viernes, 1 de mayo de 2009

ROBERT CAPA IN CERRO MURIANO: THE DAY IN WHICH REALITY SURPASSED IMAGINATION (3rd Part)

Capa and Gerda Taro in the Old Foundry and Washeries complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd at Cerro Muriano on September 5th 1936

Text and Indicated Pictures: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA

Photo: ROBERT CAPA Copyright By Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos

Photo: ROBERT CAPA Copyright By Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos

73 years after the events which took place on September 5th and 6th 1936 during the battle in Cerro Muriano area and its surroundings (Córdoba Province), it can be stated without any doubt that these two pictures: one (the most known) in which a Republican militiaman with helmet looking at the horizon is holding a rifle and his bayonet is hanging on his left side while Gerda Taro is behind him looking anxiously at the sky and a second one in which the same militiaman is looking at the horizon touching his chin with his left hand while Gerda Taro is behind him crouched, highly fidgety and also looking at the horizon, were undoubtedly made by Robert Capa on September 5th 1936 in the Old Foundry and Washeries complex of Copper Company Ltd, a great plant for copper treatment and melting located in the east outskirts of Cerro Muriano village and confirms even more that Capa and Gerda Taro were fraternizing and making pictures of Republican soldiers and officers in Cerro de La Coja, Piedra Horadada and the Old Foundry and Washeries complex of the Córdoba Copper Company (the two latter being very strategic points of access to Cerro Muriano village from east direction) that day.

The impressive Old Foundry and Washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd
monumental complex in the east outskirts of Cerro Muriano.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Another view of the Old Foundry and Washeries monumental complex of the Córdoba
Copper Company Ltd.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

There have been from mid nineties a lot of testimonies by Cerro Muriano old men who were little children then and some descendants of other already demised, reporting that the soldiers of Tabor of Regulares under the command of colonel Sáenz of Buruaga arrived at the Cerro de La Coja area early in the morning of September 5th 1936. As explained by elrectanguloenlamano in Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano (1st Part), the bulk of this Tabor of Regulares column went on its march to attack the abundant Republican forces in Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles hills, while a group of selected snipers of the feared Moroccan Tabor of Regulares were left hidden near Cerro de La Coja to fix at all costs the Republican troops located on this little hill on the east of Cerro Muriano village (and also to fix the also numerous militiamen defending the stretch of the Camino de Los Pañeros by Piedra Horadada and the Old Foundry and Washeries complex of the Córdoba Copper Company full of Republican soldiers who had the advantage of the foundry big and robust walls to protect themselves and the further benefit of some companion militiamen lying on top of the foundry strong structures aiming with their rifles at the Camino de Los Pañeros from some vantage elevated points).

A clear example of original even wide robust surface area which has been largely
torn out.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The grass covers a considerable percentage of the original strong terraced structures of the
Old Foundry and Washeries monumental complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd,
made with a mixed technique of red brick, rubble and greyish coal dust thick covering.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The situation of this little contingent of Tabor of Regulares snipers will be very delicate during the whole September 5th 1936, because from the very instant of their arrival, its number of soldiers, though very experienced and featuring a tremendous accuracy with their Mauser 7 x 97 mm high velocity caliber rifles, is clearly inferior to the many militiamen defending this area, and besides, the bulk of the Tabor will have to fight hardly, surrounded by Republican forces during its march to Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles hills, without being able to fulfill the encircling manoeuver from the east until late in the evening that day.

A clear example of original even wide robust surface area which has been largely
torn out.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Id est, the real and most important battle front is much more on the left of the triangle constituted by the Old Foundry and Washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd, Piedra Horadada and the stretch of Camino de Los Pañeros near it, and Cerro de La Coja, so the mission of the contingent of selected tabor of Regulares snipers left here by Colonel Sáenz of Buruaga approximately at 9:00 h in the morning is to avoid any movement of Republican forces who could fall on the back of the bulk of the Tabor of Regulares marching much more to the left, with southwards direction towards Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles hills (see map of the area in elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com/2008/08/robert-capa-in-cerro-muriano-day-in.html) to coordinatethe attack with the other two fascist columns under the command of General Varela and Commander Sagrado, because if this happens, the bulk of the Tabor could be annihilated.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

On their turn, obviously, the position of the Tabor of Regulares snipers is very precarious and risky, because if the Republican militiamen defending the old foundry and washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd and Piedra Horadada decide to make an onslaught against them running down the slope of Camino de Los Pañeros, chances are that the selected Moroccan snipers will be overwhelmed.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

But in the same way as happened during General Miaja attack on Cordoba on August 20th 1936, the far superior combat experience and much higher accuracy in long distance shots of Tabor of Regulares soldiers using their 7 x 57 mm Mauser rifles and the fear it inspires, proves to be decisive and the Moroccan snipers show themselves fleetingly in wisely chosen moments, at secure distances, in order to make the Republican officers and militiamen think that their numbers are higher than they really are.

