José Monzo, the Galician anarchist whom the Francoist repression turned into a castaway

To José Monzo the Francoists they wanted to kill him so much that in the end it was he who decided to take his own life. He probably didn’t want to die, but he had spent two years feeling like a dead man. As a castaway on a deserted islet, literally, because it was there, in an inhospitable rock in the middle of the sea, where he took refuge from fascist persecution. If he delves into his story and his life, even his last decision seems like a example of heroism.

Monzo was a prominent leader of the anarchist movement in Sada, where Franco had just established, robbing the Pazo de Meirás and settling in it, the nucleus of the corrupt and tyrannical network that followed the coup d’état of 1936. The Republic fell in Galicia in a matter of days and the repression that fascism unleashed was a carnage.

José Monzo, in a portrait of youth. On loan from Vida Monzo

More than 5,500 people were murdered between walks and summary executions during the first years after the coup. Had have remove any vestige of opposition to the military uprising in butcher’s landand even more in Sada, where anarchism had become strong among the groups of workers, fishermen, peasants, artisans, intellectuals… That is, surrounding Meirás, the palace –country housein Galician- of the dictator, where the following of the libertarian doctrine who rejected any type of oppression and authority based on the coercion of the person.

“Francoism saw in Monzo the representation of anarchist unionism, with hundreds of affiliated workers and unions in practically all the parishes of Sada. Ending him meant decapitate definitely that movement”, explains the historian Manuel Pérez Lorenzo.

He is Monzo’s great-grandson, and he is imperceptibly moved when he remembers that, to a large extent, he became a historian because of the history his family lived through. “He died when my grandmother was six years old, but a long time later, at 15 or 16, she still remembered the searches at gunpoint in his house. In addition to having to live in forced silence about the tragedy that befell them, they had to live in fear“he points out.

On July 23, 1936, just five days after the military uprising against the Republic, the fascists took Sada and its eight parishes. The walks began, the evictions, the beatings, the firing squads, the shot in the neck…
When the assassins went after Monzo, hiding in the attic of his house, he was able to miraculously escape by getting out between them. disguised as a woman. She first took refuge in Miño, on the other side of the estuary, in another attic in the house of a fisherman friend. Later, in Illa Carboeira, a islet of rock and moss in front of the Ínsua cove, which belongs to the neighboring municipality of Pontedeume.

The investigations of Pérez Lorenzo and Carlos Babío on Franco and Meirás, reflected in the book you will meirás A pazo. A warlord. a loot (Fundación Galiza Semper, 2017), contain a good part of the documentary upload that allowed the State to retire from Franco’s heirs the ownership of the property and the lands plundered from the residents of Sada.

1/5/23 Fishermen and sailors with members of the Monzo family and their boat, in an image from 1932.
Fishermen and sailors together with members of the Monzo family and their boat, in an image from 1932. Picked up by Monzo Ríos

Now, the historian speaks from the rocks of the Ínsua cove, in front of Carboeira. From end to end, at high tide, the islet should not measure more than 30 or 40 meters. It amazes him to think that no one could have survived there for days and weeks, as his great-grandfather did, with no more help or shelter than what his family could bring him in a punt. Without being able to light a fire to keep warm, hidden so that no one could see him from the ground, knowing that he was the protagonist of a tragic paradox: he was the only castaway in the world to which death He was waiting, precisely, if someone discovered his situation.

Monzo was then 30 years old. He was born in 1906 in a fishermen family and he was not even 20 when he decided to emigrate to the United States to avoid the compulsory draft during the Rif War. In New York came into contact with anarchismand when he returned to Sada at the end of the twenties, he joined the incipient associative movements in the region

In 1930 he founded with other colleagues the Centro Cultural Obrero, which he would later preside over and which launched initiatives of the type cultural and formative, such as a library and cycles of instructive conferences. also of solidarity characteras a collection for the benefit of the families of the dead fishermen in a shipwreck, and demanding, channeling the demands of workers from various sectors.

1/5/23 Josefa Abad Golán, wife of Monzo, with their children Vida and José.

Josefa Abad Golán, wife of Monzo, with their children Vida and José. On loan from Vida Monzo

In 1931, around the Centro Cultural Obrero, Monzo and his companions founded the Various Trades Union of Sada, which he will also preside over and which will be integrated into the anarchist National Confederation of Workers (CNT). It will eventually have half a thousand members, a very relevant figure if one takes into account that the population of Sada barely reached 7,000 inhabitants at that time.

That same year he married Josefa Abad Golanto which everyone appealed the brunette. Shortly after, they had their first daughter. which they called Life, and later to José, who is still alive today but who has preferred not to participate in this report. He was two years old when the fascists they began to kill his father.

Of the two years that elapsed between the coup d’état and his death, there is no information on the total time that José Monzo spent in Illa Carboeira, because all those who could give it they have already died. It is likely that he returned to land on occasion if the pursuit relaxed. But it is known with certainty that he left that islet for a time to move to Illa do Carbón, another nearby rock even smaller and without even grass or moss, located right in front of Perbes beach, where years later the former Francoist minister and president of the Xunta Manuel Fraga would build his chalet overlooking the estuary. Carbón was a little further from the coast, about 400 meters. Monzo thought that he would be safer there, and the change of shelter allows one to venture the implacability of the Francoist hunt about him.

At the beginning of the summer of 1938 he returned to his home. He was sick and weakwith a huge beard and so degraded and unrecognizable that their children fled up the stairs to see him at the door. “Let’s go, Morena”, he told his wife in Galician. Actually, she had only returned to say goodbyebecause he had already made the decision to take his own life.

On July 17, 1938, one day before the second anniversary of the coup and after two years on the runsome kids found his corpse in the ditch of a local road, next to an abandoned sawmill. Next to him, a short 9 caliber Star pistol. In the pockets, several bullets, a broken comb, a box of matches, a sheet of cigarette paper and a five cent coin of peseta.

5/1/23 Illa Carboeira, from the coast.
Illa Carboeira, from the coast. mud candle

In 1985, the nationalist councilor Manuel Sánchez Pérez, whom everyone in Sada knows as Crisanto, presented a motion asking that The central street will be dedicated to Monzo which then bore the name of the coup general Emilio Mola. The plenary, with absolute majority of the local PP of the Francoist mayor Ramón Rodríguez Ares, rejected it. It was not until 2003, under the local government chaired by Abel López (BNG) and almost 25 years after the entry into force of the Spanish Constitution, when the City Council agreed to remove Mola from the street and give Monzo the name of that street.

Ínsua is today a naturist beach frequented by families who surely ignore the story that guards the inhospitable islet that they can see from the shore. At the end of the interview, between the rocks of the cove, Manuel Pérez Lorenzo laughs at the insinuation of the editors of Publicwho tell you that the life of his great-grandfather have a biopic cinema. As long as, of course, that the script allows licenses in the style of the Tarantino’s latest movies. That is, with a false but repairing ending, with Monzo ending the tyranny from Carboeira, in front of which Franco spent years and years sailing on a yacht when he crossed the estuary to fish for tuna during his summers in Meirás. With their libertarian ideas turned into a flamethrower vigilante that reduces to ashes any attempt to make his story and those of others heroes like him are never forgotten.

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