Exiled in Algeria after the end of the uncivil war and belonging to the Movimiento Libertario Español in North Africa, on Sunday 3rd June 1945 several anarchists walked towards a sparse waste ground, already threatened by the urban expansion of Algiers. That ground included a cave, ultimate reason for this pilgrimage. Ancestral voices assured that Cervantes had hid there during his third attempt to escape Algerian corsairs. This hypothesis was legitimised by three plaques and a bust placed in the grotto between 1887 and 1925 that honoured the memory of the writer, all of them defrayed by the Spanish colony and the Algiers Chamber of Commerce, and with the name of the Spanish Consul of the time written on each one of the offerings.
Pedro Herrera, one of the leaders of the FAI, Federación Anarquista Ibérica (Iberian Anarchist Federation), and his escorts went to the sanctuary-hidden place in order to refute that wrongful appropriation of the figure of the one-armed-man from Lepanto, with which merchants filled with empty Spanishness that prestigious international reference, starting a process that would end up turning the writer into a cultural mascot of the State. Devoting their own plaque to him, these anarchists were perpetrating an act of symbolic value, claiming for the exiled Spain, for the defeated Spain, that other wretched captive and immigrant, Cervantes.
Among the Cervantes-loving anarchist walkers was writer from Navarra José María Puyol, another militant, in charge during the war of the CNT newspapers Liberación and Emancipación, and who at the time was finishing his work Don Quijote de Alcalá de Henares. Published the following year, the book would offer a passionate, sanctifying and referential portrait of a utopian and libertarian Cervantes to be read from an anti-fascist perspective in the new times that opened themselves after the war. “He had only one friend: the people,” Puyol would say during the celebration in which the plaque was placed. For this author, Cervantes was a poor and wretched proletarian that, unwilling to flatter, was incompatible with the court, a fierce defendant of freedom of expression that managed, through his characters’ language, especially if they were mad as was the old knight, to escape inquisitorial censorship. A Cervantes who called editors thieves and politicians scoundrels. A critical Cervantes, guardian of freedom, as republican as those refugees paying homage to him.
THE CASE OF THE STOLEN PLAQUE AND THE ANARCHIST CONVERSION OF CERVANTES
Half an hour after the plaque was placed, it was stolen by some followers of the Falange, or by Franco’s spies, depending on the version, and the cave was devastated, almost flattened. This robbery took place six months before the 400th anniversary of the birth of Cervantes, in 1947. That same year, the collection La Novela Española saw the light of day, published in Toulouse by the Librairie des Editions Espagnoles, and the first volume of which was Cervantes’ Rinconete y Cortadillo. Organ and voice of the CNT-AIT union, the newspaper Solidaridad Obrera did the same in Paris with Don Quijote de Alcalá de Henares. The literary supplement of the Soli, with one of its covers showing a Don Quixote behind bars with the headline “La verdadera España” (The Real Spain), became a platform from which to defend the idea of a libertarian Cervantes, acting as a loudspeaker for the ceaseless anarchist proselytism started by Puyol, who would soon be joined by Max Aub, Lewis Mumford, Eduardo Zamacois, Albert Camus, John Dos Passos and other collaborators.
There are several connections between Cervantes and anarchism. A friend of Puyol and representative par excellence of thug bohemia, Pedro Luis de Gálvez, lead during the war a brigade of militias called Grupo Cervantes. In fact, almost all of Madrid’s bohemia was gathered in the fin-de-siècle meridian around the satirical and anti-clerical Don Quijote, founded by freethinker Eduardo Sojo and with a team of collaborators the ideology of whom went from radical republicanism to anarchism: Miguel Sawa, Pi y Margall, Nakens, Bonafoux, Blasco Ibáñez, Dicenta, Barrantes, Rubén Darío, Pío Baroja, Maeztu, the brothers Machado.
This Quijote would become as well the main reference for José Pellicer, founder of the anarchist popular militia Columna de Hierro, and nicknamed by some the Quijote de la Revolución (Quixote of the Revolution). In 1937, anarchist newspaper El Quijote, “a weekly sociology, science and art magazine”, edited by anarchist group Quijotes del Ideal, was published in Barcelona; but there’s also evidence that in 1916, in Manzanares, already existed another anarchist group called Cervantes. In 1937, there emerged, in the same way, from printers El Productor Libre, a newspaper that re-christened Alcázar de San Juan and Ciudad Real as Alcázar de Cervantes and Ciudad Libre. Anarchist writer Benigno Bejarano wrote Don Quijote de Francia, the manuscript of which was lost upon the death of the author in a Nazi stalag crematorium. Another man of letters, French Stirner libertarian Han Ryner, very popular among Spain’s twenties and thirties anarchism, managed to publish El Ingenioso Hidalgo Miguel de Cervantes.
Anselmo Lorenzo, the so-called grandfather of Spanish anarchism, had already published in 1905 a trilogy of articles on newspaper La Ilustración Obrera under the title El Quijote Libertario, defending the thesis that had the character lived at the beginning of the 20th century, Don Quixote would be an anarchist. Federalist and CNT sympathiser Eduardo Barriobero y Herrán, another great admirer of Cervantes, published several slim volumes devoted to the writer, like Cervantes de Levita, 1905, and Dos Capítulos de Don Quijote Suprimidos Por La Censura, 1925. Indeed, the ingenious gentleman presents some rebellious characteristics as enemy of the injustice, nonsense and greed affecting humanity all throughout history. He was a revolutionary; an anarchist, after all.
SPY, HOMOSEXUAL AND SCOURGE OF THE CAPITAL
About the libertarian nature of Cervantes, that incorrect Cervantes that Spanish democracy and the shameful cultural industry have tried to hide by neutralising and marketing him during the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016, talks about a recent publication edited by Fulminantes, Cervantes Libertario. Cervantes Antisistema o por qué los anarquistas aman a Cervantes. Work of historian and novelist Emilio Sola, to whom we are indebted too for fascinating studies on the secret services of Felipe II, spy network that Cervantes served by taking and bringing information of Turkish-Berber movements, puts an end to the 400-year bedlam around the author. On its pages, Sola discovers a feminist and libertarian Cervantes, defender of the conciliation of Islam and Christianity, of races and cultures, anti-capitalist, anti-monarchic, a man without faith and without law who is suspicious of justice and laments “that the unjust change and dealings with the most elementary political corruption must be the new law of these new barbarian times above any kind of law.”
“That is the Cervantes,” Sola goes on, “that doesn’t seem too interesting for anyone to describe and for everybody to understand.” A social and politically suspicious Cervantes for the politically correct elites: the one that in his youth fled from justice because of a violent crime, probably a Christian of Jewish origin, imprisoned for several cases of corruption, father of an extramarital daughter who became a prostitute, and supposedly homosexual. But above all, it’s the Cervantes turned into a totem by anarchism the one that emerges protuberant in a book that invites us to interpret his works much more freely, to undertake “a libertarian or liberating reading of his work that would have been impossible in his day and age.” That is, by applying the same hermeneutics that Pinochet used. In 1986, the conclusions that the Chilean dictator extracted convinced him that he should ban Don Quixote in his country because of Cervantes’ defence of freedom, something that would be too inconvenient for his Military Regime.