Online historian carves out popular niche with engaging snippets of Gib heritage
By Shania Ticknell-Smith
A year ago this week, Dr Ryan Asquez decided to share Gibraltar’s history in short videos on his social media accounts. It started as posts for his friends but rapidly grew to an audience of over 1,500 followers, each eagerly consuming his bite-sized snippets of local heritage.
With engaging banter laced with a healthy dose of llanito, the local historian - known as the ‘Llanito History Doctor’ on Instagram and Facebook - has been keeping the public entertained as well as educated on Gibraltar's history.
This week for Halloween, Dr Asquez has been sharing local ghost stories from Tuckey’s Lane, the Loreto Convent, and Nelson’s ghost.
Dr Asquez’ interest in history started at a young age, and as he grew older, his interest in Gibraltar’s history grew with him.
He studied late medieval, early modern history for his Undergraduate degree at the University of East Anglia.
He then decided to further his studies and completed a Masters and doctorate degree at Oxford University, where his PhD thesis focused more on late Medieval and Reformation history.
However, he continued to have an interest in Gibraltarian history and continued doing his own research and reading about local history alongside his studies.
Dr Asquez expressed how important it is that the public maintains an interest in Gibraltar’s history.
“I think it really is important that we do maintain an interest in our history, because at the end of the day, it is our country, our place,” he said.
“If we lose that sense, it will be like losing a sense of our identity. So I think we have to really keep that going.”
He had originally posted history posts privately on his Facebook and Instagram page, when a friend had motivated him to try to post videos as well.
Dr Asquez found that he enjoyed making these videos, and they got a good reaction from his friends, so he decided to make the posts public.
Through a supportive group of friends, he was encouraged to begin posting educational videos on Gibraltar’s lesser-known history.
“Thankfully there has been a very positive reaction from people to it,” he said.
“I'm really grateful for that.”
His main aim with the social media accounts is to share stories about Gibraltar's history which haven’t been brought to as much light.
He has found that many people have been wanting to know more about local history.
“I think it’s important to communicate these different stories to the public, as people do enjoy history,” he said.
Dr Asquez is known for bringing a fresh approach to local history by starting off his videos with the popular phrase ‘Que pasa’ and speaking in llanito.
Using llanito is an important element of his posts and comes against the backdrop of a wider conversation in the community amid concern it is being lost among younger generations.
“I think llanito basically is how we speak at home,” he said.
“So it comes very naturally, I think, and it is a very natural way of communicating with us at home. I think in Gibraltar we talk in llanito.”
“And I do think it’s important we don’t lose that [and] that we do as much as we can to preserve it. I think it’s important to preserve our language and our culture.”
He further explained the importance of llanito as a “huge part of our culture”, underlining the need to do everything possible to preserve it.
For Halloween, Dr Asquez shared the ghost story of the ‘grey lady’ with the Chronicle.
The Convent ghost story is set in Tuckey’s Lane, in the old ‘Convento de Santa Clara’, where the Trends shop currently stands.
According to a legend which dates back late 16th century, a young woman fell in love with a man. Her father wasn’t pleased, and her lover became a friar. She was put into the Convent, the couple plotted an escape, but her lover drowned in the sea while they were on the run.
She was arrested, taken to the Convent and buried alive within the walls.
Dr Asquez described on his social media pages how the ghost still roams the area.
This is just one of around 100 posts he has shared online over the past year telling the stories of Gibraltar’s history.
With regards to history that might not be as widely known or studied here in Gibraltar, he also shared how he thinks the Islamic and Spanish periods have been neglected.
“Sometimes we have some stories which haven’t been brought as much to light. I like to share those.”
By using social media applications that are popular in the local community, his content has been able to reach people of all ages, enabling children and adults to educate themselves about all these different areas of Gibraltar's history that many people may not be completely aware of or know much about.
Shania Ticknell-Smith is a Westside student on work experience with the Chronicle.