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jueves, 7 de mayo de 2009

Alcalaino Memories

[Original Spanish]

1. Consciousness and the bomb

"Colorao!" shouted the boy behind him suddenly. Immediately, he half-turned and chased the one who had shouted. It was the game of "Colours". The five boys whose turn it was to shout were opposed to the other five whose backs were turned, looking towards the wall. On hearing his colour, he'd turn around running to touch whoever was shouting, before they could reach the sanctuary marked on the floor by a circle. Those who were tagged by the enemies were out. They were the losers and they took the place of those who faced the wall representing a colour.

That afternoon they were playing colours in the alley Osorio, a blind uneven alley which opened onto the calle La Amiga. Only six neighbours lived there: my parents with their ten children, María Pizarro and her three sons, the Jiménez family - three unmarried daughters, the Muñoz family with their three sons, a single man, and the Colóns with several sons. All around the houses were decorated with lemon trees, lady-of-the-night and other flowers, and there he was playing with his friends.

Suddenly the noise of an aeroplane engine was heard, then a terrible bang that paralysed everyone. At his young age, he'd never heard anything like it, not even during the stormy days when the booms of thunder crossed the town and made the Lario shake. It seemed as though the explosion had been produced right under his very own feet. The mothers all appeared as if propelled from the same spring: María Pizarro from los Almagro, whose house was on the corner of the calle la Amiga; la Colona, a very poor family with many children who lived on the corner of the alley; the mother of the Muñoz family who seemed well off; the father of Manolo Mancilla, the sadler on the corner of Calle Real, and Gaspara, his mother, wife of Patricio Leiva, secretary to the Council.

They gathered them and put them in the basement of the Muñoz house, below that of the Jiménez family. They put some cushions on the ground, brought them some sandwiches, and they carried on playing and jumping until they fell down exhausted. As a four-year-old, he couldn't begin to understand what was happening. That night, in his dreams, he heard the buzz of the plane and the tremendous bang. He opened his eyes but only saw the sleeping boys at his side. On getting up, he felt different, as if something had changed, though he couldn't put his finger on it.

Before the bomb, he had never been aware of any event that so captured his mind with such force. It must have been important, like waking up to a new world, because our earliest memories stay with us our whole lives. When he awoke that morning in the basement, everything seemed different. He started to connect things together, to ask himself about things. Certainly he'd become aware of what was around him, but he'd never identified it, nor put names to it: his father, his mother, his brothers, his friends, his house, El Beaterio, his town... From that day on, everything took on a new meaning, as if things were lit up more vividly. That's how they were, but hidden in obscurity without needing to be recognised.

The following morning, he started to realise a few things. They were saying that some Italian pilots had bombed the town by mistake. They'd wanted to drop the bomb on Jimena de la Frontera to teach them a lesson, since it was one of the towns most resistant to accepting Franco's uprising. Jimena - that means "the leaning" - was situated at the back of Alcalá, between the peaks of Alcoba and Jateadero, by horse from the sierra del Aljibe and Monteconche. They said that the Italians didn't know the area very well and confused Alcalá with Jimena. The bomb killed a family that lived near the house.

Mid-morning, shouts were heard and they said that the father came to the street Amiga carrying in his arms, his small dead daughter, on the way to the barracks of the Guardia Civil, which was in the middle of the street. Those were the days that awoke in people the sense of destruction, of war, of pain. Some children said that the bomb should have fallen on the Guardia Civil, but it was just chatter from the older boys.

That experience lasted a very long time. Every time a plane appeared in the sky over Alcalá, he thought that it was going to drop a bomb, he had such complete distrust of aircraft. Even now, when he is obliged to take a flight, the mistrust and fear wells up, as if they were machines developed to do harm.


JUAN LEIVA

Published by Andrés Moreno Camacho
Translated by Bob Lloyd

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