A section of the Old Foundry and Washeries monumental complex of the Córdoba Copper
Company Ltd, showing the great size and thickness of its strong walls and pillars made with
a mixed technique using red bricks, rubble and a covering of greyish coal dust.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Another section of the Old Foundry and Washeries monumental complex of the Córdoba
Copper Company Ltd, with the Camino de Los Pañeros and Piedra Horadada in the
background.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The presence of the white turbans, though in the distance, is psychologically devastating, and many of the Republican militiamen and officers know how professional, ruthless, disciplined and experienced these Moroccan troops of the Army of Africa are. Besides, they can´t know exactly their real figures and if they´re going to attack the village of Cerro Muriano. They don´t know that these Moroccan snipers have orders to wait here and not to attack until they receive the go ahead once Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas hills have been conquered, something which will not happen till approximately 22:00 h in the night of this September 5th 1936. After this, the bulk of the Tabor will join them again to assault the Camino de Los Pañeros stretch by Piedra Horadada, the old foundry and washeries complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd and falling with fire and sword on Cerro Muriano village going up the rest of the Camino de Los Pañeros in east-west direction. But this won´t happen until the dawn of September 6th 1936, and the little contingents of Tabor of Regulares men in the surroundings of Cerro de La Coja, Piedra Horadada, the old foundry and washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd and Cerro Muriano village organize only very little skirmishes to show themselves and provoke fear in the Republican militiamen defending those places, striving for fixing them in their positions.

Even Franz Borkenau reported in his book The Spanish Cockpit in 1937, that in spite of some exchange of fire and even some use of artillery by the little contingent of Tabor soldiers in the surroundings of Cerro Muriano, it was very strange for him to realize that the Moroccan Tabor
of Regulares men didn´t try to capture the village of Cerro Muriano during the whole September
5th 1936, when it was clear that they could have made it.

The reason for it was that the officers and soldiers of the Tabor of Regulares had a great combat
experience and discipline, along with deep knowledge of tactics and maneuverability in combat and they had received orders to stay in their positions fixing as many Republican units as possible aware about them until the conquest of Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas hills by the columns of General Varela, Commander Sagrado and the third one with the bulk of the Tabor of Regulares under the command of the colonel Sáenz of Buruaga, and they don´t want to take unnecessary risks trying to capture Cerro Muriano village, because their most important mission is to avoid the transfer of Republican troops from Cerro de La Coja, Piedra Horadada, the old foundry and washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd and Cerro Muriano Village to Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles hills in support of the Republican forces which are already being attacked there.

Besides, these little contingents Tabor men know that there are also significant numbers of Republican forces in Obejo Train Station (5 km from Cerro Muriano) and El Vacar (23 km from Cerro Muriano) who could arrive for helping the Republican militiamen defending Cerro Muriano village and its immediate surrounding, and they could be even more isolated and in great jeopardy, because the vast majority of fascist troops are fighting in Torreárboles and Las
Malagueñas hills until the beginning of the night of September 5th 1936, and they wouldn´t be
able to receive their help if necessary.

That´s why they decide to wait following the received orders, but at the same time exerting pressure on the Republican defenders, faking that they will try to capture Cerro Muriano Village on September 5th 1936 and fixing the militiamen there and in its nearest surroundings, specially in the east access area, where the following day, in the dawn of September 6th 1936 the bulk of the Tabor will unleash a fierce onslaught through Camino de Los Pañeros stretch by Piedra Horadada and the old foundry and washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd, falling on Cerro Muriano village and capturing the village with the supporting of the other two columns of Varela and Sagrado attacking from different angles.

