Capa and Gerda Taro in Las Malagueñas Hill on
September 5th 1936
September 5th 1936
By José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA
Though the famous picture of the Falling Soldier was not made in Las Malagueñas hill area and it was not made in the afternoon but between 9:30 and 10:30 h in the morning of September 5th 1936 in the Cerro de La Coja, located in the east outskirts of Cerro Muriano village, there´s a very interesting article in which the Spanish journalist Clemente Cimorra describes in the Madrid La Voz newspaper edition of September 8th 1936 his encounter with Robert Capa and Gerda Taro in Las Malagueñas hill on September 5th 1936 and shown here translated from the original full text in Spanish:
Report on the March of the action in Cerro Muriano
List of honour of combatants, episodes of the fight and
praise of a French marriage of journalists.
List of honour of combatants, episodes of the fight and
praise of a French marriage of journalists.
SHOTS IN THE STORM
In my last chronicle, which I don´t know whether it will arrive or when it will arrive at the newspaper, I wrote at six o´clock in the morning that, because of the features of the enemy fire, a hard day was foreseeable.
And it has been the going out, the breaking of the Cordovan siege through one of its sides, previously chosen the most defenseless place regarding the foresight of our troops.
At night they have crawled through the gulchies - the eternal tactics of the Moors -and they have appeared before the sun being high.
In a moment, the whole area of the mount has been ravagely fired with lights and shots.
On being the least sheltered hills, we´re bound to quickly organize the force. The attack is a thorough combined onslaught of aviation, intense big caliber ordnance and heavy rifle volleys.
As always happens in these cases, the instant in which only the reduced zone surrounding us -and not the global of the operation-, arrives soon. Major Bernal personally attends to the combats.
In the scale of enthusiasms there is every tone, from the greatest to the tiniest one. We must highlight the good ones - whom we see by us - so as to be fair and as a warning to the mediocre ones.
The first cheers for the Spanish Republic to infuse courage tension resound inside the throat of Francisco González, a simple private of the workers section of Graphic Arts in the War Ministry of Tenerife and now on duty with the Escort of the Republican Military Staff. With his face transfigured with harangue and thrust, he runs down the slope leaping over the dwarf oaks and dribbling the pines. We advance followed by a group of soldiers ready to defend the hill from further danger.
With the foe rifle muzzles right here, on this little hill in front of us, we protect a machine gun position.
A specially worthy soldier among the Republican military men, the number 34 infantry sergeant first class Julián Contreras Claros, who was already promoted because of merits in the action of Puente Mocho, sweaty, panting, directs the movements of our litle troop to advance with the machines.
Only the one being, though for a short time, by this man, can attest to how valuable is the management of a soldier in command when he puts on it all of his courage, stamina, manliness and love for what he´s defending.
I´m next to him, and following his instructions I place myself behind a strategic oak. Its trunk, wrinkled and veteran of scars, doesn´t cover my whole body. Sometimes I´d wish to be thin as a bad stick.
There´s a good handful of Republican militiamen near me. As well as looking for the dangerous place, they don´t change even slightly when they arrive at it.
Crouched on the same top peak, under a steady whistle of stainless-steel, Rafael Miralles, this good old man of the F.A.I is indeed among the most firm. A bit farther are Enrique Bañó and Felipe Colomé, respectively chief and assistant chief of militias, taking responsabilities on their own right.
In the din of battle, this kind of enumeration, perhaps resembling a bit some kind of society echoes, will seem absurd. But, under my word of honour that it can be made within an instant interval when one is trully physically here. Let´s mention likewise lieutenant Roig, sergeant La Cruz and captain la Romana.
And only the very good ones moving before my eyes defile in these notes.
The leaves beards of the oak - the good oak - protecting me are being scraped by bullets over my head. With a moan, they have torn the poor tree a branch apart.
We can see a row of Regulares Moroccan soldiers running on a ravine in front of us.
During a short calming of the shots, I bid farewell to these people and go more upwards to get news in the epicenter and headquarters of the scattered force.
The rifle barrel is burning to such an extent that it can´t be squeezed with one´s hand. On climbing up the short steep inclines, bullets speak their whistle language and pierce the mount eardrums. The dum-dum bullets metalize their impacts. Sure enough, this is a shooting exchange. The recollection of my times in Africa dwindles. Voices, running soldiers. Uproar, clangor and sweat.
