A crowd waited in New York Harbor for the arrival of the ship ‘De Grasse’. On October 16, 1947, among the hundreds of passengers traveling on the ocean liner coming from Europe was the singer Maurice Chevalier, who aroused the interest of the crowd. He was also traveling on the ship, as reported The New York Times the following day, Juan Negrín, who was president of the Government of Spain during the Second Republic, and some other notable people in the opinion of the New York newspaper. Among the crowd of people, Joaquín Maurín went unnoticed, a tall and lean man who had already turned fifty and was traveling light after spending more than ten years in Franco’s prisons.
The last chronicle of Sofía Blasco on board the Mexique, the ship that carried 2,000 Spanish Republicans to Mexico in 1939
Arrested in 1936 in Hecho, a town in the High Aragonese Pyrenees, by a policeman who had worked in the Social Political Brigade in Barcelona and recognized him from a previous arrest, Maurín, was transferred to Jaca and from there to Zaragoza. In January 1938, he was taken to the Salamanca prison where he remained incommunicado until 1942, when he was transferred to Barcelona to be tried. The director of the Salamanca prison told him that “his name will be, from now on, Máximo Uriarte Ortega”, with the warning that he should not use another or mention the place where he was. This change led to Maurín being considered dead as his name did not appear as a prisoner in any jail. Sentenced to thirty years in prison in 1944, he was pardoned in 1946.
Ten years and twenty-three days after being arrested, Joaquín Maurín was released. After some incidents and thanks to the efforts made by his wife, he obtained a visa to travel to the United States. Whoever was, first, an anarchist leader, general secretary of the CNT in 1921, and founder of the POUM, obtained a deputy certificate in 1936, shortly before the start of the Civil War. In New York, his wife, son and a new life awaited him: he left politics and founded the American Literary Agency, ALA, a press agency that distributed articles to the Latin American media.
From teacher to revolutionary
Joaquín Maurín Juliá was born on January 12, 1896 in Bonansa, a small town in the High Aragonese Pyrenees that currently has less than 100 inhabitants. He studied teaching in Huesca. Maurín’s life in three parts would deserve a television series to be able to accommodate all his adventures. The first part was politics. In 1914, he served as a teacher in Lleida, where, six years later, he was elected Secretary General of the UGT. In 1921 he participated in the founding congress of the international Red Trade Union in Moscow. In October of the same year he was elected Secretary General of the CNT. In February 1922 he was arrested and ceased to be secretary of the CNT. In 1924 he joined the PCE and was responsible for the Catalan Balearic Communist Federation. With the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, he was imprisoned in 1925 and remained in prison until October 1927. Upon leaving prison he went into exile in Paris, where he married Jeanne Souvanne that same year. A year later, Mario, their only son, was born. In 1930, he returned to Barcelona. Shortly before proclaiming the Second Republic, the Catalan-Balearic Federation that he directed split from the PCE. Out of the disagreement, the BOC, Bloque Obrero y Campesino, was born, of which he was appointed Secretary General. In 1935, the BOC was unified with Andreu Nin’s communist left, forming the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM), which would sign the pact with the Popular Front for which Maurín was elected deputy in 1936.
Adapting to American life
A few days before the start of the Civil War, Jeanne traveled with Mario to Paris to spend the summer holidays, but they would not see Maurín again until 1947. The wife considered that Maurín “found it very difficult to adapt to North American life. “. While she went to work, as she wrote in her memory book ‘How Joaquín Maurín was saved’ (Ediciones Júcar, Madrid, 1979), “he remained secluded, reading in a very small room, with the door closed and suffering what he called ‘the evil of the prison’ “. Furthermore, according to his wife, he was fluent in English “passively”. On the other hand, it was not easy for Maurín to find a job because the visitor’s visa did not allow him to work legally. The insertion in a newspaper of an advertisement offering private lessons had little effect. He did not want to live on his wife’s income and agreed to be a representative of several North American companies to try to earn a living.
