Ramón Sender Barayón

A Death in Zamora

Ramón Sender Barayón, the author of this book, was born in Madrid during “Red October” 1934, his birth, according to his father, accompanied by the sound of machine-gun fire from the street. Years later, describing his parents, he wrote that Amparo, his mother, “was profoundly Catholic and, at the same time, independent and liberated, a woman ahead of her time.” And his father, Ramón J. Sender, was considered the greatest Spanish novelist of his generation.

When the Spanish Civil War began in 1936, he was twenty-one months old, his sister Andrea eight months. He was in San Rafael with his parents. His father went briefly to Madrid and lost contact with his mother. His mother returned with her two children to her home and family in Zamora, while his father fought with the Republicans led by Enrique Lister against the Nationalists led by Francisco Franco. When his father heard that his wife had been killed, he left the fighting and reunited with his children through the Red Cross in Biarritz in 1937. They lived first in Pau then in Louvie-Juzon in the French Pyrenees. In 1939, his father booked passage on the USS Manhattan and brought his children to New York. He left his children with foster parents. He died in 1982.

His son was left without knowledge of his mother.

This book is about Ramón Sender Barayón’s search for information about his mother. What happened to her? Was she killed? In 1982, following his father’s death, he returned to Spain. He followed a path of meetings with members of his family, people his mother knew, people who cared for him as a child, with every conversation recalling the war, stirring alternate emotions of vengeance and forgiveness. He came to know his mother and, finally, his father, understanding the circumstances of the war and of her death.

Reading this beautifully written book, Sender Barayón brings us into the war and introduces us to the people who lived through it. It is due to his exceptional writing that we access his panorama of thought, his realizations and reflections, and his communication of the nature and depth of this remarkable story.



Composer, visual artist and writer, Ramón Sender Barayón was the co-director, with Morton Subotnick, of the San Francisco Tape Music Center from 1962 to 1966. During that time he collaborated with composers and visual artists including Pauline Oliveros, Tony Martin, Joseph Byrd, Terry Riley, William Maginnis, and many others in the San Francisco art world at the time. He also collaborated with Don Buchla in the design of the first Buchla synthesizers.

In 1966, with Ken Kesey and Stewart Brand, he co-produced the Trips Festival, a three-day event that, in conjunction with The Merry Pranksters, brought together the nascent hippie movement for the first time.

Following 1966, he was a resident at Lou Gottlieb’s Morning Star Ranch, then the Ahimsa Ranch. He lived and worked in and around Occidental, California, until 1979, then collaborated with author Alicia Bay Laurel on ‘Being of the Sun’. In 1989, he founded the Peregrine Foundation, of which he was the administrator until 1999.

He holds a B. Mus from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Robert Erickson, and an M.A. from Mills College, where he studied with Darius Milhaud. He currently lives in San Francisco and works as an artist, musician, and author.