Roma Marquez Santo

I’m not sure whether or not I’ve linked already to this short interview with Roma Marquez Santo, POUM veteran of the Spanish Civil War, recently in Dublin. There is an inaccuracy in the title: I’m pretty sure Roma is not a veteran Spanish anarchist, but a veteran Spanish socialist, but thanks to WSM for publishing this anyway. He was in a POUM militia, and when the Popular Front government regularised the Republican army (as part of the Stalinist-led counter-revolution within the anti-fascist struggle) this became ‘s 29th Division. It was liquidated after the Barcelona “May events”, and after it was liquidated joined the 28th Division, which was basically an anarchist militia. Also, Roma was a member of the CNT (the anarcho-syndicalist affiliated union), whereas most Poumistas were in the UGT (the socialist affiliated union).

Sources: Helen Graham The Spanish Republic at War; Andy Durgan “The hidden story of the Spanish Revolution”; Harry Owens “Roma Martez Santo”.

P.S. Also at WSM: Biography of Dr John Creaghe, cosmopolitan Irish anarchist.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You seem to answer your own question within your post. The question was also answered in the original article. Roma was in the POUM then joined the Anarchist Unit and was a member of the CNT. He fought as both a socialist and then an anarchist.

  2. Thank you for your vigilance. Indeed, in the WSM interview he says, “We were finally issued with 81mm mortars and stayed on the front until the government started to arrest the leaders of the POUM in Barcelona, then I became an anarchist and a member of the CNT militia.” I obviously read too quickly.

    I’d be curious to know more about this conversion. Was it because he was impressed by the anarchist militias, disenchantment with the POUM, or something else? He’d been in the BOC, one of the POUM’s predecessor parties: they merged in 1935, and the May Days were 1937, so he’d been a Poumista for a good few years.

    Reading the article at Ireland SCW http://irelandscw.com/docs-Roma.htm I’d assumed it was not a political conversion, but simply a decision to keep fighting the good fight, as the POUM militias were being decimated.

    Any more information welcomed.

  3. I am sorry to say that Roma Marquez Santo passed away yesterday morning. I attach below a short obituary.

    Alan Warren

    hill705@gmail.com

    Roma Marquez Santo.
    6th November 1916-29th December 2010

    This morning, Roma Marquez Santo, miliciano of the Columna Lenin and teniente of the Ejercito Popular passed away peacefully in Barcelona at the age of 94.

    Many IBMT members will have met Roma in the past few years at various events in the United Kingdom and in Spain in connection with the International Brigade Memorial Trust, especially at the London Eye in July 2007 and 2008. He also visited Manchester and ultimately in July 2009 to Dublin where he was a guest speaker at Trinity College, as a speaker at the Cervantes Institute with International Brigader Jack Edwards and guest of the Teachers’ Club.

    Roma was one of six children born to Josep Maria Márquez Gaya & Conception Santos Seguí., Born in Barcelona he began work in a Renault garage in Carre Córsega in 1935, being paid 12 pesetas a week. The family read a wide variety of books whenever they could find them including many Russian authors and were active in political life.

    On the 19th July 1936, at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in Barcelona, as a member of the UGT, Roma first went with his brother, Sergi, to the Sant Agustí Barracks in Carrer Comerc where the First Regiment of Mountain Artillery was based and was given a Mauser model 1925 with a package of 50 cartridges. He then went home and his older brother, “Tete”, took the same identification card (without a photograph) and received another rifle!

    On the 22nd July the three brothers went to the Palace Theatre in the Ramblas, which belonged to the POUM, to enlist in one of the militia columns. His youngest brother Raúl stayed at home, very annoyed, because he also wanted to come, but was only fourteen years old. He subsequently went to the Jaume I barracks. Raúl was very tall and told the recruiters that he was sixteen years old. He was enrolled and was sent to Madrid. He was in the battle of Madrid from November 7th 1936.

    On the 24th July the three brothers assembled at the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona with 1.600 men. This was the Lenin Column. Though Roma was not a member of the POUM, the leaders suggested that if they wanted to make something of themselves that they should join, which they did after a few days. When Roma was at the front his eldest sister, Angels, was part of the invasion of Mallorca as a miliciana with the Bayo column.