" VU " and " REGARDS "
On arriving at the House of " La Malagueña ", two almost childlike youngsters - both she and he - , draw my attention. Unarmed, without any further object between their hands than their photographic cameras, showing no fear, they spy the movements of an aircraftwhich flutters vertically, disquietingly over their heads.
I address to them. A self-introduction amid the strife noises:
Robert Capa, from "Vu", journalist ...
- Gerda Pohorylle, from "Regards" ...
- Clemente Cimorra, I think that something like envoy from LA VOZ ... Currently, a dirty man, full of dust and yearning for our aviation ...
Believe me, this topic of the journalistic boldness is not myth or hyperbole. The two French youths I´m going with now want and manage to do the film of both the movie and the piece of information in the very flame of the event.
Next to me, they face the most struck by bullets places, and pledging themselves with a forward!, with which husband and wife encourage each other, they´d wish to photograph the steeled scowl of the enemy rifles. It´s the naive pluck of the unselfish youth looking for the document. Besides, gauche people, which is the interesting thing.
* * *
The nightfall brings about the shooting decrease in a lot of areas. At night we rest with ourmouths thoroughly dried and the bodies perspired ...
An effective performance of our aviation is expected tomorrow ...
And combats will go on in a harsh way. Although a lot of mean people from many European
countries want to support the most rotten of Spain ...
Muriano, September 6th 1936.
This article written by Clemente Cimorra is very important, because it proves without any doubt that Robert Capa and Gerda Taro (apart from having been in the morning of September 5th 1936 in Cerro de La Coja, Piedra Horadada, the old foundry and washeries complex of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd; approximately between 13:00h and 14:30 in the south area of Cerro Muriano village near the level crossing, making pictures of refugees fleeing from the cortijos near Torreárboles -who was being attacked by General Varela´s column-; in the afternoon at approximately 15:00 h inside Cerro Muriano village making the picture of a woman on a donkey with two children, while a little girl appears by them, walking and eating something on the lower right area of the frame; and between approximately 15:30 and 18:00 h making photographs of refugees -mainly women, old men and children fleeing from the bombs dropped by fascist aircraft on Cerro Muriano village- escaping with northeast direction towards Obejo Train Station and El Vacar) were in Las Malagueñas hill approximately between 18:30 and 21:30 h of September 5th 1936 (coming back to this knoll about 2.5 km southwards from Cerro Muriano village after taking the pictures of refugees between around 15:30 and 17:30 h, instead of escaping from El Vacar in north direction as was widely thought till now).
© José Manuel Serrano Esparza
The bulk of the Tabor of Regulares had reached the surroundings of Cerro de la Coja and the Foundries and Washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company at approximately 9:00 h in the morning of September 5, 1936, and around 1:00 h they tried to accomplish the encircling manoeuvre going up through the ravines which give to the lower area of Las malagueñas hill, a moment in which the anarchist militiamen from Alcoy belonging to CNT and FAI attaked them to avoid that penetration way, so coronel Sáenz of Buruaga´s Tabors of Regulares were bound to stay on their posts in defensive positions without being able to encircle until well advanced the evening of that day.
It is very important to understand that the adavcned post command of the Republican forces in Cerro Muriano area (encompassing the village of Cerro Muriano, Cerro de La Coja, Piedra Horadada, the old foundry and washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd., Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles) was in the so-called Casa de Las Malagueñas, which was on top of the Las Malagueñas hill, approximately 2,5 km in south direction from Cerro Muriano village, and during September 5th 1936 day, the Republican High Command including majors Juan Bernal Segura (commander-in-chief of the sector), Armentia (in command of the Republican artillery), Balibrea and Aviraneta was there, so this was a top paramount importance target for the Francoist troops.
This "Casa de Las Malagueñas" was a beautiful mansionlike elegant country house which was on top of the Las Malagueñas hill from mid twenties, when two wealthy ladies from Málaga city bought the terrains subsequently building it, and some decades after the Spanish Civil War it became a military transmission center property of the Spanish Army very popular and known for Cerro Muriano and Obejo inhabitants which frequently visited the place until approximately 2003, though from 2004 it was isolated with a surrounding security zone fenced with barbed wire in order to preserve the safety of a big radio station tower located at an altitude of 589 m, 4º 45´ 48,32º W and 37º 59´ 28,7º N supplying hertzian links between the military base of Cerro Muriano village and Las Malagueñas hill, so from the end of 2004, because of security reasons, entrance is forbidden.
