Was Esp a communist?



Guthke has this letter dated August 1939 from Esperanza in his photos section (Karl Guthke, "B.Traven:the Life Behind the Legends", Lawrence Hill, 1991). It is by all accounts the first contact between Esperanza Lopez Mateos and B. Traven. The books in question are the same ones that Traven will eventually complain have been made into unauthorized Spanish translations in the introduction to his April 1941 edition of "Puente en la Selva," translation from English to Spanish, according to the title page, by Esperanza. Here Esperanza mis-translates them into English because she has probably found and read the pirate versions.

The address --

Donceles 30

Apartado 8092

Mexico, D.F.

She signs her title "Manager"


A search for Editorial Masas from the period turns up a handful of books published from 1937-1939.

Mario Pavon Flores

Nicolas Guillen

Both authors are Stalinists.






"Hombres Sin Mujer," by Carlos Montenegro, 1938, using the Donceles address, contains the foreword-

a Emma Perez, hallada - para siempre - en mi octavo ano de prision:

a Mongo Miyar, que ha hecho posible con su amistad y ayuda la creacion de este libro:

a mis ex-companeros, buenos o malos, mejor, salvados o perdidos, especialmente a aquellos que me han prestado sus vidas e incluso sus nombres, para realizar Hombres sin Mujer:

v. finalmente, a la URSS, que ha aplastada con puno bolchevique el tradicional regimen penitenciario


to Emma Perez, found - forever - in my eighth year of imprisonment:

Mongo Miyar, who has made possible with his friendship and help the creation of this book:

to my ex-companions, good or bad, better, saved or lost, especially those who have given me their lives and even their names, to make Men Without Women:

v. finally, to the USSR, which has crushed the traditional penitentiary regime with Bolshevik fist


The printer is Talleres Graficos de la Nacion.

If anybody wants verification that Esperanza - or her mother- was no shrinking violet (an idiom for someone who avoids controversy) publishing this manuscript confirms that.

The Editorial Masas logo is helpfully shown to us by the bookseller of "El ABC de las Huelgas." (The ABC of Strikes). That book date is 1937.

Apartado is the Spanish equivalent of Post Office Box.

8092 matches the letterhead in Guthke from 1939..


In a letter on Liga Pro Cultura Alemana en Mexico letterhead, just a few days after the La Verdadera lectures begin, see below, April 30, 1938, addressed to Lombardo Toledano, the post office box of Liga Pro (no street address given) is 8092, the same as Editorial Masas.

What this means exactly is not known. But Masas is using Apartado 8092 in 1937-39 and Liga Pro Cultura Alemana is using it in 1938. The only years I see Editorial Masas imprints are 1937-39.

image p.236 "Brucken Nach Mexiko," Wolfgang Kiessling, Dietz Verlag, 1989

Many sources talk somewhat vaguely about Esperanza's political activism, even as to how it recharged Traven when they met. (Guthke ##) . Gabriel Figueroa who was politically active himself, said that Esperanza awakened in him the social conscience. (Memorias p.83).

Figueroa makes a strong statement about Esperanza's commitment to social justice on p. 89 of Memorias (my translation) and says Esperanza's relationship to Lombardo Toledano pre-dated his own.

"I knew the teacher Lombardo Toledano by means of Esperanza, who was his collaborator and she went to all the conferences, meetings and acts that he participated in, to transcribe his speeches. He had a lot of respect for her, because Esperanza was a militant with much confidence, who had worked all her life in the social field. The relationship with her connected me to Lombardo, and he began this way to ask me to participate in the production of several documentaries and movies."



The earliest known reference to Esperanza and Lombardo Toledano is from 1938. The Liga Pro Cultura Alemana convened a series of lectures from April 23, 1938 to June 3, 1938 of six Mexican intellectuals on the subject La Verdadera Cultura Almemana - The True German Culture. Vicente Lombardo Toledano led off with Goethe. A compiled book resulted. The stenographer was Esperanza Lopez Mateos.





