The writer from Tenerife writes a novel about the Civil War and the repression in El Hierro with 'The son of the apotalado' (Milenio publisher)
Knowing the past is key to understanding the present. But sometimes that past is tricky, terrible and was buried so as not to raise blisters.
Jorge Fonte (Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1967) I had it very clear when I started writing
'The son of the apotalado' (Millennium editorial)which landed a few weeks ago in bookstores across the country.
The writer looks not only at the Spanish Civil War and Franco's repression.
He also looks towards his own family. Hence, it even includes a conversation with his father. "That talk is fictitious, because my father died 20 years ago. It's the conversation I would have had with him if he were alive today. I reproduce something that did not happen but that would have happened if he were alive. The terms in which we spoke would have been like this. He was closely linked to El Hierro. He is the son of a mother and father from El Hierro. He lived the time in which the novel takes place.
He was very restrained and at first would have reacted with fear for the fact of bringing up the subjectbut at the same time I would affirm that 'whoever did it is responsible for his actions and that story cannot continue to be denied'.
The starting point of 'The son of the apotalado' has a specific date and place. «The novel arises three years ago, in the
Tamaduste. They lend me the book by Miguel Ángel Cabrera Acosta,
'The Francoist repression in El Hierro', which was published in the 1980s. I started reading it without intending to publish anything, out of curiosity. In a paragraph I read that the number two of the Falange on the island was Pastor Fonte. I freeze.
I had never heard of him. Fonte is a common surname in El Hierro, but not as widespread as the Padrón, who pick up a stone and many come out. I begin to investigate among cousins and relatives and they begin to tell me who he was.
Many did not want to speak and those who spoke, all of them, did it badly. From then on I made a profile of the character, who was my grandfather's first cousin. And I told myself that it was a story that I had to tell and focus it on his figure », explains the writer.
Before sitting down to write, Jorge Fonte acknowledges that there was a detail that caught his attention after reading many books about the Civil War and the postwar period. «All the books gave the name and surname of the victims, but not that of the Falangists who persecuted them. I focus on El Hierro and it seemed important to me to say
who persecuted whom, who denounced, who went to the mayor's house at night and took him prisoner. I focused on the fugitives and the case of the mayor of Firgas », she recalls.
Identify the Falangists from El Hierro
To find out which El Hierro was part of the Falange, he went to the archives of the Government Delegation. «He already knew about Pastor Fonte's belonging and wanted to know who the others were.
I began to investigate in those files. There is documentation that has been lost and another that I imagine they helped to get lost. But he who is a bookworm knows how to search. At that time, the ship came twice a week to the island. To travel, you had to request a permit from the Government Delegation and those permits are kept.
At the beginning, in the first years of the so-called uprising, all the Falangists were filled with pride and that is why on those permits next to their names it appeared that they were part of that party.. I began to write down the names and in this way I identified all those who worked as Falangists on the island from 1936 onwards».
Knowing the names was essential to narrate a historical event such as
the false execution in El Pinar. «The history books tell you that a group of Falangists arrived in Pinar, but I know who was a Falangist, in El Hierro, in November 1937. I have an official document that tells me who was. It didn't happen there like in Gran Canaria or Tenerife, where the Falange could have thousands of members. In El Hierro it was ten.
We must vindicate both the names of the victims and those who participated. This is not an act of revenge, but of justice. If I name Pastor Fonte, I also have to mention the others who were with him at the party.
For honor, honesty and respect for history and the victims», he defends.
"I don't blame people, I blame the system, Francoism and the fascist ideology that promoted and allowed a series of behaviors that shouldn't exist," he adds.
What is an endorsed? Jorge Fonte asked himself the same thing when he investigated for a novel that ended up placing this Canarianism in its title. «Everything stems from an anecdote that they told me. In El Hierro there were no fatalities. It is the only island in the archipelago that does not have victims of the Civil War in its geography.
Herreños died during the war and afterwards, but not on the island. What did happen, and is being documented in Cabrera's book, was more than 200 people who were denounced and transferred to the prison of
Fyffesin Tenerife, and some to
I win, in Gran Canaria. And some ended up bankrupt.
In Tenerife there are no corpses in the gutters because they are on the seabedespecially in the section of the coast between Valleseco and San Andrés, where near the coast there is a marine precipice of more than 2,000 meters, "explains Fonte.