On the other hand, two years ago I was reported by some inhabitants of Cerro Muriano Village that the quoted "Casa de Las Malagueñas" -which I could see different times in late nineties- was regrettably demolished and it´s not possible to watch it any more, a real pity, because in my viewpoint, albeit it had been in not very good condition for some decades, apart from its remarkable beauty observable from the distance, its peculiar architecture, its inner rooms and windows and the superb views to the countryside from its interior, it had great historical value.
Coming back to this La Voz report made by Clemente Cimorra -an experienced writer regarding war action- from Las Malagueñas hill, though the article is signed as Muriano, September 6th 1936, it is clear that he refers to fight which has happened during the whole day of September 5th 1936, beginning with a rough description of the previous context which he has probably learnt asking some Republican officers, because Clemente Cimorra (having departed from Madrid) arrived by car at Cerro Muriano area very early in the morning of September 5th 1936 coming from Montoro (a village being at a distance of 46 km from the city of Córdoba) where was the headquarters of Republican General Miaja.
Therefore, when writing ´And it has been the going out, the breaking of the Cordovan siege through one of its sides, previously chosen the most defenseless place regarding the foresight of our troops ´, Clemente Cimorra indicates that until almost the very September 5th 1936, the Republican forces were besieging Córdoba city (General Miaja´s troops were really about to capture the city on August 20th 1936, though the performance of the Tabor of Regulares men under the command of General Varela and the rebel artillery in Puente Mocho area thwarted the Republican attack), and now on September 5th 1936, the fascist troops have broken that siege (the abundant Republican forces in Cerro Muriano village area, Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles hills were a very serious menace to the city of Córdoba in rebel hands and were a kind of siege to practical effects with the further possibility of more attacks of Republican troops against the capital of the High Guadalquivir) and the three fascist columns under the command of General Varela, major Sagrado and coronel Sáenz of Buruaga are already attacking the Republican forces in Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles from first hours in the morning of September 5th 1936, being clear that the final target for them is the capture of Cerro Muriano village.
© Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Within the right fascist column under the command of colonel Sáenz of Buruaga there were also the Cádiz Battalion nº 33, a company of Guardia Civil and two sections of the mixed company of engineers, but undoubtedly the very difficult attack against an elevated and very well defended point like Las Malagueñas hill (apart from 692 m high Torreárboles hill, which was being assaulted from first hour in the morning by the left rebel column made up by legionnaires under the command of major Sagrado) makes that the main effort of the fascist assault has to be fulfilled by the Tabor of Regulares of Melilla (except one section), the Squadron of Regulares of Ceuta nº 3 on foot, and the Squadron of Regulares of Alhucemas on foot (the last two under the command of major Gerardo Figuerola), whose performance will be absolutely essential to capture Las Malagueñas hill after a very hardly struggled fight which lasted practically the whole day.
Besides, Clemente Cimorra reports that major Bernal takes part personally in the operations. This is a very important piece of information regarding the decisive significance of the combats
taking place for Las Malagueñas hill for aproximately twelve hours during the whole September 5th 1936 until the last stronghold of the hill, the "Casa de Las Malagueñas" headquarters of the Republican forces, is finally captured by the bulk of Tabor of Regulares men around 22:00 hin the night (a lot of Republican militiamen and officers being killed during the aforementioned 12 hours of bloody combats, though many others could escape with the whole Republican staff, Clemente Cimorra, Robert Capa and Gerda Taro being amongst them as we´ll see later) because Major Juan Bernal Segura is the highest military Republican authority in the area.
On the other hand, the names of Rafael Miralles, Enrique Vaño and Felipe Colomé are also mentioned in this Madrid La Voz newspaper article, which is very meaningful to realize the abundant presence and importance of anarchist troops in the battle: Rafael Miralles was an old anarchist activist of the F.A.I (Iberian Anarchist Federation) who had been preconizing the armed revolution since the second half of 1890 decade, the sindicalist Enrique Vañó Nicomedes ( General Secretary, activist and libertarian ideologist of the CNT local federation of Alcoy, chief of the anarchist column who went to Cerro Muriano from Pedro Abad on August 9, 1936, and executed in Alcoy on August 29, 1936 by a Francoist firing squad), while Felipe Colomé was the assistant chief.
