The tracking of Relaciones de Sucesos

From the beginning of our Master program, we were told we needed to think of a project that we would be working on, keeping in mind that the goal was for it to eventually become our dissertation project. Certainly this was one of the biggest challenges that I faced during my first semester, because I was very used to not having to worry about it at least until the last year, although considering the Master program lasts two years, it does seem rather smart to start as early as possible. 

Since I did not know what to choose, I looked for inspiration in my dissertation project for my Bachelor’s and I thought about the topics which I have always been more fond of: history and literature. My dissertation project for my Bachelor’s degree was, in fact, an analysis of the narrative levels of a work from Maria de Zayas, a Spanish author from the seventeenth century. In this project I was able to work both on the history of Spain from the seventeenth century in order to understand and better explain the short stories filled with violence that are presented in the book; and also on a literary analysis of different elements present on the tales. I  also discovered that I feel a great sense of passion when it comes to Spanish literature, mostly focused on the golden century.

When the necessity of a project first came to my mind I thought I might need to diversify my topic since I am also passionate for English literature, and considering that I have the chance of being in Europe, which opens the possibility for me to explore more documents than in Mexico.

With the guidance of my professors, I was able to choose a topic to focus on for my Master program, once again I decided to work on Spanish literature, but in a genre that is not so famous, known as Relación de sucesos, from which there is record of its existence for a little over three centuries. 

This Relación de sucesos can be described as “short” narrations that relate different events that happened or even some that were invented but still hold credibility enough not to question its existence. There is a wide variety in the topics covered by these narrations, going from political-historical tales like wars, or visitations from royalty; there are also the ones of religious topics like certain special celebrations for saints, and the ones that rely more on mystic or catastrophic topics, like miracles or sightings of divine or evil beings and creatures. These Relaciones de sucesos are then tales that break with the everyday nature of a community or person, events that were rare and even those that seemed like borderline unbelievable. We can also find them in several formats whether they be in the form of a manuscript or printed, written in prose or verse.

The Relación de Sucesos normally presents information such as dates, locations, traditions, political stands of the moment and probably the most relevant information: names that can help complete biographies of people from royalty or artists that are widely known nowadays.

This project is focused on the desire of researching and presenting the information about different Relaciones de Sucesos, in order to make it more available for everyone. Given  the fact that this is a genre that existed and developed mainly in Spain, even when there are a lot of manuscripts of these Relaciones in different libraries throughout Europe, people cannot really explore them much because they need a historical and political background, not to mention the complication of the language because most of the tales are written not in Spanish, but in an ancient Spanish that complicates the fluent reading; in order for more people to access the information presented in the Relaciones there needs to be an important assimilation of the language to turn it into a modernized version of the tale, plus a substantial translation, because some translations have been made but they describe the main points of the tale without paying much attention to the detailed data presented in them, which impoverishes the reading of these narrations.

In this sense, I consider I can use my multilingual background to provide quality translations in modern Spanish and then in English, these translations will have to focus equally on the message but also in the details that allow to locate these narrations in a historical sense. Not only is the translation important but the main information of the political and social context as well in order to have a better understanding on the history that is being portrayed in the tale. Even when it might contain events that could be questioned, the important task is to focus on those elements that are used to reinforce the credibility of the story.

On the other hand, my idea is not only to translate the tales and do historical research about them, this project aims to propose a database that can digitally contain different Relaciones de sucesos classified by topic, century, that can provide a quality content-oriented translation, and a technical datasheet that will help in the recognition of the historical elements contained by the tale. Thus far,  I’ve come to realize that I need to focus on a subject of interest in the Relación de Sucesos, and the ones I feel more inclined to analyze, are the ones that talk about miracles and strange sightings and events which reduces the amount of documents I have access to but at the same time, it allows me to be more precise about the historical information I can recover from them.

So far, with the research I have done, I have come to find a lot of historical information in the Relación de Sucesos related to miracles, and I think this is quite interesting because it is something I previously worked on my Bachelor’s dissertation so I think I can recover my proposition of that moment, where I explained that the more historical information given in a tale, leaves less space for people to question if this was truth or not, because the context is completely reliable.

As for my next steps to follow this research, I am already working in reviewing my past documentation for my Bachelor’s dissertation, since I know I can fiend a couple of very interesting articles and book chapters that will provide great insight for the supernatural topic and its relation with the historical data given on said tales. Furthermore, I want to make a translation of a Relación de Sucesos at the same time that I create the technical card to locate the place of the tale, the place where one can find the document nowadays, the name of relevant historical characters and dates given for context.

Certainly, this project requires a lot of effort and I must recognize that, as the research further develops, I might find certain difficulties, most likely in the translation itself. One tool that can be really helpful to this project is the use of a map since I can exactly point out the information the tale narrates while at the same time I can point out where is this Relación de Sucesos available nowadays, which enhances the visual understanding of the information. Although this project has a very solid and important basis of a research project in Spain, I am excited to present my results since it is a field that lacks a lot of exploration and therefore, I feel every discovery I can make is very relevant for future research on such topics.