A History of Anarchism in Granada Through Its Documents

The fact is that on the basis of the launch by the Olivo del Búho imprint of the book Historia del anarquismo granadino a través de sus documentos, we have been encouraged to pen, not so much a book notice as something rather more elaborate like an article. I thought to set down in black and white what I stated by word of mouth and without much preparation at the launches in Motril, various places around Granada – and on a very similar topic – in Durcal and shortly, we hope, in Alhama de Granada and Baza). It was I that compiled the texts reprinted in the book and wrote the introductions and presentations of the documents concerned. Miguel Romero, a comrade from my union and the publishers, looked after the book production. It is a pretty hefty book but we have made an effort to keep the price down to 15 euros, which we think is pretty cheap. The fact is that it has been pretty well-received in Granada province and by a number of individuals from different places. Several families and descendants of the protagonists of anarchism’s history in Granada have at least one copy, which we tried to gift to them for free, albeit that the free gift was not always acceptable.

The first that I need to say about the book is that I am not the author; that title belongs to various texts, mostly from Granadan anarchists (Francisco Maroto del Ojo, José Alcántara, Francisca López, Vicente Castillo and his memoirs, Antonio García Birlán, Antonio Muñoz, Benito Pabón … and sundry organizations and groups, manifestos, songs, meetings, etc.), as well as to police reports or mayoral reports, court records, reports in the contemporary press, bills of sale for premises, and so on. All of it accompanied by all sorts of very interesting illustrations. It covers the years from the First International through to the early years of Francoism. The book does not have a linear structure built around one account or one explanation, but reprints the various documents in chronological order (prefaced by an introductory and explanatory note), independently of one another, with gaps of course, but offering a clear, overall picture of the libertarian movement in Granada, covering all the highlights as well as its day-to-day existence. At all times our aim was to show what Granadan anarchism was like and not just the more significant moments it spearheaded. What it was like day-to-day over all those decades, which may well be a very ambitious aim which, naturally, is ongoing, but by my reckoning the documents selected, drawn from various sources and authors, offer a fairly accurate account. In that sense the book is a collective portrait, but there is no denying that the person who has picked the documents and put them in their context carries a responsibility (more for the blemishes than for any credit attaching to the contents) and some say in what is being passed on to the reader. Which is why I feel impelled to explain where this book came from.

In 2021, after many years’ work, I submitted my doctoral thesis on anarchism in Granada; by 2020 that effort had amounted to some 2,100 pages and the University told me that these days thesis are less bulky than they once were and the recommendation was that I submit something of the order of 150-300 pages, or, in exceptional cases, a little longer. After a lot of tinkering, I submitted my 662-page thesis – albeit that the actual “thesis” took up 384 pages, whereas the remainder was taken up by a list of important anarchists, illustrations and a documentary appendix.[1] It was accepted and I was awarded with “distinction” though not “summa cum laude”, most likely on account of the draft, which was not good because I had only made a few corrections of my own, but, given those 2,100 pages, obviously many of them escaped me and, besides, when I whittled them down for my thesis, I dissected sentences and lines that only made sense in the context of the ones before or after them and this did not do much to improve the issues with it. Be that as it may, the documentation on offer and the presentation of a coherent, linear history of anarchism in Granada were well-received as greatly enlightening and incorporating a lot that was new. Anarchism was the main social movement in the city and across part of the province prior to Francoism and quite possibly in the guerrilla activity that came later. After all that, something had to be done to publish the thesis in some format but the fact is that in 2020 I had still not finished the thing but had 200 notes to incorporate into the overall text, so those 2,100 pages were not the finished article. By 2022 they had grown to 2,300. And that was to continue: this year, for instance, in a military archive, I came upon a set of unfinished memoirs by Francisco Maroto del Ojo, which I might well have included in the book had I had access to them earlier. 