Another image showing the considerable deterioration in some areas of the Old
Foundry and Washeries monumental complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd.
In any case, from a global viewpoint, the complex is very well preserved thanks to the use of the quoted mixed technique with first
class materials and able to endure a lot of decades.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Stairs of access (made with red brick, rubble and a thick covering of greyish coal dust)
to one of the upper zones of the Old Foundry and Washeries

monumental complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd. Robert Capa and Gerda
Taro walked upstairs and downstairs these steps on September 5th 1936. The damage
on the left side of the vertical wall is visible, with a lot of big dents and bricks in the open air (in the same way as on the steps), while a great percentage of the steps has been covered with grass with the elapse of time.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

This way, during the whole September 5th 1936, regarding Cerro Muriano village, a kind of stalemate takes place. The loyal Republican officers prefer to be prudent, keeping the militiamen ready for the defense on their posts in the old foundry and washeries complex of the Copper Company Ltd, in the stretch of Camino de Los Pañeros by Piedra Horadada and in the Cerro de La Coja little hill.

Coming back to the two pictures made by Capa of the militiaman with Gerda Taro behind him,
in my viewpoint both photos are a great graphic document reflecting the climax of tension and
fear to die reigning supreme at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

The same stairs of the previous picture seen from top. We can see some naked
bricks on the wall and great gaps of broken rubble, together with the almost utter
loosening of the greyish thick covering of coal dust.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

As always, Capa strives after getting an image conveying what war really is. Probably the Republican militiaman, Gerda Taro, Capa and many other militiamen around them (out of
image) defending the old foundry and washeries of the Copper Company Ltd, are hearing the
roar of shells, mortars and rifle shots coming from Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas hills where the main battle front is at that moment.

Another image of the stairs and its steps (made with red brick, rubble and a thick covering of greyish coal dust) taken from its low part.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

There´s a significant difference between the relatively quiet attitude of the militiaman and the nervous and anxious Gerda Taro who is crouched and looking at a point in the distance very attentively in the first of the picture and very anxiously at the sky in the second one.

A view from top of some washeries of mineral in a zone of the Old Foundry and
Washeries monumental complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd, encompassing
some of its terraced structured built with a mixed technique of red brick, rubble and a thick covering of greyish coal dust. In the background appears the Camino de Los Pañeros
which following left direction leads to Cerro Muriano village.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

I have no doubt that both photographs are taken at a moment in which everybody in the old foundry of Copper Company Ltd has been for some minutes or even a few hours aware about the presence of Tabor of Regulares soldiers in the surroundings, not far from them, and having been able to watch the feared white turbans in the distance.

Lateral view from top of the same washeries in a zone of the Old Foundry and Washeries
monumental complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd. The lavishness of vegetation is
remarkable, together with the force of nature which has brought about the growing up of
different plants and grass through bricks and rubble.

In the background we can see the slope of the Camino de Los Pañeros which some
hundred meters upwards goes into Cerro Muriano village, the key of the north Sierra of
Córdoba as wisely stated by Francisco Moreno Gómez in the great documentary
film ´Heroes Never Die´.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Perhaps Gerda Taro, a woman who played an important role photographically covering the events of this September 5th 1936 (as proved by the extraordinary exhibition This is War! Robert Capa at Work held till now in New York, the Barbican Center in London, Milan and also in Barcelona between next July and September 2009 months in which together with Capa´s pictures including the absolutely decisive of the second militiaman shot dead on the land confirming that two deaths were true and there wasn´t any trick, the eight photographs taken in
Cerro Muriano by Gerda Taro unknown till now will be also displayed in the great parallel exhibition Gerda Taro: A Retrospective), is grabbing her 778 gr standard Rolleiflex 6 x 6 cm
K2 Model 622 medium format camera with Compur Shutter Rapid 1-1/500 sec Carl Zeiss Jena
Tessar 7,5 cm f/3.8 taking lens and Heidoscop Anastigmat 7,5 cm f/3.1 finder lens featuring a filter size of 24 mm, but it is difficult to ascertain it watching both pictures.

