lunes, 25 de agosto de 2014


Text and Indicated Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
During the last five years, the finding of The Mexican Suitcase (a real trove containing 4,500 original black and white negatives exposed by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, David Seymour Chim and Fred Stein) and the discoveries by of new pictures made by Capa whose authorship and location was unknown till now and belonging to his two remarkable reportages The Harangue to the Militiamen Before the Combat in Finca de Villa Alicia (around 1 km in the southwest of Cerro Muriano village) and The Refugees of Cerro Muriano Fleeing from the Village Because of the Bombing by Francoist Aviation (encompassing images of families made by the Cortijo of Villa Alicia and who are escaping northbound, along with other more ones taken in different stretches of the Córdoba-Almorchón railways located between the north outskirts of Cerro Muriano, the Obejo Train Station and El Vacar have enabled more than three quarters of a century after the events to more deeply and thoroughly grasp the details of the two aforementioned amazing photographic essays made in Córdoba province (Andalusia) and which undoubtedly currently stand out by their own merits within the cream and most important of his image production throughout his professional career as a photojournalist, as well as being rather meaningful pictures that stem from Robert Capa´s baptism as a war photographer, which took place in Córdoba during the first week of September of 1936, in the heat of  Spanish Civil War.

Thus, in my viewpoint it is really astounding the fact that Robert Capa´s figure hasn´t only lost a shred of interest in the media and editorial scopes, but has also turned into an almost inexhaustible source of findings imbued with very strong emotional, photojournalistic, historical and humane sides regarding their stay in Córdoba province during the Spanish Civil War and whose main characters should be Capa and Taro, who were at the adequate places and moments, risking their lives in a number of stages, as has been proved by, since both of them were a lot of times very near the front line where combats were taking place (particularly in the Villa Alicia estate at midday and in Las Malagueñas Hill during the evening and night) and the refugees, innocent humble people who had to hastily walk away with their clothes on their backs and the personal belongings they could save in makeshift bundles, leaving behind their dwells for which they had worked from dawn to dusk for a lot of years.

After some new trips to the area between the old Obejo Train Station and El Vacar village during July and August of 2013 and 2014, has been able to find the exact location of two more pictures of refugees made by Capa on September 5, 1936.

A) The first one is an image appearing on upper half of one of the pages of the Death in the Making Book from 1938.

The caption of that page states that the persons appearing in the picture are refugees fleeing from Málaga to Almería across the road bordering the coast, and that they´re walking 150 miles under a brutal sun.

But it is not true.

Perhaps there was an error by Jay Allen (whom Capa entrusted the translation of both his pictures and some of Gerda Taro also illustrating the book, whose design was made by Andre Kerstez) regarding the location of the text accompanying the image. Besides, Capa and Taro got pictures of the refugees coming from Málaga very near Almería and in Almería city, but they couldn´t arrive previously to photograph the escape from Málaga to Almería of approximately 150,000 persons across the coastal road and during which they were attacked by Italian and German aircraft and Francoist naval artillery on February 8, 9, 10 and 11, 1937.

Whatever it may be, it´s an image in which appear a total of eleven persons ( a family father, a family woman, a mature woman, four boys -being roughly between 4 and 14 years old- , a baby in arms and three girls - being approximately between 7 and 12 years old- ).

The action visible in the picture didn´t take place in February of 1937.

It happened on September 5, 1936.

They are inhabitants of Cerro Muriano hastily walking away from the bombing of the village by the Francoist aircraft, which was intensified between around 15:00-15:30 h in the afternoon of September 5, 1936.

But this photograph wasn´t made in Cerro Muriano or its surroundings.

It was made by Capa in the area of Campo Alto, at approximately 4,6 km from El Vacar (Córdoba) on September 5, 1936 between around 17:30 h and 17:45 h in the afternoon, after an exceedingly hard trek of 10 km in full sunlight (with a temperature around 36º C) made by the people appearing in the image, who had started the flight from Cerro Muriano between 15:00-15:30 h in the afternoon.

