Orihuela, September 8, 1975. This is the date of the letter that Miguel Hernández’s brother, Vicente, wrote to his friend, the doctor Vicente Escudero. This letter, hitherto unpublished, wanted it to serve, as he himself said in the letter, that “the truth of what happened in the interview I had with Bishop Almarcha” be known, and thus deny “the various versions that circulate everywhere regarding the help that my brother Miguel received while in prison.” Because this letter tells the story of a betrayal.
A visit to the Miguel Hernández House Museum on the 80th anniversary of his death
The original text was found in a drawer among the different papers kept by the Escudero family, who became mayor of Orihuela, as explained to elDiario.es Andalucía by one of the sons, Francisco, currently director of the Associated Center of the UNED of Elche, and previously director of the Miguel Hernández Literary Legacy Foundation, and manager of the poet’s documentation while he remained in the province of Alicante.
The Escudero family has reached an agreement with the Provincial Council of Jaen, owner of the legacy of Miguel Hernández, for the transfer of use of the letter for an extendable period of time. They considered that this writing had to be in a museum, for which a facsimile has been transferred, which has been found since October 9 in Quesada (Jaén), in the halls of the Miguel Hernandez Museum / Josefina Manresa along with a transcript of the text.
A “dangerous friendship”
Actually, this epistle appears to corroborate a content that was already known, how a childhood friend refuses help to Miguel Hernández in the worst moment of his life. It can be verified in the article “Luis Almarcha and Miguel Hernández: The dangerous friendship” written by the journalist Miguel Ángel Nepomuceno years before. Even Francisco Escudero himself spoke of its content at the conference “Miguel Hernández in Alicante prison: prison testimonies”, given in Jaén on September 26, 2022, in an act included in the 80th anniversary of the poet’s death.
Two important facts are revealed in this letter. On the one hand, that Luis Almarcha, a friend of Miguel Hernández since he was a child, -who made his extensive library available to the young poet, and even contributed, together with other people, to the edition of the first book Expert in moons-did not help him when the family asked him to be transferred to a hospital.
On the other hand, it describes the inhuman conditions in which the writer died, in a crowded infirmary, in which “a doctor or a practitioner did not enter for seven or eight days.” “In that infirmary where there were 90-100 men lying down taking off each other’s clothes with dirty rags.” “These are bad memories because I came to enter there, it was terrible,” says Vicente Hernández in the letter.
How was that betrayal? Miguel Hernández felt betrayed by whom he believed to be a friend, Luis Almarcha, because, faced with the request to be transferred to a hospital, the bishop asked him for two things in return: that he marry Josefina Manresa in the Church (something he did a few days before to die) and retract his ideas. For the latter did not happen, and even infuriated him.
Josefina Manresa herself tells in 1980 that “they wanted her to retract her writings and celebrate the marriage in the Church. When Miguel found himself hopeless, he himself asked for the canonical marriage, since that was legal then, and since his concern was how unhappy I was left, he did so in order to ensure legality for my son and me and , therefore, security after his death.”
In a letter dated April 26, 1941, from the Ocaña prison, Miguel writes to Josefina: “Tell the parents that I will tell them if it is convenient to do something for the transfer. I think it will not be accurate. Almarcha and all of his family and other people of his kind to be very careful not to intervene in my affairs. I don’t need him at all, when I have spurned more profitable propositions from others. I will tell you later, and you will understand that it is not possible to accept anything that comes from the hands of as many Almarchas as there are in the world”.
This is evident in the letter written by the poet’s brother to his friend in 1975. “I think it was five or six months after the end of the war when I went to see Bishop Almarcha to ask him for help for my brother. He told me that he couldn’t do anything now because he didn’t want to pay attention to him when he proposed that he rectify his ideas and his writings. Now it was not the case.”
