Working as the Gibraltar correspondent for the newspaper Área for over 30 years, seasoned journalist Pepe Martínez was recently honoured by the Press Association of the region.
Over thirty years of reporting from the Spanish side of the border on what happens at the other side would provide lots of material for anecdotes of every kind… However, Pepe Martínez, the seasoned correspondent of the newspaper Área, only keeps the good ones.
He can only draw a positive balance whenever he looks back. “I have met five prime ministers, there have been easy and difficult times. However, as a journalist, I have never had any problems in Gibraltar… On the contrary, everything has always been extremely convenient”.
Recently, a few days before the end of 2018, Martínez was paid a warm homage by the Press Association of Campo de Gibraltar (PACG), who acknowledged his successful career, which was characterised at all times by rigour, professionalism and companionship. During the event, the honoured guest revealed why his journalistic signature does not correspond to that of his ID card.
“When I started writing about Gibraltar, I used to share my position as a correspondent with Javier, the current director of Onda Algeciras, who signed himself as J.Martínez… this is because on some days it was he who wrote the article, and on others it was me, I decided to use the same name so that it was easier for people; I signed with the initial of my first name and my maternal surname, Martínez… Later on, when I was the only one in charge of the article, I started signing as José Martínez, then Pepe. But I did not sign my paternal surname, Pérez”.
Pepe Martínez, a former soldier, who was once in charge of the top brass of the Artillery Regiment RACTA 5 (he had previously been stationed at the SAM group and the RACTA 4, in Cádiz), discovered his second vocation at 43, once he decided to put an end to his military career.
He was a Captain back then, and was just about to be promoted to Commander, with an uncertain future ahead of him. “In all probability, they would have sent me to the Basque Country, and the idea was not very appealing to me… In those days, there was another option within the army; the transitional reserve, which was similar to an early retirement, and it even allowed you to be promoted, so that’s what I did”.
However, Martínez, not one to be sitting idle with his hands on his lap, soon found a new vocation; journalism, the career that still keeps him active at 77. “I was friends with Javier’s father, Pacofer, who was a photographer. His premises were in Convento Street, where Paco Prieto used to work for Radio Nacional and El Sur… One day I suggested collaborating with them, providing them with information about Gibraltar”.
The suggestion was not the result of mere chance. During his first years in the army, in the 1960s, Pepe Martínez used to work in the military government, which carried out rigorous monitoring of anything related to Gibraltar. He was there until, as he puts it, “the worst possible outcome” happened; the closure of La Verja, in 1969.
At the end of the 1980s, soon after he started collaborating with El Sur, he established a professional relationship with his second firm, which is still active. “María Victoria García, a very good journalist from Área, who used to write the column about Gibraltar, was promoted and moved to London, so Antonio Gómez Rubio, director of the newspaper, offered us her position… And here I am”.
During those first years, when rolls of photographic film still had to be developed and printed, and there was no internet or mobile phones, Pepe Martínez used to go to Gibraltar everyday, building professional and personal relationships that still last to this day.
“They helped me a lot over there, an awful lot, and that’s something I’m very clear about after all these years; they are not anti-Spanish, in the same way as they are not anti-British. They consider themselves to be Gibraltarian above all, and they want to defend and preserve their status, like we all would if we were in their shoes”.