Pemán y Permartín, José María

Jose maria Peman

Writer, journalist and politician attached to the conservative monarchy, apologist of the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera; he played an active role in the overthrow of the Second Republic and then in the support of the Franco dictatorship, in whose organizational chart he held positions of responsibility since the military coup. He was born in Cadiz on May 8, 1897 and died in his native city on July 19, 1981. He is buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of Cadiz in a tomb reserved during his lifetime, next to that of the composer Manuel de Falla whom he tried in vain to convince to return to Spain after fleeing to Argentina in 1939.

He was born into a family of the high society of Cádiz, with a lawyer father and a mother belonging to the bourgeoisie. He was educated in conservative and Catholic values and, from a young age, was part of the political and social elite. After studying law in Seville he practiced for two years as a criminal lawyer.

After the Civil War he published the apocalyptic ‘Poem of the Beast and the Angel’, which he insisted on presenting in a house in the Albaicín in the presence of an ailing Manuel de Falla, who was already preparing his exile in Argentina. At the event, the absences (among the reprisals, the dead and the exiles) were more notable than the presences.

His literary beginnings are linked to Catholic devotion. He won the floral games of the centenary of Blessed Diego José de Cádiz and Sanlúcar de Barrameda for a poem entitled The Viaticum. A year later, in 1923, he was elected member of the Royal Latin-American Academy of Cádiz. At that time he was already a member of the National Catholic Association of Propagandists, the first of a long list of religious groups with which he was associated throughout his life: from the Marian Congregation of the Luises to Catholic Action, through Apostleship of Prayer.

Likewise, his political affiliations varied, although always under the same principles of uncompromising conservatism: Unión Patriótica, FET and JONS, Unión Monárquica Nacional, Renovación Española and Movimiento Nacional, among others.

The fact that he belonged to the social and political elite allowed him to pay for the editing of his books and distribute them with guarantee: To the Wheel, Wheel (1929), Elegy to Spanish Tradition (1931), Salm of the Dead (1933). After the Civil War he published the apocalyptic Poem of the Beast and the Angel, which he insisted on presenting in a house in the Albaicín in Granada in the presence of an aging and ailing Manuel de Falla, who was already preparing his consensual exile in Argentina, and other intellectuals of the Regime. In the photo that remains of the event, the absences (among the repressed, dead and exiled) stand out more than the presences.

Pemán did everything in his power to attract Falla to the Dictatorship. He even published a photo of the two without his permission in the ‘Abc’ of Seville proclaiming them as the poet and the musician of the new regime.

At Falla’s request, he interceded to stop the persecution to which the engraver, scenographer and teacher Hermenegildo Lanz was being subjected, but the latter was expelled from his position at the Normal School in Granada and sent to Logroño in the midst of the conflict.

Meeting between Manuel de Falla (with a cane in the center) and José María Pemán (seated on the left) in Granada / Photo: Manuel de Falla Archive
Meeting between Manuel de Falla (with a cane in the center) and José María Pemán (seated on the left) in Granada / Photo: Manuel de Falla Archive

Falla rejected all of Pemán’s proposals for positions in the early stages of the Dictatorship, although he could not evade the invitation to undertake the adaptation of the Song of the Almogáveres, on a melody by Felipe Pedrell, and turn it into the Martial Hymn (1937), with lyrics by Pemán himself.

After the end of the Civil War, Pemán was promoted to the Academy of Language as interim director, although he was not yet a full member, and was honored in the Poetry Anthology of the Uprising. In return he composed a sonnet to José Antonio Primo de Rivera.

Although in the postwar period, as a procurator in the Courts, he did not join the group that presented Franco in 1943 with a petition for a “rapid monarchical restoration” but later supported the line represented by Don Juan, the father of the future King Juan de Carlos I of Bourbon. It was precisely that monarch who, in 1979, two years before his death, awarded him The Distinguished Order of the Golden Fleece.

An abandoned open-air theater remains in the Genovés Park in Cádiz bearing his name, to sum up all his fame.

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