Marina Ginesta, a 17-Year-Old Communist Militant, Overlooking Barcelona From Hotel Colón During the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War was a civil war in Spain fought from 1936 to 1939. Republicans loyal to the left-leaning Popular Front government of the unstable Second Spanish Republic, in alliance with both communist and syndicalist anarchists, fought against an insurrection by the Nationalists, an alliance of Falangists, monarchists, conservatives and traditionalists, led by a military junta among whom General Francisco Franco quickly achieved a preponderant role. Due to the international political climate at the time, the war had many facets and was variously viewed as class struggle, a religious struggle, a struggle between dictatorship and republican democracy, between revolution and counterrevolution, and between fascism and communism. According to Claude Bowers, U.S. ambassador to Spain during the war, it was the “dress rehearsal” for World War II. The Nationalists won the war, which ended in early 1939, and ruled Spain until Franco’s death in November 1975.

The war began after a pronunciamiento (a declaration of military opposition, of revolt) against the Republican government by a group of generals of the Spanish Republican Armed Forces, with General Emilio Mola as the primary planner and leader and having General José Sanjurjo as a figurehead. The government at the time was a coalition of Republicans, supported in the Cortes by communist and socialist parties, under the leadership of centre-left President Manuel Azaña. The Nationalist group was supported by a number of conservative groups, including CEDA, monarchists, including both the opposing Alfonsists and the religious conservative Carlists, and the Falange Española de las JONS, a fascist political party. After the deaths of Sanjurjo, Emilio Mola and Manuel Goded Llopis, Franco emerged as the remaining leader of the Nationalist side.

The coup was supported by military units in Morocco, Pamplona, Burgos, Zaragoza, Valladolid, Cádiz, Córdoba, and Seville. However, rebelling units in almost all important cities—such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, and Málaga—did not gain control, and those cities remained under the control of the government. This left Spain militarily and politically divided. The Nationalists and the Republican government fought for control of the country. The Nationalist forces received munitions, soldiers, and air support from Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, while the Republican side received support from the Soviet Union and Mexico. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the French Third Republic, and the United States, continued to recognise the Republican government but followed an official policy of non-intervention. Despite this policy, tens of thousands of citizens from non-interventionist countries directly participated in the conflict. They fought mostly in the pro-Republican International Brigades, which also included several thousand exiles from pro-Nationalist regimes.

The Nationalists advanced from their strongholds in the south and west, capturing most of Spain’s northern coastline in 1937. They also besieged Madrid and the area to its south and west for much of the war. After much of Catalonia was captured in 1938 and 1939, and Madrid cut off from Barcelona, the Republican military position became hopeless. Following the fall without resistance of Barcelona in January 1939, the Francoist regime was recognised by France and the United Kingdom in February 1939. On 5 March 1939, Colonel Segismundo Casado led a military coup against the Republican government. Following internal conflict between Republican factions in Madrid in the same month, Franco entered the capital and declared victory on 1 April 1939. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards fled to refugee camps in southern France. Those associated with the losing Republicans who stayed were persecuted by the victorious Nationalists. Franco established a dictatorship in which all right-wing parties were fused into the structure of the Franco regime.

The war became notable for the passion and political division it inspired and for the many atrocities that occurred, on both sides. Organised purges occurred in territory captured by Franco’s forces so they could consolidate their future regime. Mass executions on a lesser scale also took place in areas controlled by the Republicans, with the participation of local authorities varying from location to location. (Wikipedia)

Iconic photo of Marina Ginestà i Coloma by Juan Guzmán on top of the Hotel Colón in Barcelona.

Marina Ginestà became famous due to the photo taken by Juan Guzmán on the rooftop of Hotel Colón, Barcelona during the July 1936 military uprising in Barcelona. As she was a reporter, it was the only time Ginestà was carrying a gun. The rifle she is carrying is M1916 Spanish Mauser, manufactured at famous Oviedo factory in Spain for the Spanish Army.

Marina was a member of Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (Socialist Youth), the youth organization mainly directed by Partido Comunista de España (PCE, Communist Party of Spain). As the war broke out, she served as a reporter and a translator assisting Mikhail Koltsov, a correspondent of the Soviet newspaper Pravda.

Despite her initial involvement she quickly grew disillusioned with the path that the Stalinists were taking. Marina remained a militant throughout the rest of the war and was drawn to other groups at that time such as the anti-Stalinist P.O.U.M (which the famous writer George Orwell was a member of) and the Anarchist C.N.T. Before the end of the war, Ginestà was wounded and evacuated to Montpellier.

Marina Ginesta and her brother, 1936.

Marina did not knew about the photo until 2006, although the iconic image was printed and circulated everywhere, serving as cover for the book “Thirteen Red Roses” by Carlos Fonseca, and was also along with dozens of other photographs in the book “Unpublished images of the Civil War” (2002). She was identified by Garcia Bilbao who read the memoirs of Soviet correspondent of Pravda Mikhail Koltsov, with whom the young girl appears in another photo. Garcia Bilbao found that Jinesta Marina, with J, which was identified by Guzman in the caption was actually Marina Ginesta, an exile who lived in Paris translating French texts.

Marina Ginesta in 2008 with two copies of the photographs of her taken during the Spanish Civil War.

Marina Ginesta, the iconic girl of the Spanish Civil War, died January 6, 2014 in Paris, aged 94.

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