Another spot of the Old Foundry and Washeries monumental complex of the Córdoba
Copper Company Ltd overcrowded with grass and vegetation. Once more, deterioration
has left bricks visible in large areas of the two big square blocks appearing in the lower
middle and left of the image being around 2 meters high, on which also great areas of the grayish covering of coal dust have dispappeared.Likewise, the original greyish coal dust covering
on the big wall appearing on the right of the image has completely loosened through the ninety
years elapsed since this complex stopped its production activity in 1919. Notwithstanding,
in 1936, this greyish coal dust layer covering the rubble and red bricks under it did exist completely.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Lateral view of the biggest walls of the Old Foundry and Washeries monumental complex of
the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd. Practically the whole grayish coal dust covering has
loosened through time, revealing the rubble under it and even some patches of red bricks on its top middle area. A lot of Republican militiamen died defending this complex at dawn of September 6th 1936 when the Tabors of Regulares men launched a tremendous onslaught through Piedra Horadada and the Old Foundry and Washeries, going up the Camino de Los Pañeros and capturing Cerro Muriano village in a fierce assault by fire and sword.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Richard Whelan and Irme Schaber (Gerda Taro´s biographer and coeditor with Richard Whelan and Christen Lubben of the great book ´Gerda Taro´ edited by Steidl, apart from having organized with Richard Whelan the impressive exhibition of the International Center of Photography of New York on Gerda Taro between September 26th 2007 and January 6th 2008, which was the first major exhibition of Gerda Taro´s work, curated by Irme Schaber and Kristen Lubben, including around 200 vintage prints and original negatives) were right: the eight 2 1/4 inches negatives were made by Gerda Taro in Cerro Muriano area on September 5th 1936 and the verification now that the two pictures in which appear a Republican militiaman and Gerda Taro behind him were made in the old Foundry and washeries monumental complex of the Copper Company Ltd by Robert Capa on September 5th 1936, fosters even more that truth together with the very high probability that the famous photograph of the Falling Soldier was taken in the Cerro de La Coja.

Detail of original strong sloping surface area, made with a mixed technique of red brick, rubble
and a thick covering of greyish coal dust. It is in good condition, but utterly covered with grass after the elapse of many decades.

The big wall occupying approximately two thirds of the image has lost the original coal
dust thick covering and now only the rubble is visible and sometimes the red bricks in specific areas.

In 1936, the original coal dust thick covering of the wall did exist completely.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Detail of original strong sloping surface area, made with a mixed technique of red brick, rubble
and a thick covering of greyish coal dust. It is in good condition, but utterly covered with grass after the elapse of many decades.

The big wall occupying approximately two thirds of the image has lost the original coal
dust thick covering and now only the rubble is visible and sometimes the red bricks in specific areas.

In 1936, the original coal dust thick covering of the wall did exist completely.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The Republican militiaman appearing with Gerda Taro behind him in both pictures, has probably some combat experience and he appears calmly enough bearing in mind the circumstances. In the picture in which the militiaman is without his Mauser rifle, Gerda Taro, a very brave 26 year old woman feeling the passion for photography and featuring great intuition, detects the danger in the distance with more intensity than the Republican soldier. She is watching something which turns her highly disturbed while being crouched and looking through the right of the militiaman.

But in the second picture with the militiaman grabbing his Mauser 7 x 57 mm high velocity caliber rifle, taken with some time interval regarding the other one, a new factor enters into scene: a Breguet XIX fascist basic bomber aircraft which has taken off from the old grass Electromecánica airdrome on the west outskirts of the city of Córdoba is flying now over the old foundry of Copper Company Ltd, going towards Cerro Muriano village to drop some 50 kg bombs or maybe in reconnaissance mission trying to pinpoint the Republican defensive points and gathering of troops.

A vertical wider coverage picture of the same strong sloping surface area made with a mixed
technique of red brick, rubble and coal dust. It is currently in good condition, but completely
covered by grass after the elapse of ninety years.

The big wall occupying approximately two thirds of the image has lost the original
thick covering of coal dust and now only the rubble under it is visible and sometimes the red
bricks in specific areas, as can be seen on middle top of the picture.

In 1936 the original thick covering of coal dust did exist completely.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The Republican militiaman on the left of the photograph remains apparently serene, because he knows that Capa is making the picture, but Gerda Taro knows what the Breguet XIX is going to make and it provokes her shock and anguish, together with the possibility that the plane drops bombs on the old foundry and washeries complex where they are. Probably, Gerda Taro, the militiaman appearing in the picture and the rest of militiamen around them located now in this monumental complex sporting terraced architecture, have been some hours watching different rebel aircraft fly over them to attack Cerro Muriano and have heard the noise of the bombs exploding, apart from bombs dropped by four insurgent aircraft over Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas which supported the rebel attack of the two columns under the command of General Varela and Commander Sagrado against the Republican forces defending both hills located in the southwest of Cerro Muriano.

