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Half a million moments from a past Madrid | Madrid

The neo-Mudejar-style walls of the old El Águila factory, where a century ago beer was piled up, have guarded half a million instants for years, most of them in black and white. They belong to a past Madrid that, in these moments of confinement, seems not much farther than the present. After decades of work, the Regional Archive of the Community of Madrid that now inhabits the building has digitized the five decades of work of photojournalist Martín Santos Yubero (1903-1994). The regional government offers public and remote access to more than 485,000 images that the Vallecano took or collected during 50 years of profession, between 1925 and 1975, and that recapitulate the essence of a city at the epicenter of the 20th century.

This fund, which can be freely consulted and without schedules through the document and file search engine of the Archives portal of the regional government, contains the great moments and the small details of recent memory. From the massive farewell of the soldiers who left for the Blue Division in the North station, in July 1941, to the festive winks that the people of Madrid wore in their clothes and on their streets every Christmas or San Isidro. Both versions of Madrid, the historical and the anecdotal, summarize the passion of its author.

“Although he never had an artistic but a testimonial will, Santos Yubero managed to compile a collection of highly visual and very memorable memories of Madrid. His journalistic passion made him live the day-to-day life of the city in all its facets ”, recalls Javier Díez Llamazares, deputy director general of Archives and Document Management for the Community of Madrid, who is already planning to digitize the photographic collections of another of the great authors of the time, Gerardo Contreras.

At the age of 12 he started working in a glove shop and as a clerk of the Loewe House on Gran Vía. He separated 20 duros (60 euro cents) from his wages and invested them in his first camera

The gaze of Santos Yubero, accustomed to living from childhood between two worlds, was equally interested in the political, economic, cultural and social life of what was the capital of Alfonso XIII, the Second Republic, the Civil War and the Francoism. He left Vallecas as a child, when his father left the family home to go to “do the Americas” and never returned. Her mother accepted a job at Casa Lastra, a popular food house in Lavapiés, the neighborhood they moved to and never left again.

He discovered that other reality of the city in his first jobs, when he was 12 years old, which led him to work in a glove shop and as a dependent of the Loewe House on the Gran Vía. In addition to helping the domestic economy, he separated 20 duros (60 euro cents) from his salaries and he invested in his first camera, a drawer Kodak that he barely knew how to handle. He learned to do it by sneaking into the studios of the great photographers of the time, such as Alfonso, and by making friends with the apprentices who worked there.

The hobby became a profession between the tables of Casa Lastra, where almost all the after-hours some of the members of the newspaper’s editorial team met. The Impartial. One afternoon in which none of them could cover a bullfight in Tetuán was the young Santos Yubero, still a minor, who picked up the glove that his editor-in-chief threw at him and ended up accepting the commission. After that chronicle, he spent the next three years in the same plaza, becoming a bullfighting reporter for the newspaper. Then came the Already, the Abc and Madrid newspaper, among others, until he created his own graphic agency that sent images to the media during the Civil War.

“The truth is that Santos Yubero always knew how to approach the sun that warmed the most. He took photos of politicians from the Republic and in a short time he took them to Franco, but he was also a chronicler of the prisons of the dictatorship, a job that is not well known, ”explained the photo historian Publio López Mondéjar, presenting 2012 the exhibition Graphic chronicle of half a century of Spanish life, that he himself curated. The academic of Fine Arts agrees that, more than that of an artist, his work was that of an artisan of the image. His status as a hustler, in addition to making him a person with a large dose of initiative, generated a bad reputation among his colleagues, according to López Mondéjar. In the 1950s he began a practice already known at the time: he signed all the photos even if his assistants did them.

With special insight to capture the truth in the little things that the citizens of Madrid lived, the photographer did not give up portraying the world of culture and entertainment. It was one of the personal hobbies that he cultivated after earning some bonus as an actor in his younger years. Some of its stars occupy a good part of this legacy.

He recorded the events of the Madrid Athenaeum, which in this eventful 2020 celebrates its second centenary of existence, such as the visit of the Franco-Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco in 1974. With the room to burst, the author began his intervention with a curious request: ” Those who fall asleep back on tiptoe so as not to wake up those who are asleep in front. ” The Hollywood stars that Madrid attracted so much at the time, especially Ava Gardner, who spent part of her life in Spain, were also hunted with their target. These are just some of the details that appear in the extensive catalog now available on the Internet.

For the current Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Community of Madrid, Marta Rivera de la Cruz, “Santos Yubero, through his camera and his work, teaches us to feel life in its different moments.” Free and remote access to his archive fulfills one of the dreams of its author, who declared his wish that it would last over time. Its almost half a million images belong to the Community of Madrid since the mid-1980s, after years of negotiations that the then regional president Joaquín Leguina, a great fan of photography, started. Current technologies allow them to also be in the homes of Madrid residents.

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