Antonia Fontanillas Borrás (1917-2014)

The anarchist/anarcho-syndicalist activist Antonia Fontanillas Borrás was born in Barcelona on 29 May 1917. The daughter of militants and granddaughter of prominent libertarians Francesca Saperas Miró and Martín Borrás Jover, she emigrated to Mexico with her mother and siblings at the age of eight. She received six years of schooling and became a voracious reader, especially of socially-themed libertarian literature. After her father was expelled from Mexico in 1933 the whole family returned to Catalonia. Antonia found work in a lithography studio and joined the CNT and the Libertarian Youth and was elected as the FIJL delegate from the Printing Trades sector. When the civil war broke out she tried to sign on as a militia on the expedition to Majorca and finished up as administrator with Barcelona’s Solidaridad Obrera newspaper. After Franco’s victory she stayed behind in Barcelona, taking part in FIJL activities in her home where a number of editions of the underground Solidaridad Obrera were put together – at least 14 of them between January and November 1945. The copy came from Joan Doménech, Josep Lamesa and Arturo Benedicto, all members of the Printing Trades Union; it was typeset by Libertarian Youth members (José Nieto, Meana, Marina Herreros, and Antonia Fontanillas) and then printed off on a small press belonging to comrade Armengol in the Gracia barrio. Later she worked with the underground (1946-1948) and was in charge of liaising between prisoners and their lawyers. It was during those underground years that she became the partner of Diego Camacho Escámez (aka Abel Paz). When the latter was released from prison and went into exile in France in 1953, Antonia too crossed the border a few months later and the couple settled in Brezolles and then in Clermont d’Auvergne, where they were active in the CNT, in the MLE and in the local arts group. At that time she was in touch with Quico Sabaté’s guerrilla group. In 1957 she was one of the people in charge of the FIJL Regional Bulletin, taking an active part in the annual camps organised by the French and Spanish Libertarian Youth. In 1958 she and Diego Camacho split up and Antonia settled in Dreux with their son, Ariel (Ariel later produced the documentary, Ortiz, General sin Dios ni Amo, about Los Solidarios member Antonio Ortiz). In 1960 she took up with Antonio Cañete Rodríguez and carried on with her multi-faceted organisational and cultural pursuits. In addition to taking part in a drama group, she edited the review Surco (1966-1967) which was published in French, Spanish and Esperanto. And she was active in the Dreux local CNT federation right up until it was wound up. Cañete was jailed from 1966 to 1969 in Spain and they were to stay together right up until his death in 1979. Antonia was active with the Agrupaciones Confederales, the umbrella for those comrades who published the Frente Libertario newspaper. Following Franco’s death, she took part in all of the CNT’s congresses between 1979 and 1983, then in the congresses of the escindidos (breakaways) and in those held by the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) between 1983 and 1997. She also took part in countless talks, exhibitions, libertarian festivals and book launches in Spain and across Europe (France, Italy, Luxembourg, etc,). And did a variety of jobs with the International Centre for Research into Anarchism (CIRA), of which she was a member and in numerous historical investigations into the libertarian movement. In keeping with her anarchist beliefs, she remained independent and critical and lobbied for a rapprochement between all of the different libertarian factions, stressing what united rather than what divided them. Under a range of aliases (including Tona, A F Borras, etc.) she contributed to many publications including Action Libertaire, Anthropos, Boletín Amicale, Boletín Ródano-Alpes, CIRA, Le Combat syndicaliste, Confrontaciones, Espoir, Mujeres Libertarias, El Chico, Nueva Senda, Rojo y Negro, Ruta, Surco, Volontá, CNT, Solidaridad Obrera, etc. She penned lots of books such as Testimonio sobre Germinal Gracia (1992, unpublished), Desde uno y otro lados de los Pirineos (1993, unpublished), Francisca Saperas (1995, unpublished), De lo aprendido y vividos (1996, unpublished in Spanish but published in Italian by Volontá), Mujeres Libres. Luchadoras libertarias (jointly authored, 1998), Lola Iturbe:vida e ideal de una luchadora anarquista (2006, with Sonya Torres), and she also wrote an introduction for Victor Garcia’s book Contribución a una biografia de Raúl Carballeira (1961) and her testimony is included in the book Clandestinité libertaire en Espagne: la presse (1994) and she had a hand in the Luce Fabbri anthology, La libertad entre la Historia y la utopia (1998). She also contributed to the Solidaridad Obrera special edition (No 344, May 2007) produced by the CNT and took part in CGT-organised symposia on the history of the “Mujeres Libres” in October 2007.

Antonia has died at the age of 97 in Dreux on 23 September. Spanish historian José Luis Gutiérrez Molina has said of her that “between her own activities and her family line, she encapsulates the history of anarchism in Spain.”

Her extensive papers can be consulted at the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam.

by Librepensador Acrata from 2011/09/antonia-fontanillas-borras.html translated, with additional text, by Paul Sharkey

Translated by: Paul Sharkey.