Interview with Fabián Lavado Rodríguez, Official Chronicler of La Zarza

Graduated in Geography and History, Fabián Lavado Rodríguez (La Zarza, 1967) works as a librarian at the Consortium of the Monumental City of Mérida, where he coordinates the Research and Publications Area. Currently he is secretary of the Association of Official Chroniclers of Extremadura. Married and father of one son, he resides in Mérida.

Could you define for us what an official chronicler is?

Literally, it is the person who is in charge of collecting and writing historical or current facts about a certain locality.

Its duties?

They would be numerous. Among them, it is worth highlighting researching and disseminating the past, in this case, of La Zarza, collecting data and documents both past and present to base their investigations, preserving our customs and traditions, preparing proposals to the City Council on the research carried out to understand our past, prepare files at municipal request to preserve historical memory and reports to name new streets or erect monuments, ensure that the municipal archive adequately safeguards its funds to prevent their deterioration, advise the City Council on issues of history, heraldry, archeology , monuments, urban planning… and make visits to spread our heritage.

How long have you been practicing as such?

Since May 30, 2016.

How was it named?

I was appointed by unanimous agreement of the members of the municipal corporation at the proposal of the Association of Official Chroniclers of Extremadura.

Does this appointment have an expiration date?

In principle until the end of this legislature, although it is normal for chroniclers to be appointed in perpetuity, as long as they fulfill their mission and do not damage the good image of the town.

What does it mean for you to be the chronicler of your town?

First of all, it is a great honor that the people of La Zarza, represented by its City Council, have chosen me as a chronicler, at the same time as a great responsibility, since it must be investigated with truthfulness, honesty and objectivity. When you work on topics that you are passionate about, such as History in all its meanings, and especially related to La Zarza, you feel a double satisfaction.

What merits or requirements must a person have to obtain this title?

In principle, no degree is required to be a chronicler, although in my opinion it is advisable to be familiar with the Humanities such as History, Art or Geography; knowing how to deal with documentary sources and the transcription of documents from past centuries, a task that is sometimes very cumbersome and for which a considerable amount of patience is needed, and having a certain mastery in writing chronicles or publications.

How many chroniclers are there in the province of Badajoz? And in Extremadura?

Currently, about seventy chroniclers belong to the Association of Official Chroniclers of Extremadura, of which more than fifty are from the province of Badajoz. Although there are also chroniclers in other locations that do not belong to the association.

Is the figure of the chronicler valued or recognized?

The figure of the chronicler dates back to the Middle Ages and thanks to them we know part of our history, so it is a figure already rooted in Spanish cities and large towns, which little by little is appearing in smaller towns as a consequence. of his great contribution to the knowledge of his past. Aware of its importance, the Assembly of Extremadura unanimously approved Law 9/2015 of March 31, which regulates the figure and functions of Official Chroniclers.

Do you have any type of remuneration?

None, since the figure of the chronicler is honorary. To date, the chronicler has not cost La Zarza a single cent.

In the documentation and research section, at what level or situation is the municipality?

Bad, based on the fact that the Municipal Historical Archive preserves very little information and what exists only partially covers the 20th century. With this documentation it is very difficult to trace a history of the town, it is necessary to resort to other archives such as the Municipal of Mérida, the Provincial of Badajoz or the National Historical Archive, where the little information that exists is very dispersed. It also does not help that the entire archive of the parish of San Martín, as well as that of the towns of the diocese, is concentrated in Badajoz without leaving a copy of it. As for research, it is now that a series of works that deal with the history and heritage of La Zarza are being carried out and disseminated.

Could you briefly tell us the origins of our town?

Although it is difficult to specify, precisely due to this lack of information, La Zarza was possibly born after the conquest of Mérida in 1230 by Alfonso IX, once the Mérida city was granted jurisdiction to repopulate the lands recently won from the Arabs. Later it would pass into the hands of the Encomienda de Alange, and later in 1589 it bought its independence after paying almost 17,000 ducats to King Philip II.

What places, from the historical-artistic point of view, in La Zarza are your favorites?

There would be several. A route would begin through the cave paintings of La Calderita and the magnificent panoramic views that can be seen from its ‘balcony’. Before leaving Peñas Blancas, it is worth taking a walk through the Sierra Utrera and enjoying the different species of orchids, especially the ‘serapia perezchiscanoi’. I would continue through the church of San Martín and the hermitage of Nuestra Señora de las Nieves, with the paintings that adorn the dome of its dressing room, where the strong women of the Bible are represented. It would end at the Matachel River, visiting the mills of La Rabia and Primero, the late medieval Sietevadillos bridge and the imposing Alanjón hill with its Chalcolithic village and beautiful views of the river surroundings. A magnificent route to visit La Zarza for a full day.

What activities have you carried out so far as a chronicler?

Since my appointment as chronicler, I have written around thirty articles on the history and heritage of La Zarza, with all that this entails of hours consulting files, documents and bibliography. Various broadcast programs on television, as well as conferences, guided tours, book presentations and other tasks for the City Council related to local heritage.

What project are you working on or what projects are you considering in the short or medium term?

Apart from the projects related to my work at the Mérida Consortium and on architecture and military history, my project on La Zarza is a continuation of the work done so far: visiting archives and continuing to collect as much information as possible, writing articles, carry out visits and give conferences about our town to make our past known and contribute as much as possible to its heritage and tourism dissemination. In the medium and long term, the publication of the History of La Zarza.

You belong to the association of chroniclers of Extremadura, what are the objectives of this group?

The objectives of the Association, broadly speaking, would be to represent all chroniclers before public powers and society, exchange information for the development of research, defend and promote freedom of expression and research, ensure that City Councils properly safeguard the documents of historical interest and advise them on cultural issues, promote the carrying out of research work and urge their publication, report on the deterioration of heritage in our localities requesting its conservation or recovery and, finally, ensure the prestige of the chroniclers and urge public recognition of the importance of their function, as well as provide the City Councils with the possible means and materials to carry out our work.

To what extent have new technologies influenced your work as a historian or researcher?

A lot and in a positive sense. From your own home and with a simple click on your computer or mobile phone you can access a large amount of data, bibliography and documentation, either directly because it is digitized, or because it informs where you can consult it and how it is organized. All this represents savings in time and costs. It also allows me to contact and exchange information-documentation with anyone in a very short time. At the same time, it allows me to make my work known to a greater number of researchers and readers, not only from La Zarza or Extremadura, but from anywhere in the world; all this, with a simple click.

Can the recovery of part of the history of La Zarza be considered a pending subject?

Clearly yes, since almost everything published until now was related to the cave paintings of La Calderita or small works on very specific aspects such as the Virgin of the Snows or Holy Week. To achieve the objective, the first step would be to know what documentary sources we have on the history of La Zarza and where they are located, to later proceed to their transcription, if necessary, and study. A task that is not easy given the scarcity and dispersion of documentary sources, but which at the same time represents an exciting challenge.

I wanted to take this opportunity to call on all Zarceños to preserve any document they possess, what has always been derogatorily called ‘old papers’, as well as other archaeological materials such as coins, ceramics or metal or bone objects, clothing, paintings, photographs… that can contribute to recovering both the past and recent history of our town. Also, I would appreciate it if you think it is timely and useful, if you would bring it to my attention, as any information could be important.

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