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“Miss Spain in Exile”

Isa Reyes’ Escape from the Spanish Civil War

Dorian L. (Dusty) Nicol is a geologist, who lives in California when he is not in far-off corners of the world exploring for gold and other metals. Dusty spent much of his childhood and working life in Spain and has long been fascinated by the events of the Spanish Civil War, the defining impact that these events had on his family, and on their relationship to the broader history of Europe in the 20th century. This is his first book.

On the day in 1936 that Franco invaded Spain, a fifteen-year-old girl from Madrid was on vacation in the Sierra de Gredos, a mountain range popular for hikers. Isa (Conchita) Reyes fled Spain for Paris with her mother and sister, taking only what they could carry in their suitcases. Her father stayed behind to fight on the Loyalist side. It was not long before the last piece of jewelry had been sold, and ways had to be found to make a living.

Working as a model, she was “discovered” and given the stage name ‘Isa’. A renowned Flamenco dancer, she performed in Paris and in the capitals and resorts of Europe. In 1938 she was crowned “Miss Spain in Exile”. In Venice, she was courted by Count Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law, and used an imaginative lie to avoid his affections. In Berlin, in 1939, she performed (unwillingly) at Hitler’s fiftieth birthday celebrations organized by Joseph Goebbels. Later in the year, whilst on a dancing tour in Athens, she met the man she would marry – my father. Together, they escaped Europe for the New World.

This is Isa’s story, from the nightclubs and ateliers of Paris, to the performance halls of Europe, to the harrowing inspections by the Gestapo while transiting Germany. This is a story of a young girl who had to grow up quickly when war turned her world upside down. Isa fulfilled her dream of becoming a dancer, albeit in ways she could not have imagined when growing up. Her story is told against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War and Europe's inexorable march to conflict. Isa never lost her optimism or her sense of humor. Her dream came true, but the circumstances were tragic and tumultuous.

Published in association with the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies and the International Brigade Memorial Trust

Canada Blanch

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78976-086-6
Paperback Price: £24.95 / $34.95
Release Date: February 2021
Page Extent / Format: 240 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes



Prologue by Sir Paul Preston CBE



Chapter 1         A Village in the High Sierra

Chapter 2         The Burning Fields

Chapter 3         The Airbase at Sariñena

Chapter 4         Crossing the Pyrenees and Becoming Isa

Chapter 5         Three Painters

Chapter 6         The Duchess' Palace

Chapter 7         On the French Riviera

Chapter 8         In Poland

Chapter 9         Miss Spain

Chapter 10        Sharing a Hotel with the Russians

Chapter 11        The Miss Europe Contest

Chapter 12        A Christmas Holiday

Chapter 13        Father is Alive!

Chapter 14        Two Weeks in Venice

Chapter 15        Berlin

Chapter 16        A Trip to Greece

Chapter 17        The New World



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