“Speaking with the children of some of the victims, one told me that his grandfather was killed by a gun. It was the first time he heard that word. I asked him to tell me about it and he explained that
they put them with their hands tied in sacks with stones and threw them overboard into the sea. Some 2,500 victims of Francoism in the Canary Islands have been identified, with names and surnames. But there are many more missing. Some managed to emigrate to Venezuela, but many others ended up at the bottom of the sea », he points out with regret.
Fonte had to fight with the Milenio publishing house, based in Barcelona, for the title. «They told me that he was very grandiloquent, brainy and erudite.
That if people didn't understand it, they wouldn't buy the book. But I stood up for him because of his strength and all that it means. I did not see the novel with another title », he argues.
The fact that the novel was published in the middle of summer means that Jorge Fonte does not have many references to his reception, especially in El Hierro and by the descendants of some of the people he mentions in the novel. “Neither the children, nor the grandchildren nor the great-grandchildren are responsible for what they did. In my family the novel has sat well, so it has reached me. During my research I spoke with descendants of Pastor Fonte. Everyone told me that they had not met him and that he barely had contact with his seven brothers, since when they began to be born he was already 10 years old.
A great-granddaughter has provided me with a lot of information and she is as surprised as she is outraged to learn the story, since she knew nothing about what her great-grandfather did. In the family it was said that he was in politics, but nothing else was talked about », points out the writer who launched himself into the narrative after a prolific stage as a film essayist.
Brushstrokes of fiction to enrich
Investigated and documented historical facts coexist with fictitious brushstrokes in 'The son of the apotalado', the third novel by Jorge Fonte from Tenerife. A literary project that the writer was clear at all times that he would travel along this path. «The book was always a novel. It was born as a novel. I spent many years as a film essayist and there came a time when I told myself that I had to change. The essay books were already coming out mechanically and I had lowered the bar, I felt overwhelmed », he admits.
This is his third novel, after 'An island adrift' (2018) and 'Take me to see the sea' (2021). “All three are historical narrative. First I investigate and then I novelize it. It is exciting. Novel literature has a very strong point of addiction. The power of creating a story, characters and an environment is much more attractive than telling something that exists, although I rely on things that exist or existed », he acknowledges.
During the documentation phase, they told him many anecdotes and facts that he considered relevant and enriching. But if he included more characters he knew the novel could turn into gibberish. Jorge Fonte found a solution. «I mix real characters with fictional ones. They told me many anecdotes about different people and that is why I invented the Fernández family. That's where I put them all. All the things that happened to many real ones happen to that family. It was the technique I used to be able to tell it. The reader is intelligent and knows that this happened to different families in those years. I hope that each reader draws their own conclusions from it », he underlines.
The situations that arise from his imagination help to enrich the characters and the real events. Even when she describes the reality of Pastor Fonte. "I know when he married and to whom. But I don't know how the wedding went. I make it fictional and make it believable according to the customs of the time. The episode in which I tell about the night of San Juan is also fiction, but it is what was done in those years », he assures.
For 'The son of the apotalado', the writer from Tenerife assures that he worked hard on the style. «I distance myself, although some characters are part of my family. I count as an impartial narrator, so they cannot accuse me of putting the bad guys as very bad and the Falangists as brainless, when it was people who lived through that time and took sides. A person I don't know wrote to tell me that they gave him the book. That she had reservations when starting to read it, since she had recently become a mother, she was very sensitive and the dramatic stories and the Civil War affected her a lot. But she began to look at the novel and ended up reading it in a week, because she told me that the language, with its beauty, had caught her », he recalls.
Jorge Fonte assures that he is already well on his way to the next three novelistic adventures that he plans to publish. Advance details of the first two.
«My fourth novel only needs the final readings and corrections. I start again from a real fact. From a real murder, in the 70s in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This is known as the 'Alexander case'. What I do is focus on the judge instructing the case, whom I have invented », he advances.
The following fiction is also inspired by a true event. «I already have it finished and it will be published next year, in April. It is based on the visit of The Beatles to Tenerife, in 1962, when Ringo, Paul and George came to Puerto de la Cruz, just before they became world famous. What I have done is make up a series of letters that they wrote to their relatives from Tenerife, in which they recount their experiences on the island, what they thought at that time about their musical career and, above all, what they saw around them during those vacations", confesses the writer.