In 11 months, Electra Peluffo has published two books: in June 2021 “A mi amigo Dénia” was released and last Wednesday she presented “En el Sahara” in an event that took place at the House of Culture of Dénia in which the writer was accompanied by almost a hundred readers and friends.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1936, she has lived in the capital of the Marina Alta since the early 1970s. She was the first female doctor in Dénia, and it was her profession that led her to discover the Sahara thanks to a trip that a team of toilets from Dénia carried out in the fall of 1995 in the Sahrawi camps. The book he has just published is a chronicle of this adventure in which the flavors mingle: the fascination for the landscape, the perplexity faced with the living conditions of the Sahrawis, the lack of stimuli in their daily lives, the complicity with his people .. All this told, as Andrés Fornés pointed out in the presentation, “with a carefree, agile, concise tone, sometimes almost telegraphic, but without omitting detail”. With humanity too, balance and calm, three qualities that undoubtedly define Electra Peluffo’s gaze.
– Situate us: how was this trip to the Sahara and why did you go there?
-I was contacted for this PROFESSIONAL trip by a fellow urologist from Denia, Dr. JL Tudela, who had already traveled other times for the same purpose. With that in mind, I hired a registered nurse for the task who agreed to share the plan. Also traveling was Dr. Tudela’s wife, who is his urological operations assistant, and one of their 10 or 12 year old sons, with whom they had no one to go with and who had already been to the camps.
Then, some time after the return, the City Council of Dénia and the local association of housewives summoned an act of gratitude to our small group for our collaboration with the Sahrawi people, they gave us a plaque that I jealously guard . This is how I found out, at least for me, that the Dénia City Council and the Association of Housewives had sponsored our trip and our work.
-What did this trip mean for you, which allowed you to come into contact with the desert and to know a people who live in such harsh conditions in the “hamada” of the desert?
-Certainly I was attracted by the idea of knowing the daily life in the desert and the desert itself. I verified once again that man manages to survive where he must live and I understood his struggle in search of improvements in any underdeveloped territory and little facilitator of new advances.
-As in “To my friend Dénia”, your story moves away from the big events to focus on the daily, human and personal
-Naturally! I believe that events, life in general, are nourished by the physical and/or spiritual movements of a large number of people, that between all of us we transmit our truths, our realities, our customs, our ideas, our feelings, our dreams…
-The Dénia medical team that traveled to the Sahara visited the Sahrawi camps for three weeks to treat the sick. What state of health did you find yourself in and what was your job?
-We checked that the health situation is far away, in the camps, if ideal, they are in Algerian territory, we were two doctors, a nurse and an instrumentalist without any additional equipment, for a population scattered in the desert; In fact, our offer resembled that of the 19th century clinician, but aided by the peace of mind that the fact that 25 km. there was an Algerian hospital in the town of Tindouf. The camp hospital was not well equipped. Our work was rather clinical: to diagnose as much as possible, to treat as much as possible, and the most active in this respect was the urologist because the lack of water in the desert affects the urinary system of the population.
Fortunately, I was able to practice acupuncture in certain cases that required it, because it is a medical technique originating in a poor and overpopulated country. I have always regretted not coming back to see the results of this experience.
-It’s been 27 years since you made the trip to the Sahara, how did you feel reliving it? Has the passage of time allowed you to discover new faces of this trip?
– It seemed almost unbelievable to me that we made this trip and accomplished our work. It was exciting for me, to reopen my little notebook with the daily notes and to remember, while reading it, so many things experienced and people with whom we lived closely, sharing…
-What particularly caught your attention in this world that you discovered?
-I say it in the book: the poverty, the resignation, the struggle, the lack of interest of governments in solving this so-called “third world”, the indifference of the powerful…
-In the presentation last Wednesday, you said that the starting point for this work was some notes that you took during this trip. How was the process of writing this book?
-Very simple, I did not touch to present it to the printer more than a comma, date or name of people with whom I was related at that time, nothing more, everything is reproduced as it is it was written in the booklet, and I don’t regret having done it like that because that’s how I recognize what I’ve been through.
– The question of the Saharawi people is very topical. What future do you think awaits them?
-It will depend on the policy of those responsible and on the acceptance or rejection of the Sahrawi people; I’m not a fortune teller, but I would like you to be better in your daily life and in the future too.
-At this stage of your life, what does writing mean to you?
-Good question, I have been a reader since childhood and at home there was a good library which I think I took advantage of, I was already writing when I was twelve, thirteen and now retired, I am compiling memories and experiences of yesteryear which from what you can see are well received by friends and Curious about other people’s events, I occupy my time, now free… even if it’s work, you know?
– In less than a year you have published two books related to your memories, do you have a new book in mind?
-I would like to have her, I discovered that inspiration is an elusive woman and I resign myself to waiting, I guess she will come, she won’t forget me, you’ll see! And I became demanding: what memories are worth recording for a new text?
Addendum: According to the doctors who continue to go to work in the camps, there have been changes for the better in Western Sahara. Cheer! But from what I see, they still need the presence of foreign doctors to take care of their population, or is this publicity?
Learn more about Electra Peluffo at La Marina Plaza:
-Interview: “For me, Dénia is wise, she knows how to listen, she hardly judges, she lets things go, if you don’t bother”
-Article by Julio Monfort: Electra Peluffo reunites with her “old friends” at the presentation of her book
-You can read Electra Peluffo’s articles published in La Marina Plaza in this section
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