This blog was started in August 2010, but in 2013 it was revised in order to make it easier to read. The growing number of posts caused some confusion with the time sequence, and so in the end we decided to put it in the right order. It is still being worked on…
The blog relates the real-life story of Señor José Enjuanes Pena, as told in the book “Un Ball per la Republica” (A Dance for the Republic), published in April 2010.
In the Summer of 2007 I was in a bar in Alcampell, a small village in the Aragonese countryside where I was born, just on the route to the mountains of the Pyrenees and very near the Catalan border. An old man, 93 at that time, approached me and said “I have a story to tell you”. I barely knew who he was, and he knew very little about me, although in a small village such as Alcampell with 850 inhabitants anonimity does not exist in a strict sense. In any case, it was the first time that we had talked. He told me some things about a Dance Society which had been very active in the village before the war, and about the conflicts between the politicised youth of the time. The War he referred to was that of 1936-39, the civil war, the Spanish testing ground for the emerging European fascist regimes of the Thirties and the prelude to the Second World War. It was also a revolutionary war, where Anarchist unions and parties tried to develop their new models of social orgnisation, fighting against all the bourgeois forces, whether supporters of democracy or fascism.
When he finished I was astonished, I couldn’t believe what I had heard. Of course, I knew a lot about the Spanish history of that period, even though the Education system had never taught me anything about it, but I never thought that the big tensions and conflicts described in the histories were reflected so accurately at the micro-level of a small, rural village lost in the mountains.
We met the next day in the same bar, called “El Campell“, an excellent place to have a vermouth, a coffee and to eat tasty local food. I brought my mini tape recorder (a sociologist is nothing without it) and he continued his story, repeating some things and adding a lot more. We met several times during the next couple of years. “We” means two people:
- On the one side, Josep Espluga Trenc: I work in the Department of Sociology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. As a sociologist I had never dealt with oral history, but meeting Snr. José Enjuanes led me to an unexpected and very exciting research field. Some more information about my academic activities are here, here, here, or here.
- On the other side, the star and inspiration of this story: Snr. José Enjuanes Pena. He was born in 1915, attended the Rationalist School during the Twenties, he was a dedicated follower of Progressionist ideas
during the exciting Spanish Thirties, he was also an amateur actor, a member of Youth Socialist party, a farmer, livestock and grain dealer, a member of a clandestine War Amputees League, a founder and first treasurer of the Retirees Club of Alcampell, and the main inspiring of this story.
We met up again on the following occasions (all of them recorded and transcribed):
- 2007 – August the 23rd
- 2007 – December the 31st
- 2008 – September the 1st
- 2008 – November the 2nd
- 2009 – March the 15th
- 2009 – April the 7th
- 2009 – August the 19th
- 2010 – January the 5th
In the Summer of 2009, after seven meetings with Snr. Enjuanes, I managed to write a first draft based on his stories. Once down on paper the story appeared a little disjointed; after all, memory is subjective, and one forgets things. So I then decided to add several chapters interpreting the apparent mistakes or gaps. So finally we became co-authors.
At Christmas 2009 we did the final revision and in January 2010 the manuscript was delivered to the publisher (Pagès Editors, from the nearby city of Lleida). This same month Snr. José Enjuanes fell ill and spent two weeks in hospital. In April 2010 the book was published and I brought a copy to Snr. Enjuanes, who was still recovering. It was almost too much for him. He almost died from the emotion of it all; after more than seven decades keeping almost total silence about his story, risking his life everytime he spoke about it, he had finally managed to put it down on a book and get public recognition for the fact (especially at local level, the most important level to him).
In May 2010 Snr. José Enjuanes Pena died. He was 95 years old.
The week before his death he spent most of the nights singing old war songs, mainly anarchists, and Spanish republican songs, and he left a set of written instructions for his relatives, among them a couple related to this story:
Firstly, he wanted to be buried together with a copy of the book, along with his War Wounded Veterans card. These were easy to do.
Secondly, he wanted to have a secular burial, a civil ceremony. This was more problematic because in a rural village such as Alcampell funerals follow the formal rituals of the Catholic Church and it is not easy to circumvent these traditions. The family realised they had a problem but nobody knew how to deal with it. However, this was a man’s final wish; they had to do it.
(to be continued…)