Miguel Marina
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MIGUEL MARINA, Extended Biography

Youth Through The Spanish Civil War

Born in Bilbao, Spain, on February 10, 1915, the oldest of five children of Cecilio Marina and Constancia Barredo, Miguel Marina lived and studied there until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July, 1936.  He was commissioned a captain and fought on the side of the Republic until its defeat by General Francisco Franco, when he fled to France.

Adventure at Sea

From France, he crossed the Atlantic to Venezuela in a small fishing vessel with a group of six other refugees.  The voyage took 40 days.  This trip is memorialized in an article that appeared in Deia newspaper (“Peligrosa Singladura” 1982). Marina refers to this experience in an audio file made from a conversation he had with his wife and daughter in the early 1980s. Marina lived in Venezuela for a year, earning his living as a professional soccer player before moving to the Dominican Republic, which was then under the rule of General Rafael Trujillo.  Unlike other Spanish refugees who were receiving help with immigration to the countries of their choice, Marina was not affiliated with any political party nor did he have other connections to help him escape the dictatorship there.  He found a job as a stoker on a Yugoslav merchant ship that was bringing supplies to England during World War II and, as he had planned, Marina jumped ship when it stopped at New York’s port for refueling.

Miguel describes his voyage (in Spanish):

A Young Man in New York City

Alone in a big city and without speaking a word of English, Marina found his way to the Basque delegation on E. 14th Street.  When he settled in the United States, he began to paint seriously.  In New York City, he assisted José Vela Zanetti on his “Mankind’s Struggle for Peace” mural in the United Nations Building.  Marina’s years in the city were ones of financial struggle but also of considerable happiness.  It was there that he found his vocation as a painter and there that he met and married his American wife, Madeline (Magdalena), and welcomed the birth of his daughter, Constance (Kuki).  In New York as well, Marina enjoyed the company of a number of other Spanish refugees in addition to that of Vela Zanetti.   Among the refugees he knew were Jesús de Galíndez (Basque government representative in exile), Ovidio Gondi (Israel’s liaison with Latin America), Juan Oñativia (musician), Bernardo Clariana (poet), Luis Quintanilla (painter) and Manuel Manrique (psychiatrist).  On Friday evenings, these Spanish refugees and others would gather at Clariana’s apartment in the Village to sing, talk, laugh, and reminisce together of Spain and their experiences during the war.

From Country to Country

In 1955, Marina and his small family left New York City for Ecuador on a promise of work managing a banana plantation there for his friend, Bernardo Clariana.  Soon after arriving in Guayaquil, however, he realized that Clariana, who had thought he was investing in the plantation, had been the victim of fraud and Marina and his wife wanted to return to the United States.  Although Madeline and Kuki, as American citizens, were able to enter the US legally, Miguel had no means of legal entry.  Madeline took a plane to New York with Kuki and returned to her job at the American Jewish Committee (AJC).  Miguel flew to Guatemala and crossed a river into Tapachula, Mexico, with the help of an Indian guide who swam in front of him holding Marina’s clothes on his head.  From there, Marina flew to Tijuana with plans to cross the border into the United States.  When he got off the plane, however, he was arrested for illegal entry and taken to jail (La cárcel pública) where he spent a few weeks until he got out with the help of his sister Sofi’s brother-in-law, Fortunato López, who lived in Mexico City.  While in Mexico, Marina decided that the best move for him and his family would be to live together in Spain and from there try to obtain papers for him to enter the United States legally. 

A Year in Bilbao

Marina booked passage on a merchant ship that stopped in Florida on the way to Santander.  Madeline and Kuki were to meet him on the boat where he would be waiting for them with the tickets.  After considerable confusion and in the midst of a riot by Jamaican passengers en route to England who wanted to disembark in Florida, the Marinas were reunited, and began sail for the Spanish port.  In Santander, Marina’s mother and two sisters, Catalina (Cati) and Sofía (Sofi), were there to welcome him after a seventeen-year separation, and to see Madeline and Kuki for the first time.  The Marinas spent one year in Bilbao with Sofi and her husband, Angel López, who managed a large shoe store.  Madeline taught English classes at the Casa Americana run by the American Consulate and Miguel became a wholesale shoe salesman for Angel.  Though happy to be together with Miguel’s family, the Marinas were uncomfortable living in Spain under the Franco dictatorship.  In addition, the police came to the house several times to check on Marina’s activities.