That was on a first visit, but there was another one. “After the first visit it was the 2nd when my brother was already with the lung removed by D. Antonio Barbero, being so sick”. So it was the bishop himself who “proposed the transfer to Porta Celi, to a sanatorium with that name. He was waiting for the transfer for more than 20 days and it did not arrive, until he died”.
Mr. Vicente Escudero Esquer.
Dear friend: In view of the various versions that circulate everywhere regarding the help that my brother Miguel received while in prison, I want to tell you the truth of what happened in the interview I had with Bishop Almarcha, I think it was five or six months after the end of the war when I went to see Bishop Almarcha to ask him for help for my brother. He told me that he couldn’t do anything now because he didn’t want to pay attention to him when he proposed that he rectify his ideas and his writings. Now it was not the case. This was the 1st time, after the first visit it was the 2nd when my brother was already with his lung removed by D. Antonio Barbero, being so bad in that infirmary where there were 90 – 100 men lying down removing the puts from each other with dirty rags, because a doctor or an intern did not enter there for seven or eight days, that was inhumane.
Then D. Luis Almarcha proposed the transfer to Porta Celi to a sanatorium with that name. He was waiting for the transfer for more than 20 days and it did not arrive, until he died.
They are bad memories because I came to enter there, it was terrible.
The capacity of the reformatory is 2,000 people and there were 9,000.
Well, why tell you more?
Your friend says goodbye to you with a big hug
A “whole” man
One of the conclusions of the conference given just a month ago by Francisco Escudero was precisely that Miguel Hernández “was a man of integrity, who maintained personal dignity and faithfulness of thought worthy of praise and admiration. That dignity and fidelity cost him his life, and he was aware of it.”
Miguel Hernández’s brother was not the only one who interceded with the bishop to have him transferred. So did, according to Miguel Ángel Nepomuceno, the painter and architect Miguel Abad who was imprisoned with him in the Alicante Reformatory. “It was a dialogue of silences. I told him that Miguel was dying and he responded with silence and ‘I can’t do anything’”.
112 years after his birth
Miguel Hernández Gilabert was born on October 30, 112 years ago now. He did it on Calle San Juan, 82 in Orihuela (Alicante), in a family that was dedicated to raising and herding goats, a job he did as a child, although not the only one, since he was also a milk deliverer, shop assistant, notary public employee, editor and collaborator in different magazines of the time, collaborator in educational missions and war correspondent.
He was the third of four siblings, Vicente, Elvira and Encarnación. He dreamed and became the poet of the people, “great epigone” of the generation of 27, according to Dámaso Alonso. All this despite a life cut short at the age of 31.
of that love of mine,
what’s left in the air?
just a cold suit
where the blood burned
Songbook and ballads of absences (1938-1941)
On the morning of March 28, 1942, 80 years ago, he said goodbye to life with his “big blue eyes open under the ignorant void”, as the poem by his friend Vicente Aleixandre says. He died of tuberculosis in the infirmary of the Alicante Adult Reformatory, after spending less than three years in different prisons such as Huelva, Seville, Torrijos (Madrid), Orihuela, Conde de Toreno (Madrid), Palencia, Ocaña (Toledo) , Albacete and Alicante.
Lock the doors, check the knocker, jailer.
Bind that man hard: you will not bind his soul.
There are many keys, many locks, injustices:
you will not tie his soul.
‘The prisions’. The man watches (1937-1939).
Josefina Manresa recounted the last day she went to visit him, March 27: “That time I didn’t take the child and he asked me about him. With tears running down her cheeks, she told me several times: You should have brought it. He had the hoarseness of death. I went back to visit him the next day and when I put the bag of food in the locker they rejected it looking me in the eye. I left without asking anything. I didn’t have the courage to be assured of his death.” He was buried in niche number 1,009 of the Nuestra Señora del Remedio de Alicante cemetery on March 30.
doWho hides a smile?
Who walls a voice?
‘Before the hate’. Songbook and ballads of absences (1938-1941)