Anyway, in early 2022 I started talking to various comrades about publishing something quickly without having to wait for the inclusion of more material in a text that I felt belonged to me. And among the impressive number of texts and documents that I tracked down and transcribed for the purpose of my thesis, I reckoned that we were read to publish, even though I might uncover more. What I had collated was enough to publish a book that might also be of use to other researchers.  It was also only right that those pages should come out before a history of my own telling. Which is why I have always tried to make it clear that this book incorporates contemporary texts from a wide range of authors. Texts a lot better than I can say! And let me add that before anything of mine appears (aside from academic articles or otherwise) there is every chance of the publication by us of Recuerdos y vivencias, the memoirs of the rank-and-file, all but illiterate, yet Granadan anarchist pace-maker, Vicente Castillo. A real treasure-trove, only 25 copies of which exist in the entire country and I know the location of just one of them, the one held in the library of the Granadan CNT-AIT, which digitalized the text and made it available through its digital library.[2] 

I should say that this publication was very timely because in my thesis I could not include all of the transcriptions I made, not that I could include them all, but I regarded many of them as indispensable even though I was unable to incorporate them my thesis nor its documentary appendix. The book contains stuff not in the thesis, which can be freely consulted on DIGIBUG. The University was not keen on the documentation produced and insisted that a doctorate can only be issued to someone who had demonstrated mastery of the topic. I sometimes had the impression that what mattered was the authorship of any contribution or discovery as far as History was concerned. But it is nothing out of the ordinary; sometimes people are out for a degree that will help them in their career and help them advance in their chosen discipline. And it looks as if the ability to write and opine about documents counts for more than research skills in archives and the burdensome (and monotonous) drudgery of transcription. 

Anyway the book came out in mid-2022. Within the covers we find 90 documents covering a huge number of topics and events: dues payments from the First International’s trade unions; manifestos opposing 19th century political elections; the lay baptism of a boy by the name of Universo; an article attacking the (Granada city patroness) Virgen de las Angustias; the work contract of the Construction industry in Granada in 1931; an interview with Julián Noguera del Río; an article from the Granada newspaper, Anarquía, of which no copies have been preserved but the contents of which can be divined from a trial record after it was denounced; a manifesto from the CNT in La Zubia; the statutes of the CNT in Maracena; a press report on the Civil Guard murders carried out in Pinos Puente when an attempt was made to prevent the removal of the local CNT committee to the prison in Granada; an account of the strike by the female workforce in the textile plants in Albaicín; Eduardo de Guzmán’s articles on the maxi-trial mounted against Granadan anarchists accused of planting and detonating bombs in 1932; a report from mayor Yoldi on the Sanjurjo revolt in Granada and the popular backlash spearheaded by the anarchists; the formation of the Liberal Professions Union in Granada, as reported in a newspaper; Federica Montseny’s memories of Granada comrades after her transit through Granada; an account of the UGT in Motril defecting en masse to the CNT in late 1932; an article about “mother” Carmela (Carmen Rodríguez Parra)  from a Madrid newspaper; articles by Antonio Muñoz, Benito Pabón, Antonio García Birlán and others; Antonio Morales Guzmán’s first-hand account of the resistance offered in Albaicín to the 1936 army revolt; a report from the Francoist rebel Nestares on resistance coming from the Barranco del Abogado caves district; Carlos Soriano’s memories of the capture of Loja; Vicente Castillo’s account of how he escaped from Granada thanks to the “Children of the Night”; a report from the libertarian press on libertarian communism in Iznalloz or in the Sierra de Baza, or the Los Bernabeles collective (in Guadix); a Libertarian Youth article opposing boxing; an application by Virginia Aguilera for membership of the Mujeres Libres; a report by Evaristo Torralba on how the Maroto Column performed during its militia days; on a meeting of the 89th Mixed Brigade (formerly the Maroto Column); an extract published in a weekly paper on a planned book about Francisco Maroto by José Pérez Burgos. And lots more. The page numbers do not precisely match the index, due to last minute corrections and the documents can be found two pages prior to what the index says. Nothing too traumatic and quite understandable. 

