Wednesday, October 20

“Spain is terrifying”, Servando Rocha rescues a memory of beatings, robberies and bloody boxing evenings

While investigating the different stages of the life of the former boxer José Luis ‘Dum Dum’ Pacheco, the writer Servando Rocha was carried away by the possibility of rehearsing an adventure through the multiple ramifications of history. Pacheco’s experiences as a postwar child allowed us to speak of the economic and housing misery prevailing on the outskirts of Madrid. His introduction to the Ojos Negros, a youth gang inspired by the dances of West side story, made it easier to speak of a Franco regime that allowed certain modernizations to be charged with foreign currency from tourists. His experiences as a robber connect with the rise of the quinquis, and the fame and oblivion harvested as a boxer are a mirror of the ups and downs of a country that alternates outbursts of optimism (and speculation) with economic crises.

All the hate that I had inside (La Felguera, 2021) could have been a complementary biography to Piss blood, the recently republished self-portrait of Pacheco himself. Rocha affirms that that book, which he considers complacent and somewhat fabled, was essential to his project: it gave him strings to pull, although it also “had many gaps”. Little by little, his project turned into something else. “It was going to be something short, but I’m not good for that,” explains the author, and laughs after publishing a volume that is close to 600 pages. The result is not a boxing book either, although there are accounts of combats, but a kind of “alternative history of Spain that smells like a basement, of old.”

As often happens in the work of the writer and editor, and in the La Felguera label catalog, the attraction for the strange and the shocking coexists with the taste for immersing oneself in dusty archives, with the pang of critical thinking in the recovery of phenomena to times underground. In the catalog of this editorial, with gestures of a secret society, Baroja and Valle Inclán coexist with the magician Aleister Crowley or the essays on urban cultures and radical political movements. All the hate that I had inside connects with previous posts like Anger or The sinister streets, where they talk about the terrible living conditions in the suburbs that the Spanish capital was absorbing during its growth.

The book has several backbones, perhaps necessary to support the weight of a collective story. It is, on the one hand, the life of Pacheco. It is also the account of an investigation into the Ojos Negros youth gang, which progresses slowly and in a spiral as the author overcomes the silences related to the interests and loyalties of the testimonies. “Each character opened the door for me to another character,” says the author. So his proposal has something of a narrative exercise because the discoveries are recounted as they take place, be they about the Blue Division or about the legacy of some journalists who write stories about boxing that look like crime novels. “On the way, snippets appear. of Rocha’s personal expression and her experiences in Madrid.

A torrent of diverse stimuli

Some anthropologies and social histories of pop culture, such as those that occurred around the quinqui phenomenon, have fallen into a certain romanticization. We have had nostalgic and glorifying evocations, also playful and picturesque exploits, which do not notice the pain that was behind it all. Rocha affirms that he was concerned about falling into this type of approach, especially when he started writing: “I even got a little paralyzed for a while, because everything was very excessive but I wanted to treat Pacheco with respect, without turning him into a caricature. Neither I wanted to make him a proletarian hero, but I think the character’s farewell is beautiful. ”

The journey through this whole story involves some violent scenes. There are not only beatings between boys, robberies or bloody boxing nights. There are also murders. At the same time, Pacheco’s story branched out with the appearance of characters like Camilo Sesto. In this excessive world, a launch (fake or real) of mucus by the singer of the musical group The Kinks unleashes a pitched battle. Along with the holidays, the trangressions, the scars and the pains, these grotesques also emerge, which are sometimes funny. Because that’s also a part of the story: “All the people I spoke to long for that time because they had a great time,” says the writer.

All the hate that I carry inside it could have served to glamorize bands, it could emphasize landscapes of misery such as postwar Italian neorealism. It could also have taken the form of a strange comedy about youthful and not-so-youthful excesses or a satire on the relations between Spanish pop culture and Franco’s powers. Its author has not chosen the events he explains to mark a line, but has collected all kinds of facts linked by threads that are sometimes almost invisible. And it drags the reader with a torrent of contradictory stimuli like reality itself, which has no thesis and can be very contradictory.

Rocha is supported by an abundant bibliography, but is based on many oral testimonies. Among them is Mariano Revilla, Ángel Luis Tello’s lieutenant in the Ojos Negros band. The effort has something of a spiritualistic practice, because the author does not stop talking about people who are no longer here … and about permanence that perhaps cannot be detected with the naked eye. “Nothing disappears absolutely, there are no perfect crimes in history: there are always traces and signs. The present has already been, somehow … but it doesn’t exactly resemble the past either,” he explains.

Tricks of power

On All the hate that I had inside It explains, among other things, various waves of enrichment of a few around the construction sector and the urbanization plans of Madrid. According to the author, the Franco policy that the workers were not proletarians but owners worked well in the city, where there were red neighborhoods such as Villaverde, Tetuán or Vallecas: “Pacheco emphasizes that the Franco regime gave him a house. And it is true, he had a house. They gave him a shack and they gave him a shitty, temporary, poorly built house, with no health or educational infrastructure around, “says the writer. In the book, he recounts ridiculous drills by the authorities. A person in charge of planning policies had given orders to tear off the artificial grass in his chalet, and to transplant trees in a hurry, to make a housing project more presentable on the occasion of the dictator’s visit.

In parallel, Rocha deals with the yeyés or the Madrid scene. Contradictions and strangeness constantly emerge: “Inside the scene of the rock’n’roll there were many people who got along very well with the Francoist authorities. José Luis Alvarez, the concert promoter, has a flag with an eagle painted on the car, and it is something that goes beyond a specific case. The regime saw that there were international phenomena that would reach the country and that it was better to keep them under control. “Allowing and even encouraging certain expressions of modernity could serve in propagandistic terms to give the open-minded image that the regime desired.

These gestures of modernization could also be good business. A Nazi financed the magazine Triumph. A former member of the Secret Army Organization, the patriotic far-right group that sought to fight against the decolonization of Algeria through violence, founded the Rock-Ola room, as explained by Ramon G. del Pomar in the novel The stuff of my ages. And people linked to Opus Dei invest in the Movieplay record label, which published groups with artistic ambitions like Triana and even markets the album of the Satanist murderer Charles Manson.

“The history of Spain is not peaceful and sometimes it is not easy to clearly divide between winners and losers, there were many characters in the middle”, explains the writer and editor. Pacheco himself, despite the fact that he had been tortured a few years earlier by the well-known policeman Billy El Niño, aligned himself with National Catholicism. Rocha comments that the long process of writing the book has left him “a little affected”: “Spain is terrifying. It has been a tremendous fangar, and Pacheco is the first to tell you. He told me things about famous people in the country who did not They appear in the book because he asked me to. ” The trip, with hard times, has been worth it. The author of Some dark and dangerous things consider that All the hate that I had inside is his most important book because it preserves the living memory “of people of 70 years, 80 years … Many of them have died and others may not take long to do so. So I pay off a debt with a memory that was going to be buried. “.