A short biography of Spanish anarchist and artist Ramón Acín Aquilué who was shot by fascists at the start of the Civil War in 1936.
“We have as our flag the love of culture, the cult of fraternity and liberty”
Apart from the usual names - Velásquez, Goya, Miró, Picasso - many Spanish artists remain little known throughout the world. Among those who do deserve better attention is Ramón Acín Aquilué. He was a man of many aspects, a committed anarchist militant, a libertarian teacher, a writer and an artist of the avant garde.
Ramón Acín was born in Huesca in northern Aragon, Spain, in 1888. It was then a small town. In 1913 he was in Barcelona and helped set up the magazine La Ira (Anger). Its subtitle was “organ of expression of the disgust and anger of the people”. In that year he got a grant to travel round Spain and to create large oil paintings, including A View of Granada.
He was a producer of droll cartoons, informed by a biting political humour, against the Church, war and bullfighting. He was also a gifted sculptor who used metal and magic lanterns in his work. He exhibited in Madrid with his sculptures composed of cut-up metal plaques (The Dancing Girl, The Garrote) which were met with acclaim. He also produced large “origami” paper sculptures of birds.
Inspired by the libertarian educational theories of Francisco Ferrer, Joaquín Costa and Célestin Freinet, Ramón Acín endeavoured to continue in this form of education when he gained the post of teacher of design at the Escuela Normale in Huesca in 1916. He organised free evening classes for workers and in 1922 set up his own academy of design in his house, informed by libertarian theories of education. He organised the first National Teachers’ Conference in Huesca in 1932, where he expounded the theories of Freinett alongside Herminio Almendros (father of the film-maker). A second conference was organised in 1935.
Ramón Acín contributed to many anarchist magazines in Aragon and in Catalonia: Floreal, El Talión, Cultura y Acción, Lucha Social, Solidaridad Obrera. He attended many conferences of the Confederación Nacional de Trabajo (CNT, the mass anarcho-syndicalist union) speaking for the sections in Huesca. His popularity there meant that he could easily have run for mayor, but he refrained from this because of his anarchist convictions. He wrote over a hundred articles. Alongside the straightforward political pieces could be found his interest in the environment and ecology, his arguments against bullfighting, art commentaries, autobiographical pieces etc. He also organised various conferences on a whole range of subjects: Russian children; the writer Gómez de la Serna; anti-electoralism.
His articles earnt him several stretches in prison. Participation in some of the anarchist uprisings meant that he had to seek exile in Paris in 1926 and again in 1931, where he met artists of the avant garde. A friend of Picasso and Dali, he published several artistic manifestos, including one on Goya in 1928, which criticised the official commemorations of that artist. With a large sum of money that he won in a lottery, he financed a film by Luis Buñuel, Las Hurdes (1933), which depicted the spiritual and material poverty of the area around Huesca. He and his compañera Conchita Monrás educated their daughters Katia and Sol themselves.
In 1936, the authorities in Huesca refused to arm the people and the army and Guardia Civil were easily able to take power. In the massacre that then took place, Ramón Acín and Conchita were among many to face the firing squads.
The film maker Buñuel wrote that, "When the war started, in 1936, an extreme right group turned up to arrest him at Huesca. He managed to easily escape them. The fascists then seized his wife and announced that they were going to shoot her if Acín did not present himself. The next day he did. They shot the two of them." All his works of art at his house were destroyed by fascists too, and other sculptures were hidden by them.
In 1980 a recognition of his artistic work led to exhibitions in Huesca and Barcelona.