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Spanish Civil War

Madrid to conserve iconic Civil War building

Campaign by local residents in Entrevías district saves housing block photographed by Robert Capa

In the fall of 1936, Madrid was being bombed by German planes at the service of General Franco, whose military coup in July of that year had failed, plunging the country into a civil war that would last almost three years.

Robert Capa's photograph of 10 Peironcely street in 1936.
Robert Capa's photograph of 10 Peironcely street in 1936.

The working-class district of Entrevías, to the southeast of the capital, was repeatedly targeted and many people lost their lives and their homes. But one housing unit resisted despite the damage, and it was photographed by the legendary Robert Capa, who made his name recording the Spanish Civil War.

The residential building became a symbol of resistance: in the photograph, three children play on the sidewalk in front of the building’s shrapnel-pocked façade while a woman stands in a doorway, smiling. The photograph was published in France and Switzerland, as well as in Life magazine, which was distributed all over the world.

Miraculously, the building, located at 10 Peironcely street, survived the war and was patched up and forgotten. Then, in 2010, local residents identified it from Capa’s photograph and began lobbying Madrid City Hall to officially recognize its historical and cultural importance.

This building is an emblem, it is a place Capa turned into a universal icon of the horror of war

José María Uría of the Agfitel foundation

“This building is an emblem,” says José María Uría of the Agfitel Foundation, the organization behind the campaign, which is backed by labor union UGT. “It’s a place that Capa turned into a universal icon of the horror of war. It is not only important to Madrid and Spain, but also for Europe,” he argues.

City Hall has now agreed to renovate the building, which is still home to 14 families.

The idea now is to place an installation inside the building explaining its role in the Civil War, “in particular the bombing,” says Uría. The campaigners want the Spanish state to take over the building through the National Heritage. The first step toward this is for the regional government of Madrid to include it on its list of landmark buildings.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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