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Personajes Tarifeños, Fran Terán: A Tribute to Tarifa’s History

Martín Serrano · Photos: Fran Montes

Interview with Fran Terán, author of “Personajes Tarifeños La historia que la gente cuenta en voz baja” (Characters from Tarifa. The history people share in quiet voices.) : “This book is a tribute in which I look over the balcony of my memories”

Fran Terán is a Socialist Councillor at the Town Counsel of Tarifa and a historian. He is a very easy-going person who, in addition to his many occupations, is drawn by a natural inclination to study the ‘alternative history’ of his town by recovering its oral tradition – that which is transmitted from parents to children and that if neglected can be lost forever.

Fran Terán is currently busy recovering this ‘essence’ of oral tradition by collecting stories from the everyday people of his town. Each of his 75 characters form part of Tarifa’s life, and he has collected their stories in “Personajes tarifeños. La historia que la gente cuenta en voz baja” (Characters from Tarifa. The history people share in quiet voices.)

Personajes tarifeños
Personajes tarifeños

This is his third book. He published ‘Tarifa y su historia menuda’(Tarifa and its little history) in 2011, which sold more than three thousand copies, and ‘Relatos tarifeños desenfadados’ (Amusing Stories about Tarifa) in 2017, which was another bestseller, moreover considering these are very Tarifa-centred books and targeted towards people in the area.

Local publishing house ImagenTa, which is currently the fourth most productive publisher in Andalusia, is responsible for editing this book, the cover of which features a photo by artist Manuel Rojos of Mariano Vinuesa, the town’s nurse practitioner.

Is there much to write about Tarifa?

Fran Terán: Personajes tarifeños
Fran Terán

Absolutely. The first book was a historical guide, a tribute to my father and grandfather. It is my greatest work, and packed with information. It was a big success; many copies were sold.

Then, I wrote another book dedicated to my wife and son, Marcos, so that I could show him what my own life was like growing up, and in which I talk about the old farmhouses, the different trades from back then, the games of my childhood… This third book, which I dedicated to my mother is almost like an experiment. We always remember people when they’re gone.

I wanted our story to be told through ordinary people, those who don’t carry a dagger or a sword (alluding to the town’s historical hero Guzmán el Bueno). What I’ve done is put 75 people on the same level – from doctor to rubbish collector to blacksmith – always with the aim of highlighting their best qualities.

Where does your interest in oral tradition come from?
I think ‘little history’ doesn’t get the attention it deserves. We have very good historians here, and each of us have looked for our own niche.

What have you learned from this ‘little history’?

Bolonia-Tarifa-23-Fran-Montes-Reach-Alcance
Bolonia Beach

To be a better person. That’s what I learned from my grandfather and father, and what I want to transmit to my son. Three generations of historians coming together.

Anything surprising in these interviews?

There was scope for surprise because the interviewees didn’t know what I was going ask. They were moved and they thanked me for rescuing their stories. I’m giving a voice to people who lived in anonymity and placed them in our town’s history. Most of the characters are alive, but I wanted to connect to those who are not.

Tarifa deserves it, too. This book includes the Tarifa of my memories and the Tarifa of today, and it revolves around the notion that the history of a town is made by its people.

I think it is important to draw attention to these people and collect their stories because memory is very fragile.

If the oral tradition of our town is not written down, it gets lost. There are people we would have barely remembered if I hadn’t rescued their stories. This book is a tribute in which I look out from the balcony of my memories, with the deepest affection for people.

How did you reach out to these people?

Fran Terán

The sources are direct, and if they weren’t, I look to their families. Always with the deepest respect.

Will this become a series?

This is not Harry Potter. I may write more books around characters, but now I’m looking for other projects. I want to start a mystery novel, maybe based here in Tarifa. I also want to do something educational. I’ll keep on writing.

Talking to these Tarifean characters; do you get the impression that they are different from others, that they have their own identity?

I think so. The people of Tarifa are very different from other types of people. I don’t know if it’s because we’re open at the doors of Europe, or because we’re a multicultural mirror; we have a very peculiar universe here. We have that spark that is not as overwhelming or spectacular as that of Cadiz, but that has its singularity, its slang, and an own way of speaking.

When you write, do you do it for the readers, the characters or for yourself?

I write for Tarifa. I write from the heart, so the Tarifeans will feel recognized by their successors. That’s why oral tradition is so important. It is important to open the doors to young historians. The ‘big history’ is important, but so is this tradition – that is to say, the daily chronicles of a town.

Interview with Fran Terán, author of “Personajes Tarifeños La historia que la gente cuenta en voz baja” (Characters from Tarifa. The history people share in quiet voices.) : “This book is a tribute in which I look over the balcony of my memories”

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