The Struggle for Legal Residency

Attempts to obtain documents from the American Consul were unsuccessful, despite letters from friends Ed Finkelstein (then President of Macy’s New York, later Chairman of the Board of Macy’s, and Marvin Elkoff (anti-Communist writer) among others, who attested to Miguel’s good character and that he had never been a member of the Communist Party.  As a result, Madeline decided to return to New York with Kuki to work from within the country to get her husband legal permission to join them.  They were separated for one year, during which time Madeline returned to work for AJC and contacted Nancy MacDonald of Spanish Refugee Aid for help with her husband’s situation.  Through Nancy, Madeline hired a lawyer, Edith Lowenstein, who contacted Brooklyn Congressman, Emanuel Celler.  When the Congressman sent a letter to the State Department deploring the fact that an American mother and child were separated from a Spanish husband and father, Marina was finally given permission to live in the United States. 

New York Again

Marina arrived at the port in New York on the S.S. Constitution in 1957, and the family was reunited once again.  He began working full-time as a color mixer for a silkscreen company that did designs for Yardley among other labels, and painted at home in their apartment.  Madeline worked as a secretary for The Fund for the Republic, a non-profit think tank directed by Robert M. Hutchins, the former president of the University of Chicago.  In 1959, the Fund decided to move its offices to Santa Barbara, California, and offered to relocate Madeline and her family there.  The Marinas arrived in Santa Barbara on the Super Chief and rented the former gardener’s cottage on The Fund’s (now called The Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions) forty-acre estate in Montecito, the most elegant part of the city.  Thus began a happy ten-year period of productivity and financial stability in Marina’s life.

Home in Santa Barbara, California

Miguel MarinaMarina converted an old stable near the cottage into an artist’s studio and began a daily routine of long hours painting.  He acquired a dealer, Esther Bear, who had a successful gallery in Montecito, to represent his work and began to have annual one-man exhibitions.  Through Madeline’s work at The Center, now as Office Manager, and through Miguel’s art shows, the Marinas developed an assortment of new friends.  The cottage became a favorite visiting ground for a number of Center fellows after work and on the weekends.  Wilbur H. Ferry (Ping), the Center’s Vice President, and his family became lifelong friends of the Marinas and devoted fans and supporters of Miguel’s work.  Hallock Hoffman, the Center’s Secretary-Treasurer, Paul Cogley, the editor of Commonweal Magazine, Donald MacDonald, editor of the Center Magazine,  Scott Buchanan, philosopher, Stanley Sheinbaum (a Fellow at the Center who later married Betty, the daughter of Harry Warner of the Warner Bros.), and Rexford Tugwell, once a member of FDR’s Brain Trust and former Governor of Puerto Rico, were all good friends of the Marinas and often dinner guests at the cottage.  In addition to the Center friends, other frequent visitors of the Marinas were Garrett Hardin, a prominent biology professor at UCSB, George Dangerfield, eminent historian also a professor at UCSB, Kurt Lowenstein, a retired businessman, Emil and Wally Geist, José and Evita Barcia (José was a Spanish professor at UCLA), Acita Madariaga Foster, John Forsyth, Spanish professor at Santa Barbara City College, Leonora Cook, sculptress, Polly Hamilton, active in local Democratic politics, and Victor Fuentes, Spanish professor at UCSB.

In 1969, the Center was reorganized.  Robert Hutchins, now old and sick, fired Ping and a number of other friends of the Marinas to whom he had promised tenure in the organization and the Center began a steady decline.  Though Madeline stayed on for one more year, she was disillusioned and unhappy, and she and Miguel both knew that another change of fortune awaited them.  Even so, Miguel designed two covers for the Center Magazine, one for the Malta Conference titled, Pacem in Maribus, that came out in June, 1970, and another for the March/April issue in 1971, on God, Religion, and the Future.  In 1970, the Center fired Stanley Sheinbaum and he and Betty moved to a house they owned in Italy.  Madeline left the Center that same year and the Sheinbaums offered the Marinas their Santa Barbara mansion rent-free complete with hired staff.  It was a large, beautiful Spanish-style house with red tile roof in Montecito.  In the summer of 1972, when Betty and Stanley returned from Italy, Miguel and Madeline decided to move to Spain permanently. 

A Year in Madrid

After exploring the possibility of buying a house in southern Spain, the Marinas eventually settled in Madrid.  They bought an apartment on Fuencarral Street and Madeline found a job as an English teacher at the Instituto Internacional.  She also volunteered her time teaching English in the working-class neighborhood of Carabanchel.  Madeline was doing well and would have stayed in Spain, but Miguel felt ill at ease and wasn’t adjusting to the move.  He had a solo show at the Galería Antonio Machado that received a small mention in Informaciones, on March 8, 1973, but left no mark on the art world there. 