It´s very important to understand that in 1936, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the Anarchist militias of the F.A.I (Iberian Anarchist Federation) and C.N.T (Workers National Confederation) had gained great power after their decisive role in the crushing of the military rebellion in a lot of important capitals of Spain, among them Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona, and during this first year of conflict, the Republican Army was essentially an anarchic conglomerate of armed militias, composed of men volunteering to fight and ready to risk their lives defending their ideals, something which fascinated both Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, who had already had the chance of breathing that atmosphere before Cerro Muriano, above all in Barcelona and Aragon Front.
Clemente Cimorra also expresses his amazement on watching the fierce resistance and bravery exhibited in the combat by loyalist officers and specially civil militiamen faced to Tabor of Regulares men, at this moment in 1936 the best infantry in the world together with the legionnaries, very professional troops, highly disciplined, not fearing the death and featuring many years of combat experience in Africa, and for whom evidently civilian militiamen coming from different occupations (plumbers, cobblers, electricians, masons, sellers and all kind of workers generally speaking) were no match.
This is very sad, disproportionate and horrible. But it happened this way, though the Republican loyalist officers and militiamen defending Las Malagueñas hill managed to bravely resist the Tabor of Regulares soldiers onslaughts for twelve hours before being finally defeated.
© Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
When writing ´a French marriage of journalists´, Clemente Cimorra thinks that Robert Capa and Gerda Taro are French and marriaged, when actually they´re infatuated refugees lovers from Jewish origin, one born Andre Enro Friedmann in Budapest (Hungary) in 1913 and the other one born Gerda Pohorylle in Stuttgart (Germany) from Jewish Polish parents, sharing their profession of photographers and journalists.
On the other hand, in late nineties I visited three different times Las Malagueñas hill, examining the area very painstakingly and definitely the picture of the Falling Soldier was not made there.
In the same way, all the other pictures belonging to the Falling Soldier series known till now made by Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano area on September 5th 1936 in which appear the second militiamen already in the ground badly injured, the rest of pictures in which a lot of militiamen appear posing raising their Mauser rifles on a trench, jumping on the trench, landing across the trench, aiming rifles on the trench, etc, together with four of the pictures appearing in the pages 6 and 7 of Regards French magazine number of September 24th 1936, were not taken in Las Malagueñas hill.
Likewise, all the pictures unknown till now made by Robert Capa (the copies on paper from all the 21 original 35 mm negatives in the collection of the ICP from the Falling Soldier series) and Gerda Taro (eight copies on paper from their corresponding medium format Rolleiflex 2 1/4 inches square negatives also in the collection of the ICP) in Cerro Muriano area on September 5th 1936 -plus some photographs on paper in which appear different militiamen sleeping on the ground- and displayed in the extraordinary exhibition This is War! Robert Capa at Work in Barbican Art Gallery of London between October 17th 2008 and January 25th 2009, in the International Center of Photography of Milan between March 28th and June 21st 2009 and soon in Barcelona between July 7th and September 27th 2009, were not made in Las Malagueñas hills either, because Las Malagueñas hill area is overcrowded with big trees everywhere, the vegetation is different and from a global perspective it is a completely different zone of ground compared to the one appeared in the pictures belonging to the Falling Soldier series, both the ones made by Robert Capa with his Leica III (Model F 1933-1939) and the ones made by Gerda Taro with her medium format Rolleiflex.
In any case, I have thought for more than a decade that there´s a picture made by Robert Capa on September 5th 1936 which was taken in Las Malagueñas hill, and I do believe that Clemente Cimorra´s article confirms it: the photograph I´m referring to appears in one page of the Regards French magazine of September 24th 1936, together with other five pictures made by Capa this day in Cerro Muriano area.
