A photograph snapped by famous war photographer Robert Capa of a bombed out building in Madrid’s southern district of Vallecas during the Spanish Civil War has a surprising legacy.
The powerful image, taken by the Hungarian photojournalist in the winter of 1936, shows a woman smiling from a doorway while three children play amid the rubble in front of a building that bears the scars of a recent battle.
Published at the time in newspapers outside of Spain, it illustrated that civilians were being targeted from the air by German bombers sent by Hitler to help Franco overthrow Spain’s Republican government, months before the attack on the Basque market town of Guernika.
The photo resurfaced 11 years ago when photographer and archaeologist Jose Latova matched it to a location that remarkably was still standing and still bears the shrapnel scars.
The one-storey block, located at 10 Peironcely Street, was divided into a warren-like slum of 15 tiny apartments measuring between 17 and 28 squares metres each and housing 21 adults and 13 children.
The building was earmarked for demolition and its occupants set for eviction to make way for a new housing development.
But Latova’s discovery led to a campaign to preserve the building and transform it into the ‘Robert Capa centre for the interpretation of the aerial bombing of Madrid’, the first such museum of historical memory in the capital, and to rehome the families that lived there.
This week, the Madrid City Council expropriated the building to begin the preservation project and all of the families that lived there have been rehoused in larger modern flats in other parts of the city.
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