This account of a socialist mayor hidden by his wife for thirty years after the Spanish Civil War was compiled just over ten years ago. It is now almost tempting to see the book as a prototype for Ronald Fraser’s subsequent masterpiece of oral history The Blood of Spain – undoubtedly the most innovative and illuminating work on the war. In précis, the story of Manuel Cortes might well appear to be worth little more than the colour supplement article which appeared prior to publication. But this remarkable book developed from Ronald Fraser’s recognition of the potential which lay behind a news item. With his local knowledge, patience and understanding he won the confidence of Manuel Cortes and his family. The result is not only an extraordinary story of human resilience, but also a valuable document of political and social history. It brings southern Andalucia to life from the days of Alfonso XIII until ‘the foreigners began to arrive’, and also helps to explain much wider issues, particularly the vital question of agrarian reform.
The only other personal account of such quality to appear in English about the civil war was A Guerrilla Diary of the Spanish Civil War by Francisco Perez Lopez. Both men were calm and practical characters who had made the very best of a minimal education, and both possessed impressive insight. For example in 1969, four years before the recession, Manuel Cortes analysed the underlying weakness in Spain’s boom and pointed out how the reliance on tourism, remittances and foreign investment made the country one of the most vulnerable in Europe.