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A Spanish Civil War Veteran Remembers

April 1, 2011

Jeronimo Barquero. David Frey photo.

Jerónimo Barquero was not in Teruel when it was being bombed. When nationalist forces seized Teruel, he sneaked from his home disguised as a woman and joined the Loyalist army. He was 16, one of those young faces Orwell saw in Aragon. At 90, he was one of the few civil war veterans still alive when we visited.

“I can’t remember if today is Monday or Saturday,” Barquero said, “but if we start talking about the war, I could write you a book like Don Quixote.

Barquero was in some of the war’s fiercest fighting. Still strong and tough, with a booming voice and white hair covering his head, Barquero has watched fellow combatants die on the battlefield, by fire squad and old age. Walking on the streets of his hometown of Bronchales, just outside Teruel, he pointed to houses where locals had moved out and sold them as summer homes to sweltering Valencians.

Barquero had survived war and capture. He survived a Franco concentration camp to fight with the maquis, the guerrillas who lingered in the mountains hoping the Allies would liberate Spain when they were done freeing France from the Nazis. They never did.

“I was always very lucky,” Barquero said. “Always.”