Archive/Manuel Estevez Barrena

Tags: Rosal Column (CNT) Student Casa de Campo Lieutenant Ebro Offensive WWII Veteran Spanish-American Anarchist Interpreter Catalonia Offensive Brunete Offensive

Researcher: Spencer Klem, Stuyvesant '24

Manuel Estevez Barrena was a Spanish American born to Manuel Sanchez and Sergia Barrena on Oct 18th, 1918 in Plymouth, California. He and his mother moved to what would later be a fascist part of the central zone in 1932 with a Spanish passport, while his father and brother remained in the US. This forced him to be fluent in both Spanish and English, which is what would allow him to enlist as an interpreter later in the war.

When the war broke out, he was still a student, but despite this, he enlisted in the Column Rosal, an anarchist anti-fascist militia set up by the CNT. Most evidence suggests that he is an anarchist, from references in anarchist books to his enlistment in almost exclusively anarchist units, although it isn’t certain. The Column Rosal was later divided into multiple army regiments, one of which was the 60th Mixed Brigade, a racially integrated unit. He was a sergeant in this brigade, and would fight in Casa de Campo (an important site during the Siege of Madrid), where he suffered a minor wound, and the first attack on Teruel, Brunete.

In March 1938, he transferred to the International Brigade as an interpreter, the reason for which is unclear but it is likely due to the devastating defeat the 60th Brigade suffered in the Ebro Offensive. This was lucky for him, as the unit would then be almost completely wiped out in the Catalonian Offensive, and those that hadn’t deserted or been shot escaped to France, where they would then be forced into prison camps. After serving as an interpreter for about 6 months, he then went into Officer Training School (OTS), and was then promoted to a Lieutenant. In 1939, after he left Spain, he was nominated to become a distinguished soldier, along with 20 other members of his unit. However, it was unlikely he received this honor, as he was ranked 20th out of the 20 people and was probably cut due to the sheer number of nominations.

On December 20th, 1938, he left Spain on the ship Ausonia, but his mother would remain in Spain, and live (and presumably die) under Franco’s rule. He likely went to live with his dad and brother in Manhattan, who were staying in a hotel room on West St. as their ‘permanent’ residence, and would shortly after move to New Jersey. He stayed in the US through a Certificate of Identity (which oddly enough he put the hotel room as his address, despite the fact that he wasn’t living in it for long at all), meaning he wasn’t a citizen, which is one of the main reasons as to why there are so few records of him after the war. After the outbreak of WWII, he would go on to fight on the eastern front with the American troops, although the records for his involvement in this event have not been made public yet. He died in Kearney Town, NJ on April 21, 1991.


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