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Ruedo Ibérico - Short History

On 17 October 1961 Éditions Ruedo Ibérico was established. The founders were José Martínez, who was the director throughout the operation, Vicente Girbau, Elena Romo, Ramos Viladás, and Nicolás Sánchez Albornoz, the historian had who fled to the United States and by his own account happened to be visiting his old friend Martínez in Paris at the moment the publishing company came into being. These names confirm that Ruedo Ibérico was by no means a monolithic ideological enterprise. Romo, for example, was a communist and Viladás a Catalan nationalist. The publishing company was explicitly dedicated to the struggle against Franco’s dictatorship by publishing counter-information intended to refute Francoist propaganda. The texts to be published catered not merely to the community of exiles but especially to readers still in Spain. In particular, the publishing company aimed to break Franco’s monopoly on Civil War historiography.

One of the great achievements of Ruedo Ibérico was, according to Albornoz, that the Spanish government was forced to acknowledge that Guernica was bombed by the German air force. Two very important early titles about the Civil War included the Spanish translations of the book by Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, and Brenan’s The Spanish Labyrinth. Both books enthralled the circles of interested Spaniards. An earlier  biography of Franco, published by Luciano Rincón under the pseudonym Luis Ramírez  forced the Spanish author in 1971 to spend three years in prison.

The books published by Ruedo Ibérico soon became popular among Spanish students in Paris. They also rapidly came under the scrutiny of the Spanish authorities. In 1963 critiques of three books first appeared in the Boletín de Orientación Bibliográfica, issued by the Ministerio de información y turismo español (Spanish Ministry of Intelligence and Tourism). Altogether, this government publication ran critiques of 35 books published by Ruedo Ibérico. In 1965 the publishing company launched the journal Cuadernos de Ruedo Ibérico. This journal, which continued to appear until 1975 and comprised 45 issues, became an important platform for radical anti-Francoism, featuring a broad range of political views. The journal drew criticism for that very reason, on the ground that the contributions lacked cohesion. This was the price that José Martínez was willing to pay for his heterodoxism. The journal also revealed cultural developments that were impossible to disclose in conservative Spain. The Cuadernos similarly attracted the interest of the Spanish authorities: in 1972, the journal had 37 subscribers in Spain, according to Sarría Buil.


The publishing company thrived. Publications from Martínez’s own list were attractive and easily identifiable. From 1971 he set up his stand  at the Frankfurter Buchmesse, where the staunch opponent of the dictatorship appeared amid the official Spanish publishing companies. Contacts with Spain thus existed continuously, although distribution was not channelled via Frankfurt. Author and publisher Jorge Heralde has mentioned an unusual distribution system. He and his friends formed a cinephile club (the Linterna Magica) that organized cinema weekends in Perpignan from Barcelona in the late 1960s. At these occasions they purchased books issued by Ruedo Ibérico and smuggled them back into Spain. Barcelona also had two ‘regular’ underground importers and distributors: bookshop and a publisher Siegfriend Blume and Rufino Torres. As a former member of the Guardia Civil, Torres knew all about border control methods. Torres’s background also enabled him to alert people, whenever a mole infiltrated the publishing company. In the course of the 1970s, distribution ‘regularized,’ ultimately even including home delivery service in Barcelona neighbourhoods such as Sarrià.