Death of Marcos Ana

Post date: 03/12/2016

By Manuel Moreno (IBMT Treasurer)

Marcos Ana, died in Spain on 24 November 2016, aged 96 years.

He is being commemorated in Madrid, Havana, New York, Moscow, Buenos Aires and the world by fellow poets, people who believe in liberty and dignity, anti-fascists and communists.

Marcos Ana served 23 years in Franco’s prisons, where he became a poet of international acclaim.   

Ana, whose real name is Fernando Macarro Castillo, was born near Salamanca in 1920.

His parents were farm workers and, like so many, lived in poverty, in a society in which most were illiterate, devoid of rights and dominated by the landowning and bourgeois classes, the Church and the military. With the rise of discontent and demands for change in the 1920s and 30s, and the establishment of the 1931 Spanish Republic and then Franco’s fascist military uprising in 1936 against the recently democratically elected government, Marcos Ana joined the young socialists and then the JSU, the union of young socialists and communists. He enlisted with a militia unit and fought early on in the war, but was too young to join the Republican army, so acted as support.

With the war being lost in 1939, he was captured near Alicante by Italian troops and imprisoned together with thousands of others. This was the beginning, at the age of 19, of 23 years of imprisonment, moved from one jail to another, accused of trumped-up charges of killing three people, of torture, beatings, solitary confinement and horrendous conditions. He was given several sentences of death, commuted to decades of imprisonment, at one time over 70 years. Beatings and shootings of other prisoners were frequent, especially in the early 1940s and he heard the screams, tears and shots.  

Prison, he said, became his university; he mixed with other poets and writers like Antonio Buero Vallejo and read the classics: Quevedo, Lope de Vega and Cervantes, and even the banned poetry of Miguel Hernández and García Lorca. He started writing poetry himself at 33 years, using the first names of his parents, Marcos Ana, as a nom de plume. He said later that it became a necessity to write. His poetry was smuggled out of prison by a guard and by released prisoners who would remember them by heart. His poetry and name became increasingly known throughout the cultural and progressive world.

After 1939 and especially after the end of the Second World War, many Spanish Republican exiles, socialists, communists, poets and many cultural figures campaigned to try to release the thousands of prisoners in Spanish jails and to support their families. It became an international campaign. I remember this period very well, especially the 1950s and 60s. In London my parents and comrades, together with International Brigaders, organised demonstrations and meetings, collected clothes and food to send to prisoners’ families. We campaigned to commute death sentences and release prisoners, including Marcos Ana.His poems tell of isolation, solitude, repression and how he had forgotten what life was.

Marcos Ana left Burgos prison in 1961 at the age of 42.  He said: ‘To be born at 42 years is very serious.’ They became his most difficult years. He maintained his communist ideas, joined the Spanish Communist Party and never gave up the fight for liberty for Spain. He went to live in France, returning to Spain after Franco died.

He travelled extensively and became close to those who had helped him and continued the struggle for a democratic Spain, including Pablo Neruda, Rafael Alberti, Jean-Paul Sartre and Yves Montand. 

He came to London in the mid 1960s to thank all those who helped him and to recite his poems.

What amazed me about him was how young he looked, how fresh-faced, humble, not bitter, it seemed, and gently warm – a man with dignity and sound ideals.

He said: ‘I never wanted revenge. The only revenge I want is the triumph of our ideas.’

In Spain he found love and became recognised as an important poet, with publications, prizes and positions.

There have been many commemorations in Spain as elsewhere since he died; they will continue.

His poem, ‘Tell me what a tree is like’ can be seen here:

Posted on 3 December 2016.

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