Galicia, land of meigas, fantasy, paranormal events. Of collective fears, of anonymous characters, of terror and anguish. The horror in Galician popular culture, and in general, in Spanish, has always been there, present. Well-known characters, such as the aforementioned meigas, monsters, vampires, who star in popular popular stories, but also others of recent discovery. To shed light on that popular culture based on fears or terror, journalist and historian Natalia Monje has just published the book “Bad harvest” (Editorial Odeón), which has won the Juan Antonio Cebrián award. He has done so through a thorough investigation and documentation that has taken it to the archives, of which he remembers that “90% is still to be investigated.” Evidence that many stories are still to be discovered in those sheets and that many answers could also be found there.
Monk talks about these stories as a different way of making history accessible. In an era like the present one in which books may not be a great incentive for audiences such as the young, a different approach always helps to attract the more the better to reading and to know that story. «I start from the idea of extracting value from dark themes. It works very well for people who did not read a history book to approach it through this approach, ”he tells the other side of the telephone line. Also, remember that there is a lot of “exceptional” in the book: “Cases for exceptional do not stop explaining power relations, inequalities, economic situation,” he recalls.
Many of these stories are within the Galician limits. Among those places is Viveiro: there it was said that in an apothecary people were killed to use their fat for medicine. Or in Valga, where the presence of the meigas, the evil eye and the premonitions of death are remembered. There, likewise, the meigas are discussed and talked about as an element of the past, but also as something that perhaps cannot be ignored in the present.
Past and present
Let Monk leave another idea that relates past and present when he is concerned about the ease with which fear or fear spreads to elements that are not even known or have not been seen. And for the author of “Bad Harvest” the “mass manipulation mechanisms have not changed so much.” It is explained: «Now anyone with a mobile can misinform, it can turn something viral. It used to be more complicated, but the mechanisms are the same: a group of frightened people are easier to manipulate, ”he says. «In the book we also see some groups in which we tried to generate fear by pointing out as certain scapegoat to certain groups, such as people who suffered deformities, or those who were understood by witches, holding them accountable for social problems, and diverting attention from where There was the true origin of the problems. We see these mechanisms today: that of the scapegoat, dehumanization ». At present, it focuses, for example, on “certain speeches against unaccompanied minors.”
Another group for which he is asked is for that of women. What was the treatment towards them? The author responds with a good example: the story of a woman from Seville who asks for a divorce and finally gets it. She would not have it easy: her husband called men of faith to investigate this case that they considered very strange. «These men of faith investigate women. They make accusatory and accusatory interrogations and determine that if he asks for a divorce it is because he is demonized and an exorcism must be made, ”he says, noting that there are many other similar cases. He emphasizes that the key is also in what Father Feijóo said centuries ago, through a very direct question: “Why were there many more possessed than possessed men?” Next, the journalist emphasizes: «All the behaviors that went out of the gender norm were identified as possession, witchcraft, dark things, of agreement with the devil», as the example of the Sevillian woman demonstrates. This is a reading that conveys to thrilling narratives of collective fears that changed history and that, as summarized in the book’s own argument, forms a “bad harvest born in the blurry territory where legends, essential turkey and atrocious realities meet to merge ».
Parallels between Lanzarote and Galicia despite the distance
Separated by ocean water but with common elements within its popular culture and the way of transmitting it. This is how the author sees the parallels between the island of Lanzarote and the Galician community after having been able to live in both places. Monk relates that although there are many kilometers away, there is “geographical isolation, which in Galicia is obviously not so much” with a population dispersion that allows “magical beliefs that are not written and therefore remain orally last today in day », account. .