A short biography of the Spanish anarchist miner Pedro Masera, murdered by the Francoists in 1938
Pedro Masera Polo was an anarchist miner who lived the mining town of El Cerro de Andevalo, in Huelva province in Spain. The ancient Rio Tinto mines are close by El Cerro de Andevalo. In the 1880s there was agitation in the area against the conditions in the mines and the severe pollution of the surrounding area by sulphur dioxide. The anarchist Maximiliano Tornet took a leading role in this agitation. As a result the army fired on demonstrators and killed between 100 and 200.
The conditions in the mining area cause political radicalisation with many miners describing themselves as anarchists or socialists.
Pedro Masera was self taught and was a passionate anarchist. He acquired a large library, particularly works on philosophy, which included Nietszche and Schopenhauer,Voltaire and Rousseau as well as the complete works of Elisee Reclus. He was known as Pedro Palillo(Toothpick) in the small town of two thousand inhabitants. He subscribed to the Barcelona anarchist paper Solidaridad Obrera, and the anarchist magazines Estudios and Rivista Blanca. He sent reports on conditions in the mines to Solidaridad Obrera. He also undertook a correspondence with Francisco Ferrer on libertarian education.
Because of his membership of the CNT he was blacklisted by Rio Tinto so he had to get employment in smaller mines in the area .He held meetings on anarchism and often read aloud from his book collection. He had five children, several of whom were anarchists.
When the Francoist coup came in 1936, libertarian communism was proclaimed in El Cerro de Andevalo. Pedro’s son, also called Pedro, served on the revolutionary committee in the town. After six weeks the Francoists took the town and the elder Pedro and other radical workers took refuge in the hills. Younger workers made it out to Madrid, but Pedro stayed there. He eventually gave himself up after hearing of a proclamation from Franco that anyone not involved in a “blood crime” had nothing to fear. He was arrested and taken to the prison in Huelva city. His house and belongings were burnt, including his large library and the correspondence with Ferrer. A local shopkeeper provided evidence against him.
He was sentenced to death and executed on February 10th 1938. His body was buried in the Soldedad de Huelva cemetery, along with between 2000 and 4,000 other victims of the Francoist terror.
His son Pedro managed to get to Madrid where he was involved in fighting there. Later he attempted to get a boat to Vera Cruz in Mexico but was arrested at Alicante. He was sentenced to death, which was then commuted to life imprisonment, and he was sent to the concentration camp at Almendros and he worked in the penal battalions reconstructing the Alcazar at Toledo. He was moved from prison to prison and witnessed the appalling conditions, where many prisoners starved to death and where there were massive infestations of bed bugs. He was eventually released in 1945.
He did not learn about the circumstances of the death of his father until he had to apply for a death certificate to gain a pension for his mother as promised by the government of Adolfo Suarez. In April 2016, the granddaughter of Pedro, Maria Luisa, applied for his exhumation. The socialist administration dragged their feet on this, until eventually Pedro’s remains were uncovered in late October pf 2017. It is the first exhumation of the many murdered by the Franco regime in Huelva, made possible because of the precise details of burial provided by the coroner in 1938.
Other Cerro de Andevalo anarchists executed by the Francoists included Miguel de la Corte Gento and his son Bernardo, shot in 1936, and the ex-Guardia Civil (!) and militant Jose Pavon Sanchez shot on 13th November 1937.