Photo: ROBERT CAPA © Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos
This photograph shows two Republican militiamen advancing towards Capa going up a little path in slight ramp (the nearest one grabbing the barrel of a Maxim-Sokolov M1910 caliber 7.62 mm x 54 R machine gun and taking it on his shoulder, while his left arm is far from his waist to counterbalance the weight of the quoted barrel; and the second one is holding a big dark box of ammunition with his left hand and seems to be taking the solid steel wheels of the Maxim-Sokolov M1910 on his right shoulder) with trees in the background and some meters behind both of them, on the left of the image, appears a third Republican militiaman walking down in opposite direction.
I´m convinced that Robert Capa made this picture in the stretch of path going from the entrance door to Las Malagueñas hill (currently locked because of security reasons to protect a transmission center of the Spanish Army) to the "Casa de Las Malagueñas", an elegant country house dating back to 1920s, which was the headquarters of the Republican army on September 5th 1936, as already quoted.
From this point in which Capa took the picture, there are only around two hundred meters following the march of both Republican militiamen going up until reaching the top of Las Malagueñas hill, where there is a big military radio tower on the left and on the right of it was the "Casa de Las Malagueñas", though as aforementioned it was demolished very few years ago, so there must be a great clear of ground almost without any vegetation where this beautiful mansion was.
But I remember the area, and I deemed then and I do believe even more now after reading Clemente Cimorra´s article confirming that Robert Capa and Gerda Taro were in Las Malagueñas hill, that Capa made this picture while the two Republican soldiers nearer him are going up towards "La Casa de Las Malagueñas" Republican headquarters, while the third Republican soldier appearing on left of the image is walking down towards the current entrance locked door by the motorway.
© José Manuel Serrano Esparza
So, Clemente Cimorra, at the beginning of his chronicle writes: ´ At night they have crawled through the gulchies -the eternal tactics of the Moors- and they have appeared before the sun being high.
Clemente Cimorra information is correct, since the rebel right column under the command of Colonel Sáenz of Buruaga (including the Tabor of Regulares of Melilla, the squadron of
Regulares of Ceuta nº 3, the squadron of Regulares of Alhucemas, the Cádiz Infantry Battalion nº 33, a company of Guardia Civil and two sections of the mixed company of engineers) had the key mission of fulfilling the encircling manoeuver falling on the Las Malagueñas hill Republican defenders back while the central fascist column attacked it frontally. So as to accomplish it, Sáenz of Buruaga´s column - whose most lethal units were the Tabor of Regulares- departed around 4:00 h in the morning from Córdoba city, followed its march to Alcolea, went up between Arroyo del Guadalbarbo and Arroyo de Yegüeros until reaching Clavellina vertex around 5:00 h in the morning and from here following the Camino de Los Pañeros (which begins in Alcolea) they went on their march with east northwest trajectory (displaying little groups of men between the main column and the Loma del Algarrobillo o del Higuerón to avoid any possible perpendicular enemy attack) until they arrived at the surroundings of Cerro de La Coja where they left some little contingents of selected Moroccan Tabor of Regulares snipers to fix the Republican militiamen on Cerro de La Coja, Piedra Horadada and the old foundry and washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd, and from here the bulk of the column with the Tábors of Regulares tried approximately at 1:00 h to go up through the ravines giving access to the lower area of Las Malagueñas hill, when they were attacked by the Alcoy militiamen of CNT and FAI who fought for avoiding that way of penetration. The stubborn defense by the Alcoyanos was so fierce that the tabor of Regulares men had to be still on their positions for a lot of hours during the day, preventing them from fulfilling the encircling manoeuver until well advanced the evening of September 5, 1936.
Anyway, Clemente Cimorra and the rest of Republican militiamen, loyalist officers and members of the staff defending Cerro Muriano had probably began seeing the white turbans of the Tabor of Regulares men from approximately 10: 00 h in the morning, id est, before midday when the sun is high as he reports.
Even, Clemente Cimorra states that ´at night they have crawled through the gulchies ´, because knowing the 12 km distance between Córdoba city and Las Malagueñas hill, though he hasn´t been able to watch Sáenz of Buruaga´s column marching during the night before, he knows for sure that they have had to walk a lot of kilometers for some hours before dawn to be able to reach Cerro de la Coja surroundings at around 9:00 h in the morning and then the ravines giving on to Las Malagueñas hills at around 10:00 h in the morning.
