only my back wouldn’t hurt so when I am at the computer.  Another lesson to be learned.  Don’t ski on ice with heavy backpack when tired!

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Revolución y muertos

While Martha and Fabián were reading accounts of the first days of the Spanish Revolution of July 1936, Egypt was undergoing its revolution.  In Spain then the problem was a military uprising and the people were defending the Republic.  Chaos reigned those first few months in Càlig when bold young men of different political persuasions cleaned out the religious imagery in the church and loaded it onto truck beds and carried it to a plaza in town and to the dry river bed on the edge of town and burned it.  Since the government collapsed with the Franco proclamation, the anti-Fascist committee patrolled the area.   Some over-zealous young men on the left terrorized the equally over-zealous Catholic right.  When the Nationalist forces attacked working class  men, women and children of leftist beliefs and killed thousands, the Anarchists gave the order to kill.   Fabían and Martha poured over lists of priests and extremist Catholics in Càlig who were assassinated in retaliation.   It seems there were about twelve or thirteen who died at that time.   Some of the official accounts and personal narrations were horrifying.

At the same time, Gitano, Martha’s 12 year old black dog, was suffering from bone cancer and barking pathetically all night wanting relief from his pain.  Lana and Martha took him to Dr. Flowers who performed the last rites.  Now Gitano is free to wander all the ditches he likes.



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Plumbing the depths

For the last six weeks Martha and Fabian have been working on Chapter Four on the first 30 years of the twentieth century, particularly the years of the dictatorship, based on the experiences of Manuel and Amador.  Both had difficult childhoods, a great desire to learn, and the need to emigrate to Barcelona (Manuel) and France (Amador).  During the Dictatorship Amador began clandestine activities on his return trips to Càlig, circulating anarchist materials and teaching night classes to young men so they could read them.

Although Fabian finished digitizing and organizing by theme the 20 hours of their interviews, it is still difficult to write about them because they repeated their stories and each time added new information.  When writing about one of these stories, Martha has to take one part from one interview and another part from another, weaving the stories together.

Because there is so much information, it is difficult to limit.  Yesterday Martha and Fabian decided to cull Chapter 4 which had become unwieldy.  While we were deleting information, reorganizing information, and moving sentences around–all of which requires tremendous concentration, the plumbers began arriving to find and fix a leak.  At the same time, the shower downstairs was filling up with muddy water.  Another plumber came to clean out the line, cutting the roots of the mulberry trees across the street.  The leak which took two groups of plumbers to find turned out to be in the flower patch on the south side of the house.  The plumbers descended from the roof where they had cleaned out the back up in the basement to dig down several feet to find a broken turn off valve almost separated from its  galvanized pipe.  At the end of the day the pipes were replaced and Chapter 4 shortened by 10 pages.


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Chronology of interviews

Good transcription is essential for understanding important themes in Càlig history, but so is correct labeling of interview tapes.  While I enjoyed doing the interviews immensely, I would become easily distracted after an interview if someone dropped by or I stepped out into the street and began talking with other people and would get back to labeling somewhat later.  The only interviews that have presented problems were with two anarchists whom I recorded for over twenty hours.  They were so hard to understand when I began to transcribe them that it took many, many hours for each hour of interview.  I didn’t ask anyone to help me because I felt they were talking to me and didn’t want others to know.

After transcribing a number of the interviews, I relented when one young woman asked if she could help me out. I gave her a short interview, but I didn’t explain the importance of transcribing exactly what was said.   Her transcription was more like note-taking, at times adding what she knew from village lore.  Sergio typed up her notes and I simply read them and accepted them.

Last week I was looking for quotes on the 20s and noticed the interviewee had talked about religion in the 1920s in the village.  One statement struck me because it seemed opposite of what I knew to be the reality of the era.  Fabian and I decided to digitize and transcribe.  It turned out to be one of the best interviews this man had given because he had come by himself that day and his  friend didn’t distract him.

We delighted in the unfolding of his stories.  He and his colleagues had defied the church in the twenties and set up a night school to teach young men how to read and write and how to dance.  The priest would criticize their actions from the pulpit, because he suspected they were also learning anticlerical ideas.  These young men would be able to read anarchist literature that was passed around in the late twenties and during the Republic.  Many of them would fight against the Nationalist uprising, almost all of them would be incarcerated, and many were killed while in jail.

He also talked at length about agricultural cooperatives in Càlig during the twentieth century.  When the village needed a wine cooperative in the ’50s because the buyers were paying absurd prices for an abundant crop, he and a few other leftists were chosen to organize the wine growers.  A few years later when they needed a building of their own, there wasn’t as much support but they persevered.  In the end he and his friend were honored for their contributions to cooperativism in Càlig.

While listening and transcribing this tape, which was labeled 11/4/91,  we realized that the interviewee was talking about the procession in honor of the Virgen of Socorro on the 6th of September.   Like a good detective, Fabian examined the cassette and its case for clues and sure enough in faint script was 9/4.  The problem was there was another tape from 9/4.  So we listened to that tape and again heard references to the upcoming procession  We decided it had to be from 9/5.    Moreover much of this interview  was about the Catholic church.  Because the new village government was going to participate in the procession, he feared  that the division between the village government and the church which had been established in the Republic and again in the Democratic transition would be erased.

Even though topics are repeated in their interviews, sometimes the date of the interview is significant because of what is occurring in the village or in the world which prompts certain commentary.   As I go back and study these interviews, I also realize,  through the chronology of the interviews, when I began to put some of the  pieces of the puzzle of village history together.


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