Thursday, July 13, 2006


My time in Spain is almost over, and I have only one day left in the archive where I've been spending mornings working on a new project. I'm looking for particular bits of information without being sure of exactly where I might find them (possibly in university records, possibly in Inquisition files, possibly in royal pardon requests...), so I've been doing lots of skimming through different kinds of documents to see how promising they look. So far I've found just enough to make me think that this project is doable, though it will continue to involve lots of sifting through files to find just a few tasty little crumbs.

I had one last section to glance at today, and I'd left it for last because I suspected it would involve even more skimming for even fewer useful bits, and because it's very poorly catalogued - the catalog only says that there are 80-some boxes covering three centuries, so I had to choose a box more or less at random hoping to land somewhere near the mid-1600s. I opened the box, and was disappointed to find that the documents were not what I expected - they dealt with the right people, but contained entirely different kinds of reports from what I thought they were going to have. (Plus they were from the 1730s, and I'm just not a big fan of the eighteenth century.) I nearly returned the box right away, but then I thought I should skim through a few more files to see if they were all the same. They seemed to be, but one of them bore the name of a small town I visited last year and really liked, so I took a closer look more out of nostalgia than anything else. Lo and behold - towards the end of each file, and entirely unexpected given the particular information these files contained, there was exactly the kind of information I'd been looking for. It was in every single file, and there were 65 files in the box I was holding.

I have only one day left in the archive. I don't know whether to celebrate like crazy, or jump off a bridge.

Friday, July 07, 2006


One of the things I occasionally marvel at is how gracefully my in-laws duck all questions of religion and politics, given the striking and potentially painful differences in perspective caused by Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy in the late 1970s and the drastically reduced role of the Catholic church. My parents-in-law are devout Catholics and politically firmly conservative; their four children belong to the generation that rejected Franco and celebrated his death. My oldest brother-in-law has stories of being in college when armed policemen came into the classroom to take his too-liberal professors away (and that particular image comes into my head more and more often these days; who knew that fascist Spain would end up being a more genuinely liberal democracy than the U.S.?).

Despite these differences, though, everyone's remarkably good about respecting everyone else's views in the household, and no one says anything to offend. Yesterday on the afternoon news there was a report of how the European parliament has issued an official condemnation of Franco and his government, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish civil war. Although we were all in the room, the only commentary came in the form of faint snorts of derision from all: ours signifying exasperation that it came seventy years too late ("breaking news! fascism was bad!"), and the parents' at the thought that the European parliament would presume from afar to condemn the system they grew up with, which gave them nothing but stability and prosperity.