At the end of 1947, Maurín had a serious accident that immobilized him for weeks. When he was discharged, he began to launch a press agency for Latin America. The inspiration came to him when he learned that in the United States press agencies such as `Syndicate ‘distributed articles and comic strips drawn. These ‘feature’ agencies sell to newspapers depending on the territory and allow authors to obtain greater benefits because the cost is distributed among as many media as possible. The writer received 50% of the income that was achieved for each of his jobs. The other 50% was for the agency. To contact the Latin American newspapers, Maurín went to the New York Public Library on 42nd Street. There he found the addresses of the newspapers and began to write to offer the services of ALA.
Maurín did everything
To begin with, in the absence of other authors, it distributed its articles under different pseudonyms, thus giving the impression that it already had collaborators. The agency started at the home of Maurín, who, according to his wife in the scrapbook, “did everything: correspondence, accounting, articles, print run, expedition, each operation with different names.” So that in his new activity he would not be remembered for his political past, Maurín used various pseudonyms, based on his mother’s surnames or invented characters. In addition to Félix R. Anderson, Maurín signed with names like Julio Antonio Roy (name of an uncle), who wrote two articles a week. WK Mayo, a ‘pen name’ of an alleged UN collaborator who was more prolific and wrote three articles every seven days. When he acted as administrator of the agency, he signed his mail using his mother’s last name: JM Juliá.
In the beginning, the stars of the agency were some of the Spanish intellectuals in exile. Things were going well for the marriage and they moved their residence in 1951 to an apartment on Riverside Drive, facing the Hudson River. ALA began to obtain economic results and Maurín created his ivory tower in a house where the river “that has some sea” becomes “an inseparable companion.” Although the Altoragonés assured that “I would prefer the singing stream of Bonansa, but I have to settle for the majestic and mute Hudson.”
Tips from an old journalist to learn the trade
At the end of 1952, ALA distributed the articles to about twenty newspapers. Maurín learned the trade while practicing it. He did not know how newspapers work, but ALA collaborators helped him understand it. One of the firms that was incorporated in the first stage was that of Ramón J. Sender. Being both from Alto Aragonese, the peasant and a few mutual friends accelerated their relationship. Sender was born in Chalamera, Huesca, in 1901. Maurín had also been born five years earlier in the province of Huesca. In the numerous correspondence that Sender and Maurín crossed over the years, there are interesting advice from the former on how to write for the newspapers.
On January 10, 1953, Sender recommended to Maurín: “An advice from an old journalist. There are many newspaper editorial offices where, because the copy is made to one space, they will not read it. The newspapers that are already their clients may not give too much But the new ones will resist. typed originals and two spaces “.
The epistolary relationship between the two Alto Aragonese began in 1952. Maurín offered Sender to write for ALA a weekly article of around 1,500 words on “literature in general.” In the following letter, the creator of the agency proposed that he charge two-thirds of the proceeds from the sale of the articles or a fixed weekly article of 40 dollars during the first six months, “which will be trial.”
Three years later they got acquainted in the letters. Maurín recommended that Sender shorten the texts because they were too long. “It is convenient that you reduce the length of the half-page articles”, he wrote while praising the work of his collaborator: “You have reached the category of the first literary critic in the Spanish language. That would be so, I already knew when three years ago Years I invited you to be part of ALA. In the three years that have passed we have gained firm positions – others are less well established – and it is to be hoped that little by little we will continue to progress “.
And indeed, they continued to progress. The list of collaborators started by the Colombian journalist and writer Germán Arciniegas included such prestigious names as Salvador de Madriaga, Luis Araquistaín, Pablo Neruda, Alejandro Casona, Miguel Ángel Asturias and Arturo Uslar Pietri, among others. ALA gave the impression of being a great agency because of the authors who wrote and because the articles appeared in a large number of newspapers. Maurín went from requesting collaborations to receiving letters from authors who wanted to write for ALA. The web that he had woven worked perfectly without leaving his house.
In November 1973, Joaquín Maurín died in New York. Two years later, his widow sold the agency which, without being a big business, had a considerable monthly turnover. The politician who started a new life by creating a news agency for newspapers in New York, passed away at the age of 77 after creating a world based on correspondence from an office overlooking the Hudson.