" Trip to Las Hurdes, 100 years later – Ordimeds

Trip to Las Hurdes, 100 years later

Although the emphasis on information real house this week is going to be centered on the -incomprehensible, totally inappropriate- dressed as Letizia that he left his stomach in the air and that he was completely out of place for such a solemn act as the presentation of the medals of the Red Cross and Red Crescentthe truth is that the leading role should hog the king’s journey these days for Caceres. A trip that ends today with a visit to The Hurdsan event that wants to remember the historic visit to these lands of his great-grandfather, King Alfonso XIIIin 1922Exactly a century ago.

a historic journey

Alfonso XIII visited the region The Hurds (47,000 hectares and, at the time, 8,000 inhabitants) in June 1922, after the press of the time had warned of the conditions of authentic misery of the place. Well, actually, he was a French Hispanist and journalist, a certain Maurice Legend (1878-1955), who in the summer of 1913 visited the premises accompanied by Unamuno and the journalist and scholar Severino Aznar. The level of abject misery, disease and malnutrition he saw shocked him so much that he launched a campaign to draw the attention of public and political authorities. Unamuno helped him with some furious articles and The Spanish Illustration, The sun Yes The Impartialamong other reference publications of the time, made some reports that had such an impact on the population that in April 1922 a Sanitary Commission was created, chaired by the eminent Gregory Maranonand who had the no less prestigious doctors Bardají and Goyanes.

The commission went to The Hurds make a detailed report and the results were even worse than what had been published until then in the press. Totally isolated, riddled with disease and left to fend for themselves, they said. Goitre, malaria, typhus and smallpox dominated the region, so that the mortality was shocking and even much higher than in the countries of the Third World Currently. There was no medical or pharmaceutical assistance and it was only minimally supported by the “heroic mission of certain priests who tried to prevent pockets of progressive misery and ignorance”.

the king himself Alfonso XIII He was so impressed that at first he wanted to believe that they were exaggerating and, to prove it, he decided to go to the region himself, an act that undoubtedly honored him and that would have been inconceivable for the monarchy. British at the time. weather.

dizzy with vertigo

The trip obviously had many complications, starting with the absence of roads, not even paths in some places, let alone hotels or inns that could accommodate the entourage that would accompany the king. Alfonso XIII would be accompanied by the head of the real house (Duke of Miranda), his valet (Lieutenant-Colonel Obregón), the Minister of the Interior (Vicente Piniés), the doctors Gregory Maranon Yes Ricardo Varelathe forest engineer Santiago Pérez Argemí and the journalists Jose Garcia Mora and the photographer Jose Demaria Vazquezknown as campaign. These two had been able to go on a trip thanks to a lottery between various members of the press.

Alfonso XIII I manage to Caceres drive on June 20 and spent the first night in the city of Casar de Palomeroin the house of a certain Piece of acacio, one of the neighbors who lived in the square. The bedroom, by the way, is still intact and, although very humble and austere, it is dignified, with a wooden bed, a crucifix on the wall, a chamber pot and a simple basin for washing.

The next morning the actual route began, 150 kilometers to be covered on foot or on horseback along difficult routes that winded between rocks and steep hills. At night they slept in tents. In some sections, the situation was so difficult that Campúa himself recognized, years later, that “one had to skirt mountains at frightening heights. I saw the king get off his horse and walk on foot because he was dizzy and they made him dizzy.

Naked king photography

The king Alfonso XIII he stopped in all the small towns (freed pine, Cambruncino, Vegas of Coria, blonde hair, Nunomoral...) and also took advantage of the fact that there was a river (called Angels) to bathe completely naked. The monarch asked Campúa to immortalize the moment and so the king was portrayed for posterity smiling and shamefully in the air.

Although the original photograph had been delivered to the Palace, the photograph would end up in the hands of the government and the press under the Republic, which would not hesitate to publish it with great fanfare and use it to discredit the king (already in exile) and the monarchy. He even made the cover of Was Alfonso XIII a good king?a book of Jose Maria Carretero Novillo from 1934. Years later, photography found its way into the hands of Gestapo (seized from the property of azana) and handed it over to the Franco regime.

Beyond the anecdote of the nude photograph of the king, the truth is that the monarch was deeply impressed by everything he saw. He entered miserable, filthy huts on steep slopes, without windows or chimneys, where the villagers lived with the few animals there were. On the way back to Madrid, Alfonso XIII he was so upset that he ordered a Royal Patronage and a factory, a school, a building with sanitary services and a barracks of the The police station.

The Buñuel documentary that dedicated “black Spain”

Many years after that trip, it was still being said in many circles that it had been useless. The rumor spread especially during the 2nd Republicwhen Louis Bunuel settled in the region and, thanks to the financing of the anarchist Ramon Acinchecked in Las Hurdes, land without bread, a documentary where appalling misery was seen. Cinematographically speaking, we are indisputably in front of a masterpiece of surrealist cinema, with an innovative and very avant-garde approach (the Mannheim Film Festival in 1964 included it among the twelve best documentaries in history), another thing is whether it really reflected the reality of the time. In the documentary, for example, it was explained that the inhabitants of the town of The swimming pool they were so undeveloped that even bread was unknown to them. Years later, it was learned that while gaps in the field were still significant, Bunuel he had exaggerated and constructed scenes to suit his cinematic needs. For example, in the documentary, it was said that the animals were so hungry that they died devoured by bees and we saw, for example, a dead donkey. However, it was later learned that the donkey in question, an old and sick animal, had been tied up to make it look good for the cameras and sprinkled with honey for the bees to devour. During the filming, a goat was also killed by a cliff: it was shot at close range so that it fell into the void, one of the most famous scenes of the documentary.

In fact, some librarians like Pio Caro Baroja openly reproached Bunuel that he had so clumsily manipulated reality and condemned The Hurds to a disastrous picture when the truth was that things were changing. Gradually, but changing. Clean Gregory Maranon, who attended the premiere of the documentary, left the room outraged at how “unfair” the film was and how deeply unpleasant it was. He gave Spain such a bad name that even the government of 2nd Republic asked him to leave.

King Alfonso XIII has returned once more

The truth, beyond what Bunuel wanted to see, was it The Hurds significantly improved once Royal Patronage he started. There was an ambitious reforestation plan, although the highlight was undoubtedly the heroic work of the doctors. Three settlements called Factorías were created, buildings that housed clinics, schools and post offices. In addition, and as I had insisted a lot Gregory Maranon, efforts have been made to improve water, sanitation and food. The impact was immediate and, within five years, mortality was significantly reduced.

The Royal Board of Trustees also endeavored to combat illiteracy in the region and organized an educational mission. There were schools for boys and one for girls, and later classes for adults were established. Thanks to a donation from the Marquis of Valdecilla, who contributed 200,000 pesetas, canteens and school canteens were created.

Third, resources have been allocated to communication channels, one of the main deficits in the region. More than 39,000 kilometers of forest roads have been built to connect small towns and villages. Later, a road was built. For her he returned, this time comfortably in a car, the king himself Alfonso XIII in 1930 check the work done and the progress made.

Although much remains to be done and the challenges remain significant, the changes have undoubtedly been remarkable. Not only was the neighborhood endowed with dignity, but it also changed the image of The Hurds for all time.

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