    The first village that the Column entered in combat was Leciñena. Then the Column was sent to Huesca. Here the three brothers volunteered to man four 50mm mortars, each with a crew of five men. The column went to cut the road near the castle of Montearagón in September 1936. Wounded in the leg during this fighting Roma was evacuated to Barcelona and whilst recovering from the infected wound he attended the funeral of Durruti on 23rd November 1936. He returned to the Aragon Front over Christmas 1936.

    The column now had five 81 millímetre mortars. They were called “Valero” mortars each with a crew of ten men and were under the command of Josep Pla. The Column was militarized in late April 1937 and subsequently formed the 29 Division with the 128 and the 129 Brigades. After the May Revolution in Barcelona, the 29 Division collapsed in bad way, being accused of being Fascists. Subsequently Roma and one of his brothers transferred to the 28th “Red & Black” Division on 25th August 1937. After attending officer training both brothers were gazetted in the official newspaper of the Republic on February of 17th 1938. Roma was appointed as a lieutenant in the Army of the South at Baza in the 147 Brigada Mixta.

    The end of the war saw Roma still serving on the Andalusian Front near Santiago de Calatrava at Espumadera de Sal. When the order came to surrender he went to his dugout and cried for all his friends and comrades who had been killed.

    He was imprisoned in Jaen and then in July 1940 Roma was tried by a military court. The prosecution asked for twenty years and a day as he was “a dangerous Marxist and follower of (Lluis) Companys”. After a delay he was eventually sentenced to twelve years and a day. He was released from Teruel prison in the winter of 1943. He served three years, seven months and fourteen days in prison.

    Returning to his mother in Barcelona he found employment as a builder at a weekly wage of 80 pesetas whilst constantly having to report to the Guardia Civil.

    Roma never married but he stated that he “did not live the life of a monk”. At the farmhouse in Andalusia, which was used as the officers’ mess, there was a Catalan girl working there. Roma often used to sit and talk with her in Catalan during his moments off duty to try and assuage their mutual homesickness. However, his fellow officers believed that he had less innocent intentions!

    In March 2009 Roma returned to Huesca to visit the places where he fought. He was welcomed by the President of the Comarcal of Los Monegros and interviewed by the director of the Ruta Orwell Museum in nearbye Alcubierre. Roma stayed for the weekend with friends in the monastery of Magallon overlooking Lecinena where he first fought in the Lenin Column over seventy years ago. A newspaper report of his visit mentioned Josep Pla, the commander of his mortar battery and a couple of months later, Josep Pla’s son, who had by chance read the article, especially came from Santander to Barcelona in May last year to meet Roma in order for the son to discover more about his father (Josep Pla had been executed after the war when his son was just a baby). The son also brought his aunt, Amparu, who was 14 years old in 1936. It transpired that Roma had helped Josep Pla evacuate his family from their farmhouse whilst under heavy enemy fire near Huseca in September 1936. He had carried Amparu over his shoulder to safety whilst she was screaming to go back home as bullets flew past them scrambling across a river. Roma mentioned confidentially after their meeting that at the time she was quite a “big” girl and very difficult to carry! However, Amparu was able to thank her saviour and her nephew to find out more about his father that he never knew from Roma after over seventy years.

    Whilst outside Huesca in 1936 and 1937, Roma remembers his men laughing at Georges Kopp riding on a white horse plastered with mud. His mortars also provided the “artillery” support for George Orwell’s attack on Torre Fabian near La Granja on April 13th 1937.

    It was only in the last years of his life that Roma was able to freely talk about his experiences during the Spanish Civil War. Over the past two years of his life he was interviewed from as far away as the United States and often gave talks to schools in the Barcelona area. He was due to be interviewed this week by Aragon Television for a forthcoming six part series on the Spanish Civil War in Aragon. His memory was a marvel to behold and his attitude was an inspiration to those who met him. Luckily his autobiography has been recently completed and will be available in Catalan shortly. He will be sorely missed by his many friends who he made through the International Brigade Memorial Trust and by those who knew him in Spain.

    A friend,

    Alan Warren


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