I could discover it thanks to a previous picture to this, made by Capa approximately half a kilometer behind, next to the same Córdoba-Almorchón railways and in which can be seen filling the whole frame four persons (the young family mother with her baby in armas, her elder daughter and his husband wearing black clothes and beret, who is taking some blankets on his right shoulder to sleep rough during the night) also visible in the far left area of the just located picture, beside the telegraph pole.

                             © Robert Capa / ICP New York

Spot of the Córdoba-Almorchón railways in Campo Alto area, placed at a distance of approximately 10 km from Cerro Muriano and in which Capa got the picture just located by near El Vacar village (Córdoba). This track, one of the most beautiful in Spain, equipped with steam locomotives driven trains, with some stretches of wonderful landscapes, specially between Cerro Muriano and Córdoba and El Vacar and La Alhondiguilla, stopped being used as a passenger means of transport in 1974 and as a goods one during late eighties, so the lines are currently mostly full of very abundant and thick vegetation made up by large thorny plants and medium size chaparros trees on both sides, the heat is unbearable and enhanced by the burning rails, and making comparative pictures of the area with respect to 1936 ( a time in which the line was fully operational) becomes very difficult, because the areas on both sides of the track were uncluttered, without big brambles and chaparros, the barbed wire visible in the background didn´t exist and there are many more trees presently than then. In this case, the massive presence of leafy and overgrown chaparros and high spiny plants with hard and sharp branches next to the rails, made impossible to make a horizontal picture showing the right descending area of the hill along with the horizon zone on the left of the image, as it is seen in the photograph made by Capa.

Panoramic photograph of the stretch of the old road N-432a in the area of Campo Alto, near El Vacar and adjacent to the spot (wholly concealed by the very plentiful vegetation and chaparros trees nowadays surrounding the lines) by the Córdoba-Almorchón railway (partially visible in this image) located in the background, behind the rail signal and from which Capa made the picture appearing on the upper half of one of the Death in the Making book pages. 

The hill visible on the right of this colour image is the same appearing on the right of Capa´s image.  

Because of the smaller size in the photograph of the six persons (from a total of eleven) appearing on far left of the image of the page of Death in the Making book, which was reproduced by the editorial in New York in 1938 from a far superior quality vintage copy made by Csiki Weisz in Paris in 1937, we decided to examine the image with a Schneider Kreuznach 10x aspheric optimized for visualization of pictures made with 35 mm cameras, trying to analyze specific areas of the photographs the best we could.

                                  © Robert Capa / ICP New York

And there´s no doubt that the young woman holding her baby in arms (with a mature woman taking a basket appearing in front of her in the just located picture) and wearing a white apron - the bombing of Cerro Muriano surprised its inhabitants at lunch time- is the same person taking her baby in arms who appears in the already known picture made by Capa approximately 1 km behind next to another spot of the Córdoba-Almorchón railway in the area of Campo Alto and whose exact location of picture taking by Capa was discovered by two years ago.

And the family father clad in black attire and beret (husband of the woman holding her baby in arms) is also the same person, as happens with the around seven years old elder daughter of the couple, appearing between them in both photographs.

In this just located picture is also noteworthy the presence of an approximately four or five years old child who appears on far left of the image, just behind the family father and who is almost 100% certainly a son of his and the woman holding the baby in her arms, which adds information to the previous image and enables to know that the couple has three children instead of two as was believed.

On the other hand, on comparing both images we have observed an interesting fact:

In the previous picture made by Capa 1 km behind, in the area of Campo Alto, and in which only four persons appear (the mother with her baby in arms, the approximayely seven years old elder daughter and the father wearing black attire and beret who is taking some blankets on his right shoulder), the elder daughter and the father are looking at Capa while the photojournalist gets the picture, but in the just located picture ( in which appear a total of 11 persons) very near El Vacar, there are five people looking at their right (from right to left of the image the second child of the group - being around 9 years old - , the approximately 12 years old girl walking behind him, the roughly 10 years old girl advancing just behind her, the young mother taking her baby in arms and the elder girl of the couple on the left of the image).