Jorge Fuentes Morua, author of the essay above, specifically refers to Esperanza's involvement with Lombardo Toledano and Liga Pro in 1938 in his footnote, which pre-dates the arrival of the better known emigres who came in 1940 who started El Libro Libre, Freies Deutschland and the Heinrich Heine Klub, a book publisher, a newspaper and a German culture club respectively.


" I . GOETHE, Vicente Lombardo Toledano.

II. HEINE, Rafael Sánchez de Ocaña.
IV. KANT AND SHOPENHAUER, Adalberto García de Mendoza.

1. THOMAS AND HEINRICH MANN, Emilio Abreu Gómez.

2. BOOKS ABOUT THE WORLD WAR, José Mancisidor.

3. HEGEL, MARX, ENGELS, Enrique González Aparicio.

Shorthand version by Esperanza López Mateos " [36] . Fuente: Pacarina del Sur


[36] The True German Culture , Ed. Pro-German Culture League in Mexico, Mexico, 1938. The date of this edition (1938) shows how before the arrival (1941) of the German-speaking exiles, grouped in Free Germany , already there were German antifascist associations. Thus, at least since 1938, Esperanza López Mateos was linked to the forces of the left, later she was related to the enigmatic Bruno Traven; He also participated in the struggle of the miners of Monclova, an issue on which J. Revueltas wrote: "March of hunger on the desert and snow", in Vision of Paricutín, OC , 24, 1986, pp.142-158. On the participation of Esperanza López Mateos, see Daniel Molina, The Caravan of Hunger, El Caballito, Mexico, 1978, p. 49. On his relationship with Traven see Cristina Pacheco, Op. Cit . , supra. note 16

Fuente: Pacarina del Sur - http://www.pacarinadelsur.com/component/content/article/5/79 - Prohibida su reproducción sin citar el origen.

This is 1938 in Mexico, the build up to war taking place in Germany and the expulsion of centuries of German culture.

again from the website http://www.pacarinadelsur.com/component/content/article/5/79

In the Presentation "The true German culture", it reads:

"If in spite of this we, the German-speaking anti-Nazis united in the Pro-German Culture League in Mexico, put the title" THE TRUE GERMAN CULTURE "in this series of lectures, we do it in the sense of a challenge to Our enemies, we want to show that the true German culture, that is, the German culture, has nothing in common with that false doctrine, that arrogance, that totalitarian delirium, and we want to prove that every culture of truth is the common heritage of all peoples , despite its peculiarities and regional peculiarities "

Fuente: Pacarina del Sur - http://www.pacarinadelsur.com/component/content/article/5/79 - Prohibida su reproducción sin citar el origen.




Vicente Lombardo Toledano was a Stalinist-Marxist in the mid 30s to the end of the war at least. The evidence for that is extensive. An excellent essay dealing with Lombardo's all-in involvement with the famous German communist emigres of 1940 onward is

Heidi Zogbaum (2005) Vicente Lombardo Toledano and the German communist exile in Mexico, 1940–1947, Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research

this is behind a paywall, the author emailed me a copy a few years ago.



Leon Trotsky was murdered in August 1940 by the Soviet apparatus directed by Stalin. In the months leading up to the attack, Trotsky repeatedly accused Lombardo of creating the political environment of assassination.

There were two attacks on Trotsky, May and August 1940, both of these accounts were written before the second successful one, both blaming Lombardo Toledano.

Trotsky's relationship to Toledano, http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1940/06/nation.htm

Joseph Hansen, Trotsky's chief aide, http://www.marx.org/archive/hansen/1940/08/assas.htm


One of the star emigres who worked closely with Toledano from his arrival in Mexico in 1940-41 was Otto Katz, who wrote for Freies Deutschland under name Andre Simone. Katz was one of the most successful Soviet agents of the 20th century. He had a hollywood period under the alias Rudolf Breda where he formed anti-Nazi associations and was the inspiration for the anti-nazi freedom fighter in the 1944 Academy Award movie, "Watch on the Rhine." by author Lillian Hellman.

