The identity of the young militiawoman on a barricade in Barcelona had been a mystery until an exhibition in Montpellier of long-lost works by its author, Antoni Campañà
By Marc Bassets, June 28, 2023
She was a nameless woman standing on a barricade in Barcelona in 1936, a red-and-black flag framed behind her. Her image was printed on posters and books, murals were painted of her, and she became an icon of the Spanish Civil War. Her identity was unknown, as was that of the photographer. Five years ago, the first enigma was solved: the photographer was Antoni Campañà, a recognized name but a minor one in the history of local photography. She remained anonymous: an almost abstract idea — of the Civil War, of anarchism, of revolution — rather than a flesh-and-blood person. Until now.
Because the anarchist militiawoman had a name and a life. She was born in Almería in 1915. As a child her parents moved to Barcelona. She was 21 years old at the time the photograph was taken. She may have been pregnant in the image. When the war ended, Franco’s Nationalists victorious, she crossed the border with her sisters during the Republican exodus of 1939 and ended up in Béziers, 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the French-Spanish border. She was a dressmaker. She never set foot in her homeland again, but her home was always a small Spain: the laughter, the songs, the food. She died in 1977.
Her name was Ana Garbín Alonso, and she was mother to Pepito and aunt to Alain and François. One midday in mid-June, in a conversation with EL PAÍS, these three very French, and at the same time very Spanish, retirees dug up memories of “mom,” “Aunt Anita” and her sisters — the mothers of Alain and François — while eating tortilla in the garden of the home shared by François and his wife, Liliana, in Sérignan, near Béziers. “She was very pretty, but one’s mother is always the prettiest,” smiled Pepito Lumbreras Garbín, the son of the militiawoman and José Lumbreras, a Spanish communist who fought in the Resistance. “She was nice and jovial, she liked to sing, to spend time with her friends and family.”