But almost since the first attempts by Tabor of Regulares men to approach to Las Malagueñas hill (around two km in south direction from Cerro de La Coja), Sáenz of Buruaga´s column and specially the Tabor men have been shot by Republican forces located in the area, in such a way that the Moroccan soldiers of the bulk of the Tabors are forced to stay defensively on their position and bound to risk their lives for each advanced meter.
The fight lingers away for a lot of hours and the Tabor of Regulares men will not be able to accomplish the full encircling manoeuver and capture Las Malagueñas hill and the Republican
advanced command post in the "Casa de Las Malagueñas" till approximately 22:00 h in the night of September 5th 1936.
Therefore, Clemente Cimorra refers mainly to combats that he has seen for the whole day in the surroundings of Las Malagueñas hill, describing the artillery shots, mortar fire, rifle volleys (and even bombs dropped by four fascist aircraft) that the Francoist troops are throwing against the Republican forces defending the hill when writes ´ In a moment, the whole area of the mount has been ravagely fired with lights and shots ´.
When Clemente Cimorra writes his article for Madrid La Voz newspaper, he isn´t in Las Malagueñas hill but in Cerro Muriano village (after having escaped there with the Republican staff in the Casa de Las Malagueñas and other surviving loyal officers and militiamen at around 21:30 in the night of September 5th 1936 when they realized that it was impossible to defend the last Republican defensive points surrounding the Casa de Las Malagueñas headquarters), already on September 6th 1936 (when the Republican forces defending Las Malagueñas hill and the Republican headquarters of the "Casa de Las Malagueñas" have already been captured by Francoist troops since around 22:00 h in the night of September 5th 1936) and very few hours before dawn when the definitive tremendous onslaught by the bulk of Tabor of Regulares troops through Piedra Horadada and the old foundry and washeries of the Córdoba Copper Company Ltd will mean the beginning of the end of Cerro Muriano village.
Hereupon, Clemente Cimorra knows perfectly that some hours before starting his chronicle, the rebel forces have taken Las Malagueñas hill and the Republican "Casa de Las Malagueñas"
headquarters, but intentionally ommits this piece of information, something very common during the Spanish Civil War, specially in 1936, when because of propaganda reasons it was a very usual practice by both sides not to recognize own defeats and casualties and swell the foe´s ones, without forgetting the external pressures received by journalists and photographers in this respect also in both the Republican and the rebel army.
Bearing in mind the march of events and the data reported by Clemente Cimorra, I´m convinced that his encounter with Robert Capa and Gerda Taro in the "Casa de Las Malagueñas" Republican headquarters was approximately between 18:30 h and 20:30 h of September 5th 1936.
It seems clear that Robert Capa and Gerda Taro took their 35 mm format Leica III (Model F) 1933-1939 and 6 x 6 cm medium format standard Rolleiflex K2 Model 622 respectively -though chances are that they were already running out of film- when Clemente Cimorra meets them in late evening or beginning of the night of September 5th 1936 in the "Casa de Las Malagueñas" Republican headquarters on top of Las Malagueñas hill, but Robert Capa and Gerda Taro had already made a lot of pictures in the morning in Cerro de La Coja, the old foundry and washeries of Córdoba Copper Company Ltd, the area in the south outskirts of Cerro Muriano near the level crossing and in the afternoon inside Cerro Muriano village around 15:00 h and between approximately 15:30 and 18:00 covering the refugees fleeing from the fascist air raids on Cerro Muriano following north direction through the railway track connecting Cerro Muriano Village, Obejo Train Station and El Vacar belonging to the line Córdoba-Almorchón.
During the Spanish Civil War, all the photographers of both sides covering battles and all kind of events had a simultaneous graphic, documentary and propaganda mission, so apart from using a car since the moment of their departure from Montoro (a village being 46 km from Córdoba city) the night before, there´s a high probability that Robert Capa and Gerda Taro had at every moment a Republican military driver working for them on September 5th 1936 and transporting them between different places as fast as possible.
It´s also very significant the self-definition given by Clemente Cimorra regarding his true condition during those stressful moments: ´ Currently a dirty man, full of dust and yearning
for our aviation ´, because on September 5th 1936, four fascist aircraft were bombing Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles hills in support of the three rebel columns attacking them, while the Republican aviation didn´t appear at any moment.