From "Variety" March 1944, a magazine of the American film industry, appears a notice that Esperanza Lopez Mateos is translating the script into Spanish for a stage play. This is during the height of Katz's influence in Mexico City and possibly connected with the stage productions of the Heinrich Heine club.

The story of Katz is nearly the story of the first half of the 20th century, as he was involved wherever his propaganda talents were most needed. An excellent book is

"The Dangerous Otto Katz," Jonathan Miles, Bloomsbury, 2010

Otto Katz - Jonathan Miles - book link



Otto Katz and Willi Munzenberg, "the Red millionaire", published "The Brown Book of the Reichstag Fire and Hitler Terror," in 1933 to major success. The book exposed the Nazi false flag operation which was the beginning of the true Nazi terror and suspension of civil liberties.




In Mexico, Katz repeated his success with the Black Book in 1943. Published by El Libro Libre, the publishing house was Talleres Graficos de la Nacion. This appears to be a large printer used by the Mexican government and many other smaller publishers. Editorial Masas used it for "Hombres Sin Mujer." Traven used it for his first Spanish Translation by Esperanza, "Puente en la Selva." The endpapers of the 1941 edition of Puente say,

Acabose de imprimir est libro en Mejico, D.F., en los Talleres Graficos de la Nacion, el dia 19 de abril de 1941. Lo ilustro Gabriel Fernandez Ledesma. La edicion consta de 2,200 ejemplares en papel Chemalin especialmente hecho para esta Editorial por la Fabrica de Papel de Coyoacan, S.A.



In the book Todo Mexico, "La Mirada que Limpia," Elena Poniatowska, Editorial Diana, 1996, Gabriel Figueroa says,

"Esperanza managed a small publisher with her mother, Editorial Masas, S.C.L. later called Compania General de Ediciones, S.A. in a small house at 30 Donceles."

Editorial Masas appears to be a small publisher with a direct link to Esperanza, possibly in the period 1937-1939. Compania General de Ediciones appears to be a larger company that published a lot of Traven titles and other authors, some in Esperanza's lifetime, and many long afterward, but I dont see any direct tie to Esperanza.


Henry Schnautz meets Esperanza June 1941, says he met Esperanza first time on his (not her) initiative. Says in 1941 she was employee of Secretary of Public Education. SEP. Under new president Manuel Avila Camacho the Secy of Education is probably Octavio Vejar Vazquez.

Henry -1941-8-11 (Esp) gets in dept. of Education (after Hospital job) as secy. to Secy. perfects her shorthand typing etc. gains in worldly wisdom - as to what makes politics etc. Is official stenographer at numerous union Congresses etc. learns what goes on before the speeches are made - and how speeches are changed before being sent to press. With recent change n administration learns what "nepotism" and "sinecure" signify, discovers that new Secy. of Ed. has publishing house (remember Bobbs Merrill and Gov. McNutt) prints new texts - cost 7 cents are sold at $1.25. She fights but opposition - i.e. - 11 at top of racket stand to win $1,500,000 in sale of new texts - tough going - enter Henry in office asking for course of study for summer school for Elda (a friend from home going to school in Mexico City)

Simply trying to find out if Vazquez owned a printing company (not important really), I reached this page from 1942 which describe the fight between him and the communists as he began to eliminate marxist ideology from Mexican schoolbooks.


He eventually resigned December 1943 over differences with Lombardo Toledano.



looks interesting but behind a paywall



back to our story, at any rate, Esperanza being a top secretary in the SEP has knowledge of large publishing projects and practices..