The same original strong sloping big surface utterly covered by grass seen from
the left end of the wall. On the middle right of the picture it can be watched the impressive
strength of the mixed technique used to build the different terraced structures of this
complex: just under the grass the rubble is visible, and the hidden red brick is under it as
base material of the mixture, while some remnants of the original coal dust thick covering
can be watched below.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

A wider image of the same original strong sloping big surface area currently covered by
grass.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

This wouldn´t be the last fascist Breguet XIX aircraft seen by Capa and Taro this day, because on September 5th 1936 there were more than twenty rebel sorties of bombing and reconnaissance against Cerro Muriano village, Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas, they all with planes based on the Electromecánica grass airdrome on Córdoba city west outskirts.

In any case, the merit of the pinpointing of the Old Foundry and Washeries Complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd as the exact location where Capa makes these two pictures of the Republican militiaman and Gerda Taro behind him, is not mine.

A panoramic picture of the biggest and highest walls of the Old Foundry and Washeries
monumental complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd.
Once more, it can be observed how the original greyish coal dust thick covering has
loosened through so much time gone by and now only the rubble and sometimes bricks are
visible (an example of the latter being the top middle area of the walls).

In 1936 the original greyish coal dust thick covering of the walls did exist completely.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The historical merit corresponds to Patricio Hidalgo Luque, in my opinion currently the most important expert in the world regarding the Spanish Civil War in Córdoba province, together with Francisco Moreno Gómez, the driving force of ´ Heroes Never Die´, directed by Jan Arnold and in my viewpoint with difference the best documentary film made in the world till now on the events which took place in Cerro Muriano area on September 5th 1936 with Robert Capa and Gerda Taro immersed in that war maelstrom.

Some years ago, Patricio Hidalgo Luque was the first to establish the very probable hypothesis that the aforementioned two pictures in which appear a militiaman and Gerda Taro behind him, were made in the Old Foundry and Washeries complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd located in the east outskirsts of Cerro Muriano village (and not in Málaga, Segovia or Guadalajara, which have been the most widespread theories till now) and I deem this discovery features top paramount importance, because it proves even more that Robert Capa and Gerda Taro were -among other places- in the Cerro de La Coja, the old foundry of Ltd Company and Piedra Horadada on September 5th 1936, since the three places are very near each other and were full of Republican militiamen that day.

Rusted very old sign by the grass Airdrome of the Electromecánica of yore,
indicating danger because of the proximity of planes on the right.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

But it was necessary to verify it and this has been really hard. I had to spend two days under a scorching sun between the walls and terraced structures of the Old Foundry and Washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd, searching for possible spots where Capa made the two pictures, something very difficult because of the constant sweating, sweating and sweating, the bad condition of many areas of the place in which the surfaces made with red brick, rubble and a covering of greyish coal dust have been broken through decades since 1936, both due to natural and human made reasons (including the tearing up of large quantities of red brick and rubble, the cutting of a lot of trees, the loosening of the greyish coal dust covering which then covered the monumental terraced different structures of the foundry and washering complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd. and now with the rubble and even patches of bricks visible, and above all the wide range of original surfaces and areas made with a mixture of red brick, rubble and a coal dust covering which the elapse of timehas utterly covered with grass and which made the toil even more strenuous).

Another view of the grass strip of the Old Airdrome of the Electromecánica
with a further oxidized sign just before its beginning.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

It was also necessary to go up and down the Camino de Los Pañeros slope around 20 times to get a lot of water bottles in the nearest bar to avoid dehydration, and some zones of hands, face and forehead were burnt. But it was worth.

On the other hand, also through many decades, there have been doubts about the photographer who made the two pictures quoted in this article. There mustn´t be any doubt in this respect: Robert Capa is the author of these two photographs in which a militiaman and Gerda Taro behind him appear.

The Breguet XIX rebel basic bomber aircraft which Gerda Taro is looking at
overhead in one of the two pictures made by Capa in the Old Foundry and
Washeries monumental complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd., took off from the Old Electromecánica grass airdrome seen in the middle of this picture and currently occupied by cattle.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Text and Colour Photographs inscribed in the Registry of Intellectual Property of Madrid. Copyright Jose Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA

Texto y Fotos en Color inscritas en el Registro Territorial de la Propiedad Intelectual de Madrid. Copyright Jose Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA