No Foe Too Large: Lucio Uturbia’s Fight for Freedom


Lucio is a documentary film about the life and work of an anarchist militant, Lucio Uturbia, a hard-working bricklayer of Spanish peasant stock. For over thirty years, when his workday was done, Lucio spearheaded forgery campaigns that funded clandestine activity the world over. His counterfeited Travelers’ Checks that cost City Bank an estimated $15 million, coupled with his fake passports, lent direct support to the anti-Franco resistance and a host of other groups, such as the Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Black Panthers, and the Tupac Amarus, among others.

 

Lucio was born in 1931, in the town of Cascante. As a rebellious teenager, he took part in a smuggling operation across the French border, for which he was eventually arrested. He later entered the military where, up to his old tricks, he smuggled army supplies out of the barracks and sent them to his family for resale. This came to an end when, after learning that his co-conspirators had been caught red-handed, Lucio made his way to Paris, where he became a bricklayer and tiler. He was a hard worker and militant supporter of the local union movement. When asked by CNT laborers about his political affiliations, he answered, "communist." They laughed in his face and corrected him, "No, you are an anarchist."

 

Although he never joined the CNT, he shared the exiles’ anti-Franco fervor. As a trusted union militant without a record with the Paris police, he was asked to shelter his hero, Sabate, who was on the run from Spanish and French authorities. The two men bonded immediately and the short time that they spent together set Lucio on a path of resistance that would last throughout his life.  Sabate eventually turned himself in, to avoid extradition to Spain where he would be garroted—but he left his weapons hidden with Lucio. (Sabate later resumed his activities and was killed while entering Spain in 1960.)

 

Knowing the strain that Sabate’s incarceration put on the resistance movement, Lucio took it upon himself to contribute to the cause that he held so dearly. He began a series of bank expropriations through which he amassed large sums of money, none of which went to his own coffers but rather to the anti-Franco resistance. Never viewing himself as a criminal, these robberies were the only means he could find to fund the activities of his fellow anarchists. He never shot anyone and humbly recalls wetting his pants under the intense pressure of the moment.

 

Having trained himself in the art of printing, the next course of action was to produce currency and other documents (passports, ID cards, drivers licenses, etc.). Crossing the border was a life-and-death matter for militants, so he reproduced them perfectly. Since the government limited the freedom of movement, they decided to "become the government" by forging passports.

Numerous brushes with the law never netted Lucio any major jail time. Eventually busted for the forged City Bank Travelers’ Checks, he used connections high up in the French government to cool the bank’s fervor for blood. While in jail, the checks kept appearing (first around Europe and then eventually in South and North America). Like something out of a Hollywood movie, he was able to turn the tables and negotiated with City Bank to pay him for his printing plates and an agreement to cease operations.

 

A recurring theme of the film is Lucio’s work ethic. His wife, Anna, says that he’d wake early, work until late afternoon, then would resume his "militant activities" in the evening—and he still found time to raise a daughter! Every day was a struggle against the state and for freedom.

 

On screen Lucio comes off as a man that has lived a full life. He is happy to tell a good yarn, certain to stretch the truth here and there, and willing to embrace the contradiction of being an anarchist in a capitalist society. Ultimately, Lucio was a man of action without ideological restraints. He did what he felt was right and supported those whom he felt were most willing to fight back. Rumors abound as to where all the money went, but those close to him swear that Lucio never kept a penny for himself.

 

Those looking for a documentary about anarchism won’t find it here. Lucio never lays out any strict guidelines for being an anarchist, although he preferred working in small groups, never wholly trusted others, and didn’t feel compelled to join or support formal organizations. Some today might praise or critique his anarchist doctrine, but without walking in his shoes one would be wise to just let him tell his own story.

 

We have to applaud Aitor Arregi and Jose Mari Goenaga for completing this stunning film. With Lucio, we not only celebrate an unsung hero but turn our attention back to a whole generation of militant lovers of freedom that must not be forgotten. We would do well to revisit the words of Francesc Torres: "It is not important if one thinks libertarian communism is viable or not, nor that any other utopia is viable or not. It is not important whether things have changed, nor that we live or might have lived in a different world. It is not important that we may think ourselves more clever than they. What is important is the attempt to wipe out from memory the generosity of spirit and physical courage of these combatants and convert the absence of this resistance into normality. These men of the Catalan past are hardly spoken about. Those who refuse to accept defeat are forgotten. They refused to accept a reality to which they were always opposed."

 

Here’s a few available sources I’d recommend reading before or after seeing the film:

 

Sabate, Antonio Tellez (also in Spanish here)

 

The Assassination Attempt On Franco From The Air: 1948, Antonio Tellez

 

The Unsung Struggle: Resistance to Franco, 1939-1951, Antonio Tellez

 

The Anarchist Resistance to Franco, Francesc Torres with Antonio Tellez

 

Granny Made me an Anarchist, Stuart Christie

 

Looking Back on Twenty Years of Jail, Miguel Garcia

 

Revolutionary Activism: The Spanish Resistance in Context, Octavio Alberola 

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