Rosario Perez Villanueva, an author from La Linea, was in Gibraltar to present her first novel, in which she recreates the events that occurred in the surrounding region during the summer at the start of the Spanish Civil War.
One sunny autumn morning in 2015, Rosario Perez Villanueva visited the Gibraltar Archives for the first time in search of documents she could use in a story that she had been thinking about for some time; a story she had started to think about without knowing whether or not she would be able to realise the dream of turning it into a novel. Before finding out whether or not there was anything in the building which is situated in Secretary’s Lane which could be of use, the journalist, who currently writes for Reach, met her friend and colleague, Gibraltar Chronicle editor Brian Reyes for a coffee in Casemates; after that meeting she was convinced that she had a good story and that she should not stop until she turned it into a book.
Three years later, on the 3 December 2018, Reyes introduced the author of ‘Las Fronteras de la memoria’ when she presented her book in Gibraltar in a lecture room of the John Mackintosh Hall; the same building which housed the exhibition on the 75th anniversary of the evacuation…..
A World War 2 episode which is relatively unknown outside Gibraltar, and which also appears, as part of the narrative, in the novel’s plot.
Awarded the ‘Talent’ stamp by the Caligrama publishing house (part of Penguin Random House), ‘Las Fronteras de la memoria is a story about love and indifference with a tinge of suspense. Written in the first person, it tells the story of two women, Vicenta, through flashbacks to the start of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniela (her granddaughter and narrator) who has to return to Algeciras and take charge of a complicated family situation when she is abandoned by her lover and sacked by the newspaper where she worked.
With the current renewed interest in what is known as ‘Memoria Historica’ as a backdrop, and spurred on by an unexpected encounter, Daniela starts to investigate what appears to be her grandmother’s most secret memory despite her Alzheimer, an illness which clouds the old lady’s mind.
“During a stay in hospital, the grandmother starts to tell the story of an old love, which Daniela has never heard of… This arouses her curiosity about the events that took place in the Campo de Gibraltar during the tragic summer of 1936, and allows her to resume contact with Hector, a childhood friend from whom she had grown apart and who is now a researcher for the Foro por la Memoria”, explains Perez Villanueva, who has already presented her novel in Algeciras, La Linea, Jimena de la Frontera and Cadiz; soon she has plans to do so in other cities with links to her book’s plot like Jerez, Seville and Tetuan.
Her desire to throw some light on her grandmother’s alleged secret, trying to separate reality from the imaginary leads the main character of ‘Las Fronteras de la Memoria’ to stumble upon a small treasure, as did the author herself: editions of the Gibraltar Chronicle special issues, which were published in Spanish between the 21st and 31st July 1936 with information about what was happening on the other side of the frontier, but also inside, in the precarious camps that housed thousands of Spanish refugees that fled from La Linea.
A snapshot of another refugee camp, one that years later, after the Civil War and as a result of German bombings came to house mainly Gibraltarian women and children in Jamaica, the British Isles and Madeira, the story puts the main character of ‘Las Fronteras de la Memoria’ on the trail of a pact of silence, the result of dark times, when thousands of Spaniards learned to keep quiet through fear, accepting , as the poet Luis Garcia Montero, present head of the Instituto Cervantes said, that “life does not betray you, it simply happens differently to how you expected”.