Fernando Arcas Cubero: The Spanish civil war ... doing oral interviews

Historians in the News

SOURCE: Sur (English newspaper of southern Spain)

Fernando Arcas, Professor of History at Malaga University, agrees that one of his great passions in life is to listen to people talk about the past. And more so when the speakers have lived history in the flesh, as many old people in the province of Malaga have done. He is delighted with his latest project, which is to recuperate the “historical memory”, as the Spaniards call it, in reference to finally closing the worst chapter in modern Spanish history, the Civil War, by listening to what both losers and winners have to say. This is an ambitious project being carried out by a small research group, titled “History, Image and Memory of Andalucía”.
You are heading into the time machine of the Civil War survivors, as others have done before you. What makes your study different?

Ours is different in that our study is oral. This requires a different approach and methodology, specific to each survivor. We listen to what each of them has to say, and record it. Our aim is to collect testimony from all over the province, and since January, we have carried out 150 interviews in 40 municipalities in the province, listening mostly to people aged between 80 and 85.

This project is a battle against time and memory loss. What exactly are your aims?

To create a historical archive of the province and save the testimony of people who lived through the Civil War and its consequences. If this work is not done, this valuable testimony will be lost forever.

How is it going?

We began in January, so we’re still in the first phase of collecting testimonies through interviews. We plan to continue for the rest of the year, and expect to interview 200 survivors. This figure puts Malaga among the provinces with most oral testimony of the Civil War in Spain. Once the interviews have been done - on video - the next stage is to study them and edit them to finally make a documentary film.

You must have listened to many different stories of the Civil War while carrying out this project. Which surprised you most?

The most surprising aspect of our work has been the passion with which old people still speak about it. The trauma of the Civil War is still with them. They were witness to the horror of that war, the loss of loved ones and the cruelty of what actually happened. Some of them, in fact, reached a point in their stories in which they simply could not carry on, and just sat there, silent....

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