domingo, 11 de marzo de 2012


José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA

Córdoba, a remarkable Andalusian province full of history, is increasing more and more its significance in the photojournalistic career of one of the greatest photographers of all time and founder in 1947 of Magnum Agency, along with David Seymour ´Chim´, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Vandivert and George Rodger.

Photo: Robert Capa has discovered the authorship and located one more photograph made by Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano area, specifically in the Finca of Villa Alicia (approximately 1 km away from Cerro Muriano village, in the southwest), on September 5, 1936, and which adds to the many ones got by both him and Gerda Taro in this zone that we have discovered and located for the last four years.

It is an image captured during the furious address delivered by an anarchist chief to CNT and FAI militiamen from Alcoy (Alicante) and volunteer Andalusian civil men, around 12:30 h midday, and belonging to the series of photographs made by Capa and Taro in this same place and instants and on which we reported in:

This new photograph just discovered and located by was published - without indicating the name of the photographer who took the image or the exact location where it was made - on page 3 of Number 15 Volume III of Weekly Illustrated magazine of October 10, 1936, in a 17,6 x 13,9 cm size, from a vintage copy made with the original 35 mm Eastman Kodak panchromatic negative (exposed by Robert Capa with a rangefinder Leica II (Model D) with Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 lens, from an elevated position) which was sent by Marie-Jeanne Eisner (Director of Alliance Photo Agency, which she had founded in Paris in 1934, and a great professional who had been a pupil of Simon Gutmann in Berlin during the golden ages of Dephot Agency) to Stefan Lorant, editor of Weekly Illustrated, who reframed the image and because of layout needs, edited it in an approximately 4:3 format, similar to the aspect ratio of the 4 x 5 ( 10 x 12 cm) large format, in such a way that it fitted on the lower right area of the quoted page together with other further photographs which hadn´t anything to do with the Spanish Civil War, though Lorant decided to highlight Capa´s picture as much as possible, reproducing it with a bigger size than the rest.

Photo: Robert Capa

But the most important and newly revealed thing in this picture is that the man who is standing on top of a big wooden barrel (barely visible, since it appears mostly concealed by the bodies of some militiamen) is a different man than the one giving another harangue to these same civil combatants in a picture made by Capa in this same place, day and moment, already known for decades and in which was able to identify Gerda Taro in the left border of the image:

He is nothing less than Enrique Vañó Nicomedes, secretary of the CNT of Alcoy (Alicante) and chief - along with the lieutenant Melquíades Valiente- of the contingent of Alcoy Column (made up by 534 military men belonging to the Infantry Regiment Vizcaya Number 12 - with a garrison in Alcoy- and 687 militiamen from CNT and FAI) who after leaving Alcoy on August 7, 1936 and arriving at Pedro Abad (Córdoba) on August 9, 1936, went to Cerro Muriano (Córdoba), while the other contingent - under the command of lieutenant Roberto García- marched to Espejo, with the two contingents arriving at both villages on August 10,1936.

Enrique Vañó Nicomedes - shot in Alcoy on August 29, 1939, being 28 years old, after a military court-martial held without any legal base, since he hadn´t committed any blood crime- was very active during September 5, 1936 day, moving between Villa Alicia estate and Las Malagueñas Hill, the latter being the area in which he took part in the combats along with Rafael Miralles from FAI and Felipe Colomé from CNT, staying with the Republican high commanders until approximately 21:30 h in the night, when it dawned on major Juan Bernal that it was impossible to keep on defending the hill against the fierce attacks of Moroccan tabor of regulares troops, and he decided to abandon the position with his staff - majors Balibrea, Armentia and Aviraneta, along with captain La Romana and lieutenant Roig - , Juan Cimorra, Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, escaping to Cerro Muriano to save their lives.

In the image, we can see Enrique Vañó Nicomedes, clad in a clear militiaman overalls and lacking his right hand, speaking to the numerous and eclectic group of Anarchist militiamen from Alcoy CNT and FAI and Andalusian civil combatants, striving after conveying them as much courage as possible before the impending battle.

It is approximately 12:30 h in the morning of September 5, 1936 in the Finca of Villa Alicia, which is full of Alcoy militiamen from CNT and FAI (equipped with 7 x 57 mm caliber Mauser rifles and mosquetones, captured during the assaults to military Francoist barracks in mid and late July of 1936) along with a lot of Andalusian militiamen dressed with caps and berets and mainly armed with shotguns.