Return to the United States

Miguel and Madeline returned to the US in June, 1973.  After stopping in Santa Cruz to attend Constance’s graduation from the University of California, the couple returned to Santa Barbara.  They stayed a few weeks at Jo Ferry’s house (Ping’s ex-wife) and then rented an apartment until they bought the house at 417 Shasta Lane.  It was small, but in a good neighborhood near the rose garden and the Santa Barbara Mission founded by Spanish Franciscans in 1786.  With the help of a friend, Marina constructed a studio in the backyard and enlarged the house by adding on a new living room and deck.  Although living on a shoestring budget, the couple managed to turn the tiny two-bedroom into a home.  Madeline bought French doors at a junkyard and Miguel installed them in the living room where they opened onto the deck.  He brought home a carpet that was discarded by a localbank that was redesigning its interior and installed it in the living room.  Miguel began painting once more and Madeline set about looking for work.  While she found a few part-time jobs, money was extremely tight.  At one point during those years, Madeline told their daughter that they were collecting mussels from a local beach for dinner.  Not long after this, one of Madeline’s part-time jobs resulted in another lifelong friendship for the Marinas.  Madeline was hired to edit the Photographers’ Forum, a magazine founded by entrepreneur and businessman, Glen Serbin.  Glen took a special interest in the Marinas and became a loyal friend and frequent visitor at their house on Shasta Lane.

Ping visited Santa Barbara regularly with his new wife, Carol (Bernstein), to see Jo and the daughters she and Ping had together.  During those trips, Ping and Carol always stopped by to see the Marinas, who were not only good friends with Jo as well, but also with Jo and Ping’s daughters.  In 1975, Ping began to send Miguel a monthly stipend to support his painting.  He and Carol, as philanthropists, had put him on a list of people and organizations they helped; Miguel would receive a monthly stipend until around 1984.

Miguel and Madeline: The Couple

It is worthwhile at this moment to examine how it was that both Miguel and Madeline inspired and maintained such close, lasting friendships with others.  Theirs was an unusual union.  She was a first-generation Jewish American who grew up in poverty in Brownsville, Brooklyn.  When she lost her mother at age six, Madeline, who continued living with her illiterate philandering father was left largely to her own devices.  She left school at age fifteen to work in a factory, enlisted as a WAC in the army, and went to secretarial school on the GI bill.  She became a voracious reader and took college classes at the New School for Social Research.  When she met Miguel in Provincetown at age twenty-five, she still had no idea how to cook or make a salad.  Miguel was the oldest child in a large and loving middle-class family in Bilbao.  His parents and siblings adored him.  He was a star soccer player and soloist in the church choir, and though he didn’t go on to university, was an avid reader who often spoke of Pio Baroja, Miguel de Unamuno, Antonio Machado and Miguel de Cervantes among other Spanish writers.   Reflecting in part the difference between their childhoods, Madeline was practical and feisty and Miguel was idealistic and tranquil.  Madeline never quite got over hisphysical beauty and even when he was old and sick, remarked on it.  He was extremely handsome with a rich baritone voice and a friendly, gentle, and gracious manner.  His good looks never went to his head, however, and he often deflected the undue attention they aroused.  Miguel and Madeline wrote to each other often during that year of separation when Madeline and Kuki where in New York and Madeline was attempting to get Miguel documents to legally enter the United States.  They remained, after being reunited, a couple that talked deeply and at length with each other.  Up until Miguel’s death, they often walked the streets of Santa Barbara hand-in-hand their heads close together in conversation. 

The Final Ten Years

Around 1978, Madeline’s old friend and boss, Hallock Hoffman, referred her to a job at The Fielding Institute, an organization that granted master’s and doctoral degrees to working professionals in the social work and counseling fields.  She was hired as a freelance editor of students’ manuscripts and the Marinas were able to live comfortably once more with no financial worries.  Miguel, with new peace of mind, devoted himself wholeheartedly to his painting.  He had grown disheartened, however, with the business of art and withdrew from the local art scene.  Though he worked almost every day of the week, he contacted no other agents or galleries and never exhibited again.  In one of his last diary entries, he wrote in Spanish that he was “working in the most absolute solitude.”  On December 13, 1989, one week before Constance and her family were to visit for Christmas, Miguel Marina died in his sleep.  The last ten years of his life had been his most productive period as a painter.