Both this book and my research are heavily indebted to the elderly folk whose acquaintance I made nearly twenty years ago. They provided the leads and I was able to get on with my research, very effectively, thanks to them. History owes much to the people as they have preserved the footprints that can be retraced or not, depending on how determined and capable we may be. Back then, when they were talking to me without my having much knowledge of all this, I was just a boy. On one occasion, as I was walking down the Calle Elvira, I was stopped by an old man whom I did not know but who saw something about me – my tee-shirt maybe, I can’t really recall – and who blurted out to me that on the Calle Elvira the anarchists had had a bar and later this helped me discover that it was the Bar Carmela. The same old man told me that his own parents, under Francoism, used to shock him by shouting “Let Maroto come!”, a phrase that must have come from the then Francoist Ideal newspaper when it set out the itinerary followed by that anarchist from Albaicín at the end of the civil war. I also heard about rationalist schools maintained by the CNT and in the course of my research found out later about the ones in Maracena and Granada (in the Call Elvira again). Other elders in the Cartuja area spoke to me of libertarian kiosks and I found one belonging to the anarchists in the Plaza Nueva, but it was plain that they were in the ascendancy throughout the trades in the city. Adela García Murillo, an elderly comrade (since deceased) talked to me a lot about Maroto and how he set off in his work overalls with his famous Column and liberated Güejar Sierra only to withdraw shortly afterwards on orders from above and how folk in the rearguard who left with the Column suddenly found themselves issued with food and clothing and shoes, something that the shepherds in the area were not used to having. “Paco Matías” told me a lot about the Maracena CNT. An interview with Cecilio Hernández had him talking about the CNT in Baza of which no historian had ever before recorded the existence, but eventually I discovered confirmation in a CNT newspaper which reported the problems it had had with legal registration, but existed it had. And José María Villegas, who had had to leave Caniles after he had been beaten up for distributing an anti-clerical newspaper door-to-door, was aware of a miners’ strike in Zújar at the time. I found confirmation for all of this (albeit with rather different details in the case of the Zújar epsode). On the other hand, there are other uncorroborated accounts such as a concert given by ‘La Niña de los Peines’ [a renowned female flamenco singer] (who would have been very young at the time) to mark the opening of some libertarian premises (there was talk of the Maracena CNT). Or obtaining details of something already disclosed by the CNT folk in Motril to the magazine El Matusalem in the 1990s, although we have not been able to trace the precise edition), that a football match had been played at the start of the social revolution. And lots of other things, but I have no wish to drone on. A lot of episodes in the history of Granadan anarchism do not feature in the book. For instance, I cannot help mentioning, generally, but not in the book, a spectacular prison break by libertarian prisoners in 1934; the escapers were helped to hide by the cave-dwelling gypsy settlement in Sacromonte. Many work disputes and strikes get no mention. Nor do the libertarian youth nudists. We have no idea why the Falange accused the Baza libertarian Josefa Sánchez Ibáñez of being a “nudist” as well as an anarchist and of being part of the Baza Municipal Council (known during the revolution just as the “town council”) or why they labelled her “La Chula” (Saucepot). All in all, the book is not a small one and contains a lot. And there will be opportunities to tell them all, or at any rate, more of them regarding both the important issues mentioned in the big history books and the minutiae and details that made up the lives of the people in the past. And from all of this we may draw hope and inspiration. We still don’t know the half of it!

Revista Siembra (Alcoy), No 126, December 2022-February 2023 pp. 26-29


1, See ‘De la teoría a la práctica: Historia e ideología del anarquismo en Granada 1870-1939’ by Francisco José Fernández Andújar at http://hdl.handle.net/10481/71618

2, Recuerdos y vivencias by Vicente Castillo can be read at https://granada.cntait.org/content/recuerdos-y-vivencias-v1

Translated by: Paul Sharkey.