Esperanto: Juan Regulo Perez

Rate this Entry
In my previous topic articles, I described briefly the rise and fall of the leaders of the Esperanto movement in the USSR. First the moderates and finally even the Stalinist hard-liners were purged during the Great Terror. However, it was not only in Communist countries that Esperantists were subjected to oppression and in the next two topic articles I want to tell the story of a man who showed great courage and determination during a long period of victimization and persecution. His name is Juan Regulo Perez and I have for a long time felt that I owed him a debt of gratitude. Telling his story to the readers of this topic is a part-payment of that debt.

Much of the information about the history and development of Esperanto which I have shared with my readers since last year has been gleaned from my own collection of Esperanto literature. I am pleased with my Esperanto library and, although I wish it were five times as large, I know that had it not been for people like Regulo, as he was known to his friends, I would not have any Esperanto books at all. To see the light of day, a book really needs three things to be in place. First, and most important, there must be a writer, someone with something to say and a burning desire to share it. Second, there must be the people to for the writer to share his ideas with. And third, there must be someone with the motivation to publish and distribute those ideas. The great contribution which Regulo made to the Esperanto movement was that he published a remarkable number of high quality books and, in doing so, enabled the literary development of most of the outstanding literary figures of the Esperanto world.

As we will see, this achievement, very praiseworthy under any circumstances, was accomplished despite very difficult personal circumstances.

Juan Regulo Perez was born in 1914 and died just six years ago on the 27th of January 1993. His parent was both illiterate and lived in a tiny village in La Palma, one of the Canary Islands.

When Regulo was ten years old, his parents moved to a larger town and he had the opportunity to go to school and begin the pursuit of knowledge, which would continue for his whole life. He became a teacher when he was only 19 and, as he had learned Esperanto, he taught that as well as conventional subjects. Unfortunately, his teaching career did not last for very long. General Franco's military coup of 1936 was met by fierce resistance from the Spanish trades union movement and a social revolution and civil war raged in Spain for several years.

Although not a militant, and tucked away in his small island, Regulo did not escape the consequences of this period of social upheaval. At the beginning of the war he was sacked from his job and his teaching qualification was cancelled. I'll let him tell the rest of the story of what happened at this time in his own words.

"Afterwards I was imprisoned and then sent from the gaol to concentration camps, first on the Spanish mainland and then in Spanish Morocco. There I built roads and military defenses for three years of penal servitude. I never was able to find out why I was imprisoned: they simply suspected that I has left-wing tendencies and arrested me without further ado. Afterwards, they apparently forgot about me and just added me to the list of so-called enemies of the state to share in their fate. When I was set free, without a job and without my teaching qualification I decided on a university career and in addition to work to earn my daily bread because I was destitute. I thought that if I was able to get a university diploma, I would at least be able to teach privately. Afterwards, thanks to the help of some liberal university professors, I was also allowed to teach at the university, but always on a provisional contract and at an extremely low salary.

During Franco's regime, I did not have the rights of a Spanish citizen and, for example, was not allowed to apply for government jobs and so on. I suffered a great deal at that time but did not have any alternative. So, because you only live once, I founded a poor family anyway and did additional work as a printer and publisher of Spanish books because my university salary was nowhere near enough to support a family."