And when some lines later he writes ´ they ´d wish to photograph the steeled scowl of the enemy rifles ´, Clemente Cimorra, making use of his great qualities as a writer (not in vain he was a prominent member of the literary Spanish exile in Argentina and author of many books and newspapers articles until his death in Buenos Aires in 1958), utilizes this metaphor to vividly indicate the strenuous efforts which Gerda Taro and Robert Capa are making to capture the images and the information almost in the very core of it.
After making very good pictures during the previous months in Barcelona, Aragon Front and Madrid but most often without being able to capture real combat action images, there are a lot of evidence indicating that the main reason moving Capa and Gerda Taro to go to Cerro Muriano area was to try to obtain better photographs, specially if possible depicting real combat.
And the plane they´re "spying" flying over their heads and the "Casa de Las Malagueñas" is a Breguet XIX basic bomber with base in the Electromecánica airdrome on the west outskirsts of Córdoba City, on the right side of the current road to Palma del Río, very near Medina Azzahara, and probably attacking the militiamen and loyalist officers defending Las Malagueñas hill at that moment.
So, bearing in mind that it is currently very clear that the archfamous photograph of the Falling Soldier taken by Capa on September 5th 1936 was not made in the afternoon in Las Malagueñas hill, but between 9:30 and 10:30 h in the morning in Cerro de La Coja hill in the east outskirts of Cerro Muriano village, and after the reading of this very important article written by Clemente Cimorra, a witness of the combats that day in Las Malagueñas hill, I do believe that the only known picture made by Robert Capa in Las Malagueñas hill that day is the aforementioned one in which appear three Republican militiamen, two of them going up to "Casa de Las Malagueñas" headquarters (probably taking machine guns - together with an ammunition box the second one-) and a third one walking down towards the currently locked entrance to Las Malagueñas giving to the highway.
The a lot of unknown till now pictures (21 from all the existing 35 mm original negatives made by Capa on September 5th 1936, currently being in the collection of the International Center of Photography in New York -including the absolutely decisive new picture in which appears the body of a Republican militian on the ground who grasps with his left hand his Mauser rifle crossed on his stomach and who is the same second Republican militiaman hit by bullet depicted in an already known image of this soldiers fallen on the ground very badly injured but still alive grabbing his rifle whose barrel point touches the soil, taken immediately after the Falling Soldier- and eight 2 1/4 negatives exposed by Gerda Taro) made by Robert Capa and Gerda Taro and displayed in the extraordinary International Center of Photography exhibition This is War! Robert Capa at Work (which proves definitely, even more than before, than the picture of the Falling Soldier was true, there wasn´t any trick and the real instant death of a Republican militiaman impacted by a 7 x 57 mm long barrel Mauser shot made by a Moroccan sniper of Tabor of Regulares is captured in an unexpected way by Capa along with a second militiaman who runs down the slope of Cerro de La Coja behind the Falling Soldier and is also shot by the same Tabor of Regulares sniper, though not dying instantly as the first and most famous militiaman) London and Milan which will arrive at Barcelona next July 2009, were not made in Las Malagueñas hill in the afternoon, but in the morning between 9:30 h and 10.30 h in the Cerro de La Coja hill.
On the other hand, it highly makes sense that around 21:30 h in the night of September 5th 1936, when it was impossible to defend Las Malagueñas hill any longer and probably the men of Tabor of Regulares were near the "Casa de Las Malagueñas" headquarters, Gerda Taro and Robert Capa escaped from Las Malagueñas hill along with the Republican staff (majors Bernal, Armentia, Balibrea and Aviraneta), the surviving loyalist officers and militiamen and Clemente Cimorra towards Cerro Muriano village.
Probably, as usually happens in these contexts, the staff was specially well protected, with a lot of men taking machine guns, rifles, etc, all the vehicles available, etc, and I´m convinced that all the time there had been an escape route open between Las Malagueñas hills and Cerro Muriano village covered by many Republican militiamen whose task was to protect the Republican high officers at all costs.
