A short biography of the Spanish anarchist militant Concha Perez
Concha Perez Collado was born in Barcelona on October 17, 1915, in the Les Corts neighbourhood. She was the third of six children, children from two different mothers. Her father was Juan Pérez Güell, an anarchist who suffered imprisonment for his political views and who was widowed by his first wife, dead of tuberculosis when Concha was only two years old. Her father then married his first wife’s sister. Juan, whilst illiterate, was a staunch anarchist and a founder member of the CNT. Concha remembered that their home was a meeting place for anarchists and how she and one of her brothers used to peer through a crack in the door at the intense meetings taking place.
Concha had a happy childhood but her family could not afford to keep her at school and she went out to work in a graphic arts workshop at the age of thirteen. She became active in the libertarian movement and at last received an education in the schools-cum-clubs-cum social centres of the ateneos, run by anarchists to raise the educational level of the working class. She attended the Ateneo Libertario Faros (Lighthouse Libertarian Ateneo) and the Ateneo Agrupación Humanidad (Humanity Association). One of her friends there was the anarchist militant José Virgili Martorell, later known as Barcelona’s Public enemy no 1 because of his bank robberies for the cause. She only learnt as late as 2011 that he had been arrested and executed in 1941 by the Franco regime.
In April 1931, with the coming of the republic, she participated with her family in the liberation of detainees from the prisons and in the demonstration for a lowering of rents on the Placa Sant Jaume. In 1932, she he joined the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) and a year later she was arrested and detained for carrying a hidden pistol to another anarchist on a picket line during the insurrectional strikes. She spent five months in prison for this. She learnt how to use bombs and pistols as self-defence against the attacks of the police.
She left home in 1935 because she insisted during an argument with her mother that her brother Pepe share household tasks. She worked as a machinist in a carpentry workshop, where she was a CNT delegate, and helped set up a rationalist school the Escuela Eliseo Reclus in the neighbourhood of Torrassa where she now lived. A few days before the outbreak of the civil war she joined the Revolutionary Committee of the Les Corts neighbourhood, where the first barricades went up and where armoured trucks were constructed.
She knew the Mujeres Libres grouping but she never joined it, insisting that her place was alongside anarchist males where she would fight for respect despite dominant macho attitudes.
Concha Pérez took part in the attack on the Pedralbes barracks (to be re-named the Bakunin Barracks) and the seizure of a convent. She also assisted in the opening of the gates of the Modelo prison. She was part of the armed group Los Aguiluchos (The Young Eagles) of Les Corts, a centuria (100 militia) with seven women in its ranks.
After fighting on the fronts of Caspe and Belchite where she saved the life of a comrade, she returned to Barcelona with the prohibition of women from the fighting. She had fought in the Sur-Ebro Column, one of whose leaders, the anarchist Antonio Ortiz, was to boast that he had been the first to expel women from his column. On the front Concha fought alongside the redoubtable anarchist women Carmen Crespo, Maria Rius and Libertad Rodenas. She never forgot her friend Martirio Romero of Cordoba, a female militant of the Libertarian Youth and the CNT since the age of 17 who fought on the Huesca front, was captured by the Francoists, tortured and sentenced to death, to have this commuted at the last moment but not to be released until 1945.
In Barcelona she worked as a labourer in a factory producing arms.
During the May Days of 1937 in Barcelona, she volunteered for reconnaissance work but was wounded in an ambush by the Stalinists on the Plaza Catalunya on May 3rd. A metal fragment remained in her leg for many years.
With the defeat of the Republic, in December 1938, she left Barcelona and crossed the border and was subsequently confined in the concentration camp at Argelès. Later, she worked as a volunteer nurse in a camp, where he met the socialist doctor Madrid Alonso Isidoro, who for a time was her partner, and with whom she had her only child, born in Marseilles.
She returned to Barcelona in September 1942, where she had to leave her son in foster care in an orphanage .Then the family of Jewish origin who she worked for as a maid helped her regain custody of the child.
In Barcelona, Concha met up with an old friend from the Ateneo Faros, Mauricio Palau, who had just spent four years in prison. They began a relationship that lasted 30 years. They set up a stall in the neighbourhood market of Sant Antoni, where they sold jewellery and lingerie that they had made themselves and which served as a meeting place for anarchists during the Franco regime.
After the death of Franco, she participated in the organization of the first neighbourhood associations and the resurgence of the CNT. In 1997, she was one of the founders of Mujeres del 36 (Women of 36) sponsored by the City of Barcelona, which gathered together women that had taken part in political and social movements during the civil war in Barcelona. Her final days were spent in a retirement home at Barceloneta, where she had many anarchist visitors. She died at dawn on April 17th, 2014 at the age of ninety nine.