Saturday, July 17, 2010

Living History

When I began my dissertation research, I anticipated developing the project entirely through official archival sources. The study's focus, the Alianza de Camioneros, seemed too remote, too transient, too informal to have any traces remaining anywhere outside of documents and newspapers. Though I had agonizingly vivid dreams of finding the archives of the Alianza, my rational mind accepted that was impossible. Similarly, most of the Alianza's members were long dead, and their families were undoubtedly lost in a confused sea of surnames.

Success in history often relies on serendipity. Nothing else can explain how, on Thursday afternoon, I found myself sitting in the dining room of Carlos Grados Garcia, who served on the Alianza de Camioneros' last executive committee. He is 80 years old, recovering from stomach cancer and agonizingly gaunt, but his memory was as crisp as the old photos he showed me as he recounted with marked pride his meetings with former mayors. There is something powerful about meeting people whose names you have spent years excavating from the dusts of history; it is equally powerful to witness their enthusiasm for that enterprise. Theirs was not a history that was painted into murals; neither Carlos nor his compadre and fellow Alianza member Ruben Guevara ever anticipated that someone would want to talk to them about their lives as camioneros, but, as Ruben said at the end of the interview, "How good it is that you came, because it has made us remember."


Stefan said...

excellent post. even better if you love history.

Alicia said...

what a fantastic day