An example of this, evidently on a hugely bigger scale, happened at the end of the Battle of Ebro in 1938, when on the night of November 16th 1938, colonel Manuel Tagüeña, under whose command were all the Republican forces on the left bank of the river, had to order the retreat to save the lives of thousands of his militiamen (3, 35 and 42 divisions making up the Republican XV Army Corps, which had crossed the river on July 25th 1938 together with Republican Lister´s V Army Corps in the area Ascó-Flix-Ribarroja) exploding the iron bridge of Flix. There were very selected soldiers, with the best weapons they had, surrounding lieutenant colonel Tagüeña, who on his turn had to cover the coming back of Juan Modesto, Enrique Líster (V Republican Army Corps with 11, 45 and 46 Divisions) and Etelvino Vega (16 and 44 divisions) who had crossed to the right bank of Ebro river four months before, on July 25th 1938. And at every moment, the brilliant colonel Tagüeña (who had previously been a prominent physicist and would be a military teacher during first half of forties at the Frunze Russian Academy and even high staff chief of a Russian division before becoming an assessor for Yugoslavian army in 1946) and the best loyalist officers managed to preserve an escape route open to guarantee the lives of the Republican staff, rest of loyalist officers and a lot of thousands of militiamen of any possible attack by the Moroccan Army Corps of general Yagüe, made up by the 13, 40, 50 and 105 divisions, and encompassing mostly Regulares and legionaries troops.
It´s also important to remember once more that Robert Capa and Gerda Taro went in a Republican official press car with a driver following their instructions and they had been both given press cards and safe-conducts by the Committee of Antifascists Militias in the same way than with the other two offcial press vehicles that had also departed from Madrid the previous day, one with Clemente Cimorra and another one for Franz Borkenau, Hans Namuth and Georg Reisner.
So, evidence suggest that Clemente Cimorra, Gerda Taro and Robert Capa, though going on different official press cars, were in Cerro Muriano village from around 22:00 h in the night of September 5th 1936 till a few hours before the definitive attack of the bulk of the Tabor of Regulares men on Cerro Muriano village.
Besides, majors Bernal, Armentia, Balibrea and Aviraneta had been from the last week of 1936 August preparing the inner defences of Cerro Muriano village. There´s even a picture published in the Madrid Ahora newspaper wrongly dated September 6th 1936 (this day Cerro Muriano village had been already conquered by Varela´s forces) showing major Aviraneta and captains Jesús García del Amo and Castañeda in a street of Cerro Muriano village, analyzing a cartographic map.
The Republican staff which was in "Las Malagueñas House" advanced command post during practically the whole September 5th 1936 (until they escaped to save their lives before Sáenz of Buruaga´s column inexorable advance) didn´t feature evidently such a high military knowledge and experience as the rebel high officers (General Varela, coronel Sáenz of Buruaga, major Sagrado, major Alvarez Rementería, major Gerardo Figuerola, etc)sporting a lot of years of real combat experience in Africa, but anyhow they had good level of preparation and did what they could, above all taking into account the circumnstances.
And majors Bernal, Armentia, Balibrea and Aviraneta were perfectly aware that after the conquest of Las Malagueñas and Torreárboles hills by the Francoist troops, the final onslaught on Cerro Muriano village would be at dawn of the following day, September 6th 1936, because during the whole September 5th 1936, the fascist troops, after a 12 km march from the city of Córdoba to reach the surroundings of Las Malagueñas Hills and Torreárboles - some kilometers more in the case of Sáenz of Buruaga´s right column which had the encircling manoeuver key mission- and approximately twelve hours of intense fighting, were exhausted and needed to rest some hours before the final assault on Cerro Muriano at dawn.
I´m convinced that the Republican staff in this area (with the four quoted majors), Clemente Cimorra, Robert Capa and Gerda Taro remained in Cerro Muriano village until very few hours before the final rebel attack which captured the village.
In my viewpoint, it is very praiseworthy the tremendous work made by Capa and Taro, which were during the whole september 5th 1936 going to different places to make the best possible pictures, with very high temperatures, under constant stress, risking their lives and being in Cerro Muriano area until the very last moments, including the first hours of September 6th 1936 until fleeing from Cerro Muriano on their official press car, a few hours before the dawn of this day.
Text and Colour Pictures inscribed in the Registry of the Intellectual Property of Madrid. Copyright Jose Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA
Texto y Fotografias en Color inscritos en el Registro Territorial de la Propiedad Intelectual de Madrid. Copyright Jose Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA