Fernando Tarrida del Mármol was a key individual in the history of the Hispanic-Anglosphere. He was born in Cuba to a family of influential Catalan industrialists, and enjoyed an elite education in Barcelona. His professional career as an engineer was cut short by his headlong involvement in the Catalan anarchist movement. Tarrida del Mármol was imprisoned in the Montjuïc fortress in August 1896, during the violent crackdown on anarchism that followed the explosion of a bomb during a religious procession in Barcelona in June 1896, the so-called Montjuïc affair. After five weeks in jail he was released, probably thanks to the pressure of his influential family. Under the fear of being arrested again, he escaped to France in September.
Tarrida del Mármol became a leading international activist campaigning against repression in Spain. In the autumn of 1896, he crossed the English Channel several times, speaking at rallies in Paris, London, and Brussels and rubbing shoulders with leading anarchists such as Errico Malatesta, Pëtr Kropotkin, Charles Malato, and Louise Michel; with British labour activists such as Ramsay MacDonald and Tom Mann; and Cuban and Puerto Rican patriots such as Vicente Mestre and Ramón Betances. In the summer of 1897, harried by the French authorities, he settled permanently in London, turning it into the hub of the Spanish solidarity movement. He resided there until his death in 1915. He hosted and assisted dozens of Spanish political refugees in London and became the unofficial representative of the exiled Spanish anarchist community in Britain.
The Spanish solidarity movement, rekindled again in 1909 after the arrest of prominent anarchist pedagogue Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, was remarkably successful. Launched by groups of anarchists based on both sides of the English Channel, the Spanish solidarity movement was able to find favour with radical republicans and liberals, socialists, trade unionists, and anti-colonialists. Tarrida del Mármol’s education and savoir faire, his knowledge of French and English, his first-hand experience of state repression, and, importantly, his Cuban origins and connections with Cuban and Puerto Rican nationalists made him a unique representative of the solidarity campaign and an intermediary between various movements and actors. His personal friendship with Ferrer i Guàrdia (who visited him twice in London, in 1898 and 1909) gave additional potency to this campaign. The solidarity networks weaved by Tarrida del Mármol and his comrades in London and Paris were subsequently geared towards other international causes, such as the 1905 Russian Revolution.
Sources: Teresa Abelló Güell, Les relacions internacionals de l’anarquisme català, 1881-1914 (Barcelona: Edicions 62, 1987); Benedict Anderson, Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination (London: Verso, 2005); Constance Bantman, The French anarchists in London, 1880-1914 : exile and transnationalism in the first globalisation (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013); Antoni Dalmau i Ribalta, Per la causa dels humils: una biografia de Tarrida del Mármol (Barcelona: L’Abadia de Montserrat, 2015).
Author: Arturo Zoffmann Rodriguez
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