Tapes recorded by Ronald Fraser that have been transferred to the historical archive. SUR
Mijas negotiates deal with University of Liverpool for return of historic tape recordings

Mijas negotiates deal with University of Liverpool for return of historic tape recordings

The town hall is now in possession of 80 audio cassettes recorded by journalist Ronald Fraser on the Costa del Sol in 1969

Lorena Cádiz


Monday, 27 May 2024, 13:49

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In 1957, a young journalist, Ronald Fraser, began a trip through Spain following in the footsteps of Gerald Brenan, someone Fraser greatly admired and someone who had published one of his most celebrated works, South from Granada, that same year. Born in Germany, the renowned historian and Hispanicist wanted to know more about the history of Spain, and especially the Civil War. On his route through the country, he ended up stopping in Mijas, which, at that time, was still a sleepy whitewashed village that survived on agriculture and where, like many others, poverty abounded.

While there, he became aware of the story of Manuel Cortés, the town’s last republican mayor who was incarcerated in the bullring of Valencia, from where, after a while, he was sent back to his town, where he went into hiding from the regime.

Fraser left Mijas with this story in his head, but it was not until 12 years later that the name of Manuel Cortés invaded his thoughts again. In 1969, he became aware of a news story in which it was stated that the former republican mayor had reappeared in his town, where he had been hiding in a secret room in his own home for 30 years. The news said that he had decided to leave his hiding place after hearing on the radio that Franco’s government had decreed the statute of limitations for crimes committed during the conflict.

Fraser immediately packed his bags and headed back to Mijas with the purpose of interviewing Manuel Cortés. And this was accomplished. The journalist talked at length with Cortés, his wife, Juliana, and with his daughter, María, recording all of the conversations on a total of ten cassette tapes. But Fraser did not stop there, deciding to talk to other residents: farmers, the baker, the priest and the mayor at that time, which resulted in a total of 80 audio tapes. From those meetings and recordings, Fraser published two books: Mijas. Republic, War and Francoism in an Andalusian town, and the renowned, In Hiding. The Life of Manuel Cortés, which was published in English in 1972, but was not translated into Spanish until fifteen years later.

Research material donation

On retirement, Fraser decided to donate his research material to the University of Liverpool, where he had previously studied. In that donation he included the 80 tapes with the testimonies of Cortés and his familiy and the rest of the locals.

This important part of Mijas history remained in the archives of the university for years without anyone being particularly interested in it. However, in 2022, a young researcher from Mijas, Carlos Pulpillo, who works at the Cervantes Institute in Liverpool, discovered the tapes and immediately realised their value. Thus began a negotiation with the University of Liverpool, which from the first moment was receptive to Pulpillo's proposal that they be transferred to the historical archive of Mijas. This agreement materialised at the end of 2022 and the tapes arrived in Mijas in perfect condition, but, until today, no one has been able to listen to them. The town hall has now signed an agreement with the University of Malaga for experts in the field to digitise the contents because no one has wanted to risk inserting them into a home cassette player and run the risk of damaging the magnetic tape. Once digitisation is carried out, Mijas will have an incalculable oral heritage in its possession.

“Thanks to Ronald Fraser, we are going to know our history more directly. Almost always, the way we access it is through documents, many of them official, which are the ones that are preserved, but this is something else, it is something more and has great value for the municipality,” the coordinator of the historical heritage department of Mijas, Desirée Piñero, said.

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