The face of Enrique Vañó Nicomedes - which has been thoroughly reported the real situation by Republican captain Castañeda- clearly shows the big rage and effort he is making trying to increase the morale of the civilian fighters listening to him and coming from the most different common occupations (shoemakers, farmers, peasants, plumbers, print workers, electricians, etc), with barely any military drill or skill in the handling of guns, who in a macabre and almost surrealistic context, are going to face within a few hours to the cream of professional units of the dreaded Army of Africa, made up by legionnaries of the left Francoist unit under the command of major Sagrado (who are attacking the south slope of Torreárboles hill from approximately 10: 00 h in the morning) and the legionaries of major Baturone (who will try to encircle Torreárboles hill through its north side, so complementing the Francoist attack which is already taking place on its south side, with an exchange of rifle, machine-gun and mortar fire that is being heard by all the persons appearing in the image), while the Francoist right column under the global command of colonel Sáenz of Buruaga (the most important one for the success of the attack) and made up by the Tabor of Regulares of Melilla Number 3 under the command of major López Guerrero (belonging to the Group of Regulares of Melilla Number 2 of Nador of the Eastern Circumscription) and the Squadrons of Regulares of Ceuta Number 3 and Alhucemas under the command of major Gerardo Figuerola, are about to launch an onslaught against Las Malagueñas hill (where the Republican advanced command post is located) which will take place at 13:00 h and will be stopped for some hours by the Alcoyanos, which will pounce en masse on them, opening fire at will, and managing to avoid for some hours the encircling manoeuver attempted by the very hard Sáenz of Buruaga´s Moroccan soldiers and slowing very much the advance of the other two Francoist columns.

Both the patent stress and anxiety visible in the image are huge.

Enrique Vañó Nicomedes, in the same way as the other militiaman chief appearing in the other aforementioned picture and in which we discovered a year ago the head of Gerda Taro in the left border of the image, is reporting the militiamen - mostly from Alcoy - that Francoist troops are going to attack them soon and that they will try to wipe them out and fall on their comrades militiamen and loyalist to the Republic soldiers defending the crest and south slope of Torreárboles, so they must hold at any cost their onslaughts in Finca of Villa Alicia and cover the rearguard of their companions.

The atmosphere becomes unbreathable for the men appearing in the image, who are listening to Enrique Vañó Nicomedes speech.

They know innerly that most of them are going to die, as will happen during the late evening of this September 5, 1936, in which they will be finally routed by the Francoist troops after a stubborn defense of many hours.

The very nature of these clashes - very different to the massive battles from 1937 like Brunete, El Ebro, etc- makes that the Finca of Villa Alicia is with difference the most dangerous zone in the whole battle, for it is the encircling manoeuver area to capture the important Torreárboles hill, Franco still has scarce effectives in Andalusia (albeit he greatly makes up for it, because the troops he is using in the south of Spain are the cream of the Army of Africa) and parameters of ruthless African colonnial warfare based on the infiltration of small units within enemy territory are applied, so it is usual not to take prisoners.

The attacking Francoist troops feature a lot of previous combat experience, with commanders who have been fighting in Morocco for almost twenty years, being able to adapt to any unexpected contingency that can arise, always with the great advantage of the very high combat morale of the legionnaries and Moroccan tabors of Regulares, which are able to extend the front lines and rectify them according to battle circumstances through their exceedingly swift encircling manoeuvers and their remarkable accuracy with medium and long range shots with their 7 x 57 mm caliber Mauser rifles and mosquetones, without forgetting that they always try to reduce the distance with the enemy for the hand to hand combat.

Nobody wants to fight with fixed bayonets against the dreaded troops of the Army of Africa.

Vast majority of the militiamen listening to Enrique Vañó Nicomedes are very worried. They fear for their lives.

Until a few weeks before, the men depicted in the picture have earned their lives working in the most common occupations, suffering very hard labour conditions, both them and their wives, in usual contexts of exploitation, miserable sanitary and hygienic conditions, widespread lack of security measures, exceedingly low salaries, a lot of non paid overtime under the steadfast threat of being sacked at the least glimpse of protest, exhausting working days from dawn to dusk, mainly within the rural scope, and frequent presence of children working both in the countryside and the big cities and villages.

Logically, they are afraid of dying, the movie of their lives is quickly passing inside their heads at the moment. They think about their most beloved relatives and friends, sweat springs up in a gush, and stress increases to the utmost, in the same way as hatred.

Robert Capa captures this moment with his customary mastery. He is in the suitable place at the appropriate moment, and the nearest feasible.

There are a lot of militiamen clearly showing maximum levels of uncertainty and fidgety on their countenances and attitude.

Pay attention to the militiaman from CNT visible on the lower left half of the photograph, having an absent gaze and very deep introspection, with his left arm stretched and his left hand leaned on the barrel.

Or the militiaman on the middle area of the lower half of the image (of whom we can only see his head with the anarchist cap - partially lit by sun beams - and his upper back ). He does know what is approaching, has closed his eyes and is likewise probably thinking of his relations, while just on his right, another militiaman from Alcoy wearing an anarchist cap, highly jittery, joins the fingers of both hands and rubs his nails while he looks at Capa.

We can also see several men who appear in some of the other aforementioned pictures, made by Capa and Gerda Taro in this same day, place and moment and discovered and located by

On the lower left vertex of the image appears an Andalusian civil combatant wearing a clear beret and unsleeved dark waistcoat, who is looking upward in the direction of the speaker. He has a blanket resting on his left shoulder, and a shotgun hanging from its leather strap and whose two barrels are partially visible behind his head.

