Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Orlando Ramirez, Jr., August 28, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Introducing Orlando Ramirez, who portrays a Spanish soldado

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Partial Transcript: Alright, this is a li--unrehearsed oral history interview for the Living History Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Ramirez begins the interview by cleaning his flintlock musket which had misfired due to a dull flint. He explains the operation and maintenance of flintlock weapons. He says his role is a cabo in training, which is a military rank equivalent to a corporal. He says he relies on Spanish archival sources for his living history research since he is Spanish himself. He says he also draws from archeology research from St. Augustine. He lists the Spanish Defense Ministry, Spanish Historical, Cultural and Military Institute, and the General Archive of the Indies and General Archives of Simancas (Note: he may be referring to the National Historical Archives and Spanish Ministry of Culture in the second reference). He lists several other Spanish city archives. He discusses the history of colonial clashes between the British and Spanish in the 18th century and the three Spanish forts constructed of wood involved in the campaign. He discusses his original research in Spain and Florida in locating the sites of the lost wooden forts.

Keywords: Archaeologists; Archaeology; Archives; Artifacts; Artillery; Cabo; Cannoneers; Cultural identity; Flintlock; Florida Department of Land Management; Fort Picolata; Fort San Diego; Fort San Francisco de Pupo; General James Oglethorpe; Material culture; Original sources; Research; Soldado; Spain

Subjects: Castillo de San Marcos (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Fort Frederica (Ga.); Fort Frederica National Monument (Ga.); Fort Matanzas (Fla. : Fort); Fort Matanzas National Monument (Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.)--History.; Saint Simons Island (Ga. : Island); Saint Simons Island (Ga.); United States. National Park Service.

00:11:24 - Research and source quality

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Partial Transcript: I wonder if it's, uh--I wonder if the-- it was lost in history because of the, uh, architectural aspect of the--you know, this building has been here since...

Segment Synopsis: Ramirez continues his discussion of the three lost Spanish wooden forts including Fort Picolata, Fort San Francisco de Pupo, and Fort San Diego. He notes that all three sites are currently located on private property. He says he wants to work with the National Park Service to continue research on the sites. He notes that his research process with Spanish sources involves translating from old Spanish to modern, and then into English. He discusses checking sources in history books written by René Chartrand to discover they do not rely on original Spanish source materials, instead citing German and American secondary sources.

Keywords: Fort Picolata; Fort San Diego; Fort San Francisco de Pupo; Metal detectors; Original sources; René Chartrand; Research; Saint John River; Secondary sources; Sources; Spanish; Spanish Florida; Translation

Subjects: Castillo de San Marcos (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.)--History.; United States. National Park Service.

00:14:57 - Language and authenticity in living history

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Partial Transcript: All right, so we're continuing the, uh, interview that we started a short time ago. In the meantime, we've gone out and we've had a, a couple of cannon shots.

Segment Synopsis: After a break for a cannon demonstration on the rampart outside, Ramirez continues the conversation noting that the commands were delivered in an Americanized form of Castilian Spanish. He notes that modern Spanish differs from Spanish in the 18th century, and the living history presentation is more for realism than authenticity. He discusses the origins of the soldados who served at Castillo de San Marcos in the 18th century, some from Spain and later many born in the Americas. He notes that by the middle 18th century, most of the garrison would have been of local origin.

Keywords: Authenticity; Castilian Spanish; Historical realism; Modern Spanish; Soldados

Subjects: Castillo de San Marcos (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Havana (Cuba); Mexico; New Spain.; Saint Augustine (Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.)--History.; United States. National Park Service.

00:19:04 - Miquelet musket / Living history organizations and research

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Partial Transcript: Now, I, I, let me ask you about your, uh, weapon here. You have a, uh, musket. Tell me about the musket.

Segment Synopsis: Ramirez describes his 1724 Spanish Miquelet Fusil which is a reproduction of the type of infantry weapon that would have been used by soldados at Castillo de San Marcos. He says the Miquelet lock mechanism is unique because the working parts are external instead of internal, and more robust than French or English alternatives. He reviews several features of the musket mechanism. He says the external parts were more readily repaired in the field by the soldado. He notes that there is a preference for reproduction weapons because the originals are so expensive and potentially dangerous to fire. He talks about the local organizations for living history interpreters, and a larger umbrella organization. He talks about the scholarly debate over uniform authenticity involving Chartrand, Aranea, and others, with three or four views on what was correct. He discusses his own research with the Spanish military archive to clarify what uniform was authentic for the period and the place.

