L.A. and South Arizona Wobblies search for the grave of the lost revolutionary.

In 1910 when Ricardo Flores Magón
and his comrades Librado Rivera
and Antonio Irineo Villarreal from
the Mexican Liberal Party (PLM) were
released from an Arizona Prison in the
city of Florence, an unusual and amazing
thing happened – a lifelong prison
guard left his job and decided to join
them at the plm headquarters in Los
Angeles to support a social revolution in
Baja California Norte, Mexico. While
standing on opposite sides of prison
bars, Magón and his two comrades inspired
their guard Anselmo L. Figueroa
to join the plm. He signed its anti-capitalist
anarchist manifesto of 1911 and
served as editor of the plm’s “Regeneración”
newspaper which called for “redistribution
back to Mexican peasants
of land in Baja California, of which 78
percent was owned by foreign interests”
according to William Estrada’s
book The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and
Contested Space. His daughter, Mercedes
Figueroa, would become an important
anarchist in Los Angeles as well, helping
to organize hundreds of workers in
street protests after her father’s and his
comrades’ arrests and subsequent trials.
Despite the wild story premise — a
prison guard turned revolutionary
— the story of Anselmo Figueroa is
largely untold and unknown. In December
members of the Los Angeles
and Phoenix branches traveled to
Yuma, Arizona hoping to locate his
grave so that steps could be taken to
provide a proper headstone if needed.
What was found in Yuma included
the site of his family’s plot at Yuma
Pioneer Cemetery, where some believe
he’s buried. There were a few
unmarked tombstones among those
of his family members, any of which
may have been his, but conclusions
have yet to be made. He may have also
been buried on his family’s property.
Figueroa married into the wealthy
Redondo family, and several Redondo
tombstones share the plot near the
driveway entrance to the cemetery
under a large “Figueroa” family marker.
A short drive away it becomes obvious
that the Redondos were powerful
people in Yuma – a major street
is named after them. The Redondo
patriarch, apparently Anselmo’s fatherin-
law José María Redondo, is cast
as the “the father of the prison” in
Yuma on a poster there, and is referred
to as “our worthy landlord”
in a picture book about Yuma’s early
history. He was also a state legislator.
While Anselmo’s story would surely
have been familiar to the establishment
in Yuma at the time, it is curiously
missing from those of the numerous
wild-west outlaws, Mexican revolutionaries
and labor organizers — including
Magón — at the nearby Yuma Territorial
Prison, now a museum, where
Figueroa and Magón met. Figueroa
is pictured prominently as a prison
guard but not as a revolutionary.
Figueroa worked with the Magonistas
— as Magón’s followers were known—
from the time they were released from
prison in 1911 until 1914, when he
was convicted, along with the Magón
brothers and their comrade Librardo
Rivera, of violating US neutrality laws
during the Mexican Revolution on the
Baja Peninsula. Regeneración reported
the us government appeared eager
to throw the anarchists behind bars:
prosecutors bribed witnesses and jurors,
manufactured evidence and forged
documents to make the conviction.
Antonio de P. Araujo penned a series
of articles about the trial in the paper,
writing “…in the eyes of capitalism, it

is illegal to fight for the regeneration
of the human species, as they gallantly
have in the columns of (Regeneración).”
Figueroa became editor of Regeneración
when the plm and the iww in the
Southwest were sister organizations to
each other. Most if not not all of the reported
five hundred Mexican wobblies
in Los Angeles were also part of the plm
who had created an all-Mexican branch
and believed that an anarcho-communist
revolution was necessary in the US
and in Mexico. Regeneración regularly
printed articles about iww organizing
and inspired wobblies to create Spanishlanguage
iww papers such as “La Unión
Industrial,” which advertised itself as
“the only Spanish paper in the United
States teaching revolutionary industrial
unionism,” according to research
by historian Devra Anne Webber.
Figueroa died in June 1915, not long
after the three were released from
McNeil Island Prison off the coast of
Washington, where he became ill. “Our
dear brother is dead,” Magón wrote in
a letter to a comrade. ”He was imprisoned
with us on McNeil Island. There
we were made to work under the rain
and the snow, under that glacial climate,
and our wet clothes dried on our
bodies, while we slept, in our dungeons.
Anselmo came out of prison very sick.
Poor as we are, he could not receive the
medical care his illness demanded nor
the nutritious food that he required,
and finally succumbed to his ailments
on the 14th of this month, as all the
honest fighters die: in misery and abandonment.”
“Our Anselmo was a victim
of the damned system that anarchists
want to tear down,” Magón wrote.
A death certificate remains to be discovered
which leads some to believe that
a doctor was not present at the time of
his passing. It is widely accepted that
Anselmo died just outside of Yuma in a
mining town now called Palomas where
his extended family owned property
at the time. Sara Rahnoma-Galindo, a
fellow worker in the Los Angeles iww
Branch who was part of the landing
party that searched for Figueroa’s grave
site believes that “his grave is probably
at Pioneer Cemetery since most of his
family died outside of Yuma but were
brought to the same cemetery” she
further explains “it’s also possible that
in the spirit of ‘moss not clinging to
a rolling stone’ that he may not have
wanted to be found posthumously.
A quiet and humble resting place for an ill fellow worker that had done so much in such a short amount of time is also understandable if not completely respectable. But we hope for the best in our search so that his grave is no longer unmarked and forgotten.”.

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