Just above him, there´s a militiaman belonging to CNT or FAi from Alcoy. He is wearing the typical anarchist cap and is clad in a dark overalls. A large white handkerchief is wrapped around his neck. This man also appears on the upper half of a photograph whose authorship and location where it was made were discovered by in:

and is on the upper left area of page 727 of the Illustrated London News of October 24, 1936.

On the other hand, this man also appears in the right half of another picture whose authorship and location were discovered by and which was originally published in the book ROBERT CAPA Cuadernos de Guerra en España (1936-1939) of the Colección Imagen, Sala Parpalló Diputación Provincial de Valencia Edicions Alfons El Magnànim Institució Valenciana D´ Estudis I Investigació de 1987, though inside the book, the caption of the photograph explains wrongly that the image was made in Madrid in 1936 (an understandable error, not only because of the very complex identification and location, but also because the very tight framing and the look upwards of both militiamen makes one think that it is a meeting in a big city), and which really corresponds to the series made by Capa and Taro in the Finca of Villa Alicia, 1 km away from Cerro Muriano village, in the southwest, on September 5, 1936, as was proved by on July 12, 2011:

On the other hand, in the new picture made by Capa and just found and located, in which Enrique Vañó Nicomedes appears delivering a harangue to the militiamen trying that they pluck up courage before the combat, on the right border of the image, with a lorry just behind his back, we can see a militiaman from Alcoy with a clear blanket on his left shoulder. He is with his head down and pensive - maybe already unaware of the boosting words that are being pronounced by the militiaman chief from an elevated position - he is standing on the big barrel - , fully knowing that they´re going to fight soon against the dreaded professional troops of the Army of Africa.

And on the upper left area of the border of the image, with the back of his head almost touching a tree, another militiaman is also downhearted and lost in thought.

Simultaneously, another young Anarchist militiaman located in the lower right vertex of the picture and on whose Anarchist cap are embroidered the letters UHP (Union of Proletarian Brethren) is with his arm resting on the casket, likewise very concerned and thoughtful, and he isn´t looking upwards to Enrique Vañó Nicomedes, but in opposite direction, while a civil Andalusian combatant behind him (wearing a clear shirt and dark beret) has his head down and is scratching his nails because of the fidgets.

Two very young militiamen, who are standing behind the left leg of the anarchist militiaman delivering the speech, are apparently affected by fear. The closest to Enrique Vañó Nicomedes is wearing clear clothes and his anarchist cap appears just under the speaker´s left hand. He gazes absently and anguish is reflected on his face, while the exceedingly young militiaman - being around 15 or 16 years old - behind him is experiencing very high levels of anxiety and inevitable panic visible on his countenance.

The civil Andalusian combatant with clear beret just in front of the left area of the big white handkerchief of the anarchist militiaman on the left border of the picture, isn´t looking at Enrique Vañó Nicomedes either. He´s thoughtful, very aware about the huge and imminent danger of death.

Therefore, this photograph - in the same way as many others- proves utterly once more, something that was already known: that Robert Capa didn´t come in 1936 to Córdoba or any other area of Spain to make fakes or use "truquillos" (tricks), but - among many other things - to very often risk his own life to get the best possible pictures, such as happens in this image and the rest of photographs of the series, in which Capa is in the most dangerous zone during that day.

On the other hand, the groundless accusation that Robert Capa himself is the man on far left of the image, posing raising his left arm holding a rifle on a trench in one of the pictures of the series taken in Espejo must be discarded and is absolutely false, because in September 1936 Bob is 23 years old and the man appearing in that photograph wearing a white shirt - The Falling Soldier - is more mature and his age is around 40 years old, in the same way that it is utterly proved that none of the eleven men posing raising their rifles on such a trench in the outskirts of Espejo can be Enrique Vañó Nicomedes, because the latter wasn´t in Espejo (location where the picture of the militiamen on the trench was taken) but in Cerro Muriano,where he arrived on August 10, 1936 in command (together with the second lieutenant Melquíades Valiente) of the contingent of the Alcoy column which on August 9, 1936 departed from Pedro Abad to Cerro Muriano, while the other contingent under the command of lieutenant Roberto García marched to Espejo.

Coming back to the point, the hard image published on page 3 of Number 15 Volume III of Weekly Illustrated magazine of October 10, 1936 - much more frightful than it can seem at a first quick glance - is a very valuable and hugely dramatic photojournalistic document, very faithfully and accurately depicting what war really is, which has been masterfully captured by Robert Capa, with a very representative and highly informative photograph, full of compromise, which follows the photojournalistic basic principles set forth forty years after this September 5, 1936 by Cliff Edom, Professor of Photojournalism at Missouri University, in his work Photojournalism from 1976.

Copyright José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA
Inscribed in the Territorial Registry of the Intellectual Property of Madrid.