We have seen that Esperanza has a professional relationship with Toledano as stenographer as early as May 1938 at a Liga Pro Cultura Alemana event important enough to generate a book or possibly pamphlet. We note she used the same post office box for her more-or-less communist publishing house as Liga Pro did in the same time period. One of the founders of Liga Pro Cultura Alemana was Heinrich Gutmann (Guthke p.320)

also here described as founder -


here as leader


Guthke says (p.320-321) that Traven wrote that Egon Kisch (see Zogbaum "Exiles" reference above) began spreading the "lie" (actually the truth) that Ret Marut had turned into B. Traven. But Heinrch Gutmann, Traven says, was "the first to circulate the mischievous Traven-Marut story and directly upon his arrival in Mexico he published extensive articles about it (surely to introduce himself in the most positive light at the same time) and also told this story to every newly arrived emigre."

If Esperanza was Liga Pro's publisher, did she publish the tracts that linked Traven and Marut before her first meeting with Traven?

There is not much independed verification of Gutmann, I cannot rule out a mistaken identity by Guthke or Traven. Traven says for his sin of lying about Traven, actually telling the truth, he was found dead. (p.321)

it appears he also went by name Enrique Gutmann, had photos in Life magazine June 13, 1938, more hits with Enrique.





36 Gutmann, Heinrich, (also Enrique Gutmann) Berlin journalist, photographer emigrated to Mexico in 1933. In 1934 he became a Mexican citizen. In 1938 he founded the league Pro-Cultura Alemana , whose chairman he was. He achieved numerous entry visas at the Mexican Ministry of the Interior. In 1941/42 broke out dispute between Gustav controller and the Communist League members, he was involved.

in November 1947, Esperanza wrote a letter from West 19th Street in New York to Gabriel and Roberto. It is in Poniatowska's book (at least the transcription, not a literal image). It is a last will and testament, "to open when I cease to be." I believe she was waiting to fly to Europe, an ambitious long trip visiting many countries.

"To you two, Roberto and Gabriel Figueroa Mateos, I want to dedicate, before undertaking this long trip, all that I possess."

at the end she addresses Lombardo

"To Vicente Lombardo Toledano tell him that if in any discussion I was violent, I treated him harshly and I sent him to the devil, that to forgive me, how well he knows how much I admire his talent, his courage and his honesty and how ten years of his struggle bound me to him with a strong affection.

If we take her literally, 10 years of relationship would date back to 1937. And she has a strong enough relationship even in 1947 to send him best last regards. The letter is not dated but the last time she was at W 19th street was Nov 1947 - Jan 1948. In Nov she was headed for Europe and in Jan she came back.



It has been written that Esperanza owned a publishing company and that she printed all the copies of Freies Deutschland and some of the titles of El Libro Libre. I don't see that. She did have some titles published at Editorial Masas, but she had at least some of those printed at a large printing company, Talleres Graficos de la Nacion, that many publishers used, including the Dept of Education, and her own translation of Puente for A.P. Marquez. "Masas" was an office not a print shop. Figueroa says it was in a small house, a joint operation with her mother.

At any rate that is my best guess, subject to new information.

She does seem to have an extensive background with Lombardo and by extension those he worked with. The Zogbaum essay linked above is the best information in English regarding the war years with the German communist authors of Freies Deutschland, though there are some serious references in German and some in Spanish.

Zogbaum is very informed about Kisch, the most popular journalist in Eastern Europe, but read the Katz book linked above to learn what a truly superior Stalinist agent was Otto Katz, known in Mexico as Andre Simone, Its a highly recommeneded read.


As for the strength and conviction of Esperanza's Stalinist or communist beliefs or leanings, from 1938 on, many people have been called communist with less evidence. She was manager or owner at a book publisher that published marxist titles. She was close professionally and personally for 10 years to the actual top Mexican Stalinist. I did not even get to Traven's communist outburst in 1945 or 46 detailed in Guthke starting on p. 325. Its the pure Stalinist line. That leaves something to say another day.


On the Traven line, it seems a bit interesting at least that Esperanza was using an address for her Editorial Masas publishing company that was also being used by Liga Pro Cultura Alemana, which was actively promoting the real German culture, Beethoven and Marx, and its founder had published on many occasions, according to Traven, the scandalous information that Traven was Marut. And this all before the usual meeting story between Esperanza and Traven.