But they are not looking at Capa. They are staring at Bob´s left while he presses the shutter release button of his Leica II (Model D) with Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 lens.

Something is really attracting the attention of these five persons, who in spite of their huge fatigue and being sweating profusely, are gazing at somebody on Capa´s left.

I do believe that they are looking at Gerda Taro, a very pretty woman with a rather showy blonde hair, who is (out of image) very near Bob at the moment, on his left, and who always became the center of attention wherever she was.

After being photographed by Capa for the last time at around 2 km from El Vacar, the inhabitants of Cerro Muriano (a village placed at a distance of 10 km from the location in which Capa gets his last picture of refugees) go on their gruesome march on foot towards El Vacar village, ruptured by the exhaustion, sweat, fear and the huge grief of having been bound to leave their homes and hometown.

In this image appears a track span of the Córdoba-Almorchón railway being around 1,5 km from El Vacar. 78 years ago, the 11 persons appearing in the photograph made by Capa approximately half a kilometer behind this image, kept on their very long hike across the left area by the track, which acted for the refugees at every moment as a reference northbound way towards El Vacar and Villaharta. The heat in this area in July, August and September, though not reaching the levels of Cordoba City (which often has four or five more degrees of temperature than the area between Cerro Muriano and El Vacar) is scorching, frequently between 36º C and 39º C, with a high risk of dehydratation and sunstroke if one is not well equipped with water and beret or straw hat for the head, and advancing on foot turns into a highly wearisome experience.

Entrance to El Vacar village, located at a distance of 11 km from Cerro Muriano and where the refugees arrived on September 5, 1936, after a dreadful forced trek in broad daylight in which the families suffered very much while simultaneously striving after managing to walk up to here and help the old men and women of the village, with a number of moments of real anguish and despair being brought about, as well as being aware that many of them would have to sleep outdoors with the blankets they were taking, as it happened. But the ordeal didn´t finish here, because following it they had to do a new very harsh hike of 10 km up to Villaharte, under appalling conditions, with a high percentage of them suffering from cramps and huge fatigue, along with the few remaining quantities of food and water.

B) Updating August 17th, 2015.-

Picture appearing just under the previous image, in the lower half of the same page of Death in The Making book and likewise located between Málaga and Almería by the common caption.

But that information is also wrong, because this picture was not made by Capa between Málaga and Almería.

In the image appear four persons: a young man wearing clear shirt and trousers, dark jacket and beret and who is taking on his back hanging from his neck a little exhausted child that can´t walk more, while he grabs with his left arm the right arm of the woman advancing next to him (probably his mother, utterly clad in black and with a dark coif and a handkerchief around her neck) to help her walk, while on far right of the image can be seen an around ten years old girl advancing near them and also northbound.

This picture was not made in Cerro Muriano or its surroundings either, but around 8 kilometers from that village and approximately 3 kilometers from El Vacar, beside the stretch of Córdoba-Almorchón railways going between the Casa del Ronquillo Alto in the east and the Cortijo del Chirinero in the west, and was captured by Capa on September 5, 1936, at roughly 17:00 h.

Discovery of the location of this picture: José Manuel Serrano Esparza in August 2015.

The people appearing in it are inhabitants of Cerro Muriano escaping from the bombing of the village by Francoist aircraft, increased from around 15:00 h in the afternoon of that day. They have walked more than 8 km, under a scorching sun, since they left Cerro Muriano.

Once more, Capa captures masterfully a meaningful instant pervaded with angst and stress, since both the young man (who has been helping the child for some kilometers, taking him pickaback , which increases very much his fatigue and sweat while walking in the midst of a 36º C temperature) and the old woman – whose convulse and worried countenance acquires outstanding drama on being her left area in shadow- advance in precarious conditions, with a balance that will progressively be deteriorating ( they must still walk around three km to arrive at El Vacar).

In the original 35 mm black and white negative, the left arm and right foot of the young girl appear complete. 

© Text and Indicated Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Inscribed in the Territorial Registry of the Intellectual Property of Madrid.