Keywords: 1724 Spanish Miquelet Fusil; Antiques; Archives; Authenticity; Castillo de San Marcos Volunteers; Cuba; Flintlock; Frizzen; Historical realism; Muskets; Original sources; Puerto Rico; Reproductions; Research; Saint Augustine Garrison; Soldados; Spanish Florida; Spanish Marines; Spanish Ministry of Defense; Uniforms

Subjects: Castillo de San Marcos (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.)--History.; United States. National Park Service.

00:28:24 - Safety considerations in living history / Personal background

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Partial Transcript: Now, uh, earlier when, uh, we started this interview, you were in the process of cleaning the weapon.

Segment Synopsis: Ramirez discusses the safety precautions and regulations involved in using ordinance such as artillery and muzzle-loading muskets during living history presentations. He says the National Park Service has safety rules they enforce regarding firearms, and that most safety rules are based on common sense. He says many state parks have similar rules to the NPS, but enforcement is often not as strict. He says before becoming involved in living history he worked for the Department of Defense during which he traveled often. He adds that when he began working for the county in charge of building security, he had more opportunity to volunteer for living history. He says his education includes degrees in archaeology, history and criminal justice.

Keywords: Archaeology; Artillery; Cannons; Cartridges; Education; Gun powder; History; Living history events; Muskets; Ram rods; Safety; State parks

Subjects: Castillo de San Marcos (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.)--History.; United States. National Park Service.

00:33:34 - Outfitting the persona

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Partial Transcript: Um, do you, uh--in the time you've been doing reenacting, have you ever portrayed any other time frames or any other--

Segment Synopsis: Ramirez says that he has also portrayed Spanish soldados from an earlier historical period of 1565. He says the reason his range of portrayal is limited is because of the expense of the artifacts and attire, and that his current kit cost approximately $5,000. He says reproduction artifacts can be obtained from different sources, and he discusses the Canadian sources for Miquelet muskets. He describes a volume discount he negotiated to purchase several Miquelet muskets, which lowered the cost and allowed several reenactors to have uniform weapons. He says his uniform is hand-made according to his specifications, and that in 1740 soldados would have acquired uniforms in a similar way.

Keywords: Artifacts; Coats; Material culture; Miquelet muskets; Periodization; Personas; Shoes; Soldados; Swords; Uniforms

Subjects: Castillo de San Marcos (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.)--History.; United States. National Park Service.

00:38:12 - Working with the National Park Service

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Partial Transcript: What is it like working with the National Park Service in doing, uh, reenactments or, uh, are they easy to get along with?

Segment Synopsis: Ramirez talks about feeling welcome working as a volunteer with the National Park Service. He says he has done much research and written many reports while volunteering as a living history interpreter. He says his research reports are archived and occasionally used to support modifications of living history programs. He talks about his research into Spanish summer uniforms that would be correct for the 1740 period in Florida, and that new uniforms are in the process of approval and manufacture. He talks about several types of duty uniforms that would have been used at the garrison during the period. He talks about arriving in the U.S. in 1982, and living history work in Europe. He says Spanish reenactment events are mostly Napoleonic era. He also mentions Roman living history events and Reconquista events.

Keywords: Archives; Artillery; Bourbon dynasty; Chief of Interpretation; King Rodrigo; Living history events; Mock battles; Muslims; Napoleonic wars; Original sources; Periodization; Professional living history; Reconquista; Reenactment; Research; Romans; Uniforms

Subjects: Castillo de San Marcos (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.)--History.; United States. National Park Service.

00:44:27 - European living history events / Firing a cannon

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Partial Transcript: How do those reenactments compare to what we have here in the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Ramirez says living history events in Europe are often more realistic and occasionally risky, with injuries such as broken bones. He talks about a robust interest in living history events in Europe. He says his favorite memory as a living history interpreter is the first time he fired a cannon, during which time he was "scared to death." He says he recited an Ave Maria, fired the gun, and then exclaimed "Viva España!"

Keywords: Age authenticity; Artillery; Ava Maria; Cannons; Historical realism; Living history events; Safety

Subjects: Castillo de San Marcos (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Saint Augustine, Fla.); Fort Frederica (Ga.); Fort Frederica National Monument (Ga.); Saint Augustine (Fla.); Saint Augustine (Fla.)--History.; United States. National Park Service.