The Anarchists of Casas Viejas.

Author:Conover, Rachel Patrick
Position:Book review

The Anarchists of Casas Viejas. By Jerome R. Mintz. (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2004. Pp. ix + 336, foreword by James W. Fernandez, introduction, notes, illustrations, bibliography, index.)

First published in 1982, this classic work by anthropologist Jerome R. Mintz has been reprinted with a new foreword discussing its significance to both its specific subject matter and the field of anthropology in general. It is an enduring example of in-depth ethnographic research, as well as a historical study of complex political and social relations. Mintz examines the small but significant anarchist uprising that took place in the Spanish town of Casas Viejas in 1933, just a few years prior to the Spanish Civil War. He investigates events leading up to the revolt and its aftermath, through official accounts, press releases, and interviews with those who were present. Through these multi-faceted perspectives, Mintz presents a clear picture of the uprising and its place in the larger political history of Spain, and in the process refutes some previously published accounts of events and makes a valuable contribution to historical understanding.

In order to gather his detailed knowledge, Mintz spent years conducting fieldwork in Spain in the 1960s and 70s, gaining the trust of those involved in the uprising, their descendants, friends, and neighbors. Since his research involved an event that took place decades earlier, he had to track down sources who had moved, a task made all the more difficult because Spain was still under Franco's rule at the time of his research, and anarchism was not a safe topic of investigation. After years of oppression, his informants were often wary of talking to anyone, and the government often questioned those who did. Despite these difficulties, Mintz was able to speak to a great many of the surviving participants of the uprising. These interviews, combined with painstaking descriptions of Spanish society and the political climate that engendered the anarchist movement, paint a detailed picture of not only that famous day's events, but also of the social inequality and unrest that led up to them and of the repression that followed.

The anarchist uprising in Casas Viejas took place on January 11, 1933. It claimed the lives of two civil guards, while the brutal government reaction the next day killed 20 villagers, including both anarchists and unarmed townspeople. Although this battle was small in...

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