The saying was used during the miners strike in Asturias, Spain, in 1934 by Dolores Ibárruri.
Dolores Ibárruri, known as ‘la Pasionaria’ (‘the Passionflower’ in English) was a Spanish Republican fighter during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). La Pasionaria, born in a family of miners, became a Communist Spanish Party Member (PCE) publishing articles in the ‘Mundo Obrero’ based in Madrid. Her dreams to teach and share knowledge, led her to Madrid to become the honorary president of the PCE, a post she held for the rest of her life.
Her political discourses led to various periods of imprisonments, which only motivated her further. In 1933, la Pasionaria created the most important feminist group of her time. Her powerful messages converted her into a symbol of Republican resistance and her famous ‘¡No pasarán!’ (‘They shall not pass!’) was a declaration of intentions. With the defeat of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, Dolores Ibárruri was forced to abandon Spain in 1939 for the URSS, where she continued to fight for antifascism. Her return to Spain in 1977 was celebrated, Ana Belén released a song called ‘Veremos a Dolores’ (‘We will see Dolores’), which commemorated the return of la Pasionaria. She returned to her post as the president of the PCE and was elected deputy for Asturias in the first democratic elections after the Franco dictatorship.
La Pasionaria, a symbol of the Second Republic and the anti-fascist struggle, died on November 12, 1989 in Madrid at the age of 93. She served as an inspiration to artist Arthur Dooley, who raised money to construct a monument of Dolores Ibarruri. The monument shows Ibarruri in a long dress, standing with legs apart and arms raised. On the plinth of the statue, Dolores’ famous slogan is carved in stone ‘it is better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees’.