Cristina García Rodero’s ‘Hidden Spain’ is resurrected 35 years later

An exhibition brings together photographs from the legendary book of the popular festivals of Spain by the renowned author

The photos that make up what is called to be this summer’s great photographic exhibition can no longer be taken. And not only because its author, Cristina García Rodero, is unique and unrepeatable. Also because what it portrays is a world that has gone. In some cases, because the festivities that she captured with her lens have stopped being celebrated, the rest of the time because taking photos like she did today is not possible.

We talk about the exposure recently inaugurated by Circle of Fine Arts and which accompanies the reissue, 35 years after it first came to light, of one of the essential books of Spanish photography. The mythical hidden Spain, which titles the sample. A tour of the popular festivals that until then, in Spain in the 70s, were hidden under the thick carpet of the dictatorship.

They make up the exhibition 152 photographs selected from among the hundreds of snapshots with which he began his professional career fifty years ago. It was all possible thanks to a grant from the March Foundation. It was in 1973, at a time when artists in our country lacked any type of help or patronage. «I don’t know what would have happened to me without that scholarship. “A 23-year-old girl, ignorant, with very little experience of anything,” she humbly recalls.

It was 180,000 pesetas, just over a thousand euros. He bought a Pentax camera. He didn’t need anything else. Armed with that small device and a unstoppable vocation To accomplish the impossible, he took to the killer roads, as she still calls them. “They were full of potholes that took the car off the asphalt, they had no shoulders, only curves… but that helped me get to know Spain.”

Another image

Cristina was fed up with the image that was advertised of our country. «The State gave a folkloric imagethe Seville Fair, the San Fermines, which are wonderful festivals, but Spain was much more than what they showed for foreigners to come. Very interesting things were left behindvestiges of the past, ancestral manifestations that only survived here.

Over the course of a year he undertook the difficult and exhausting journey of searching for popular festivals. «It was finding myself alone before an unknown Spain “that I wanted to enter her bowels and make her known.” García Rodero visited lost villages, attended occult rites and captured the mysterious, magical and unknown soul of popular Spain. The photos that are exhibited again today are witnesses of a world in extinctionsometimes extinct, other times the preamble to new festivities resurrected or born alongside the most ancient ones.

Cristina García Rodero, before two of her images. IRENE MANCEBO

“Photographing is one of the most beautiful ways to defy time,” García Rodero tells GRAN MADRID. He emphasizes to the photographer that her images are “moments torn from death.” They are also life, the pagan and the religious, the everyday and the supernatural, traditions and new rites. «When you went through the towns they took you for everything. “I went to the bars to talk to men, because the women stayed at home, cooking for them,” says this woman about her beginnings in which her confidants were the butlers at the parties, the priests, the Town Hall secretaries, the people from the town.

Every trip was an adventure. He survived several traffic accidents and in that car, which it took him eight years to buy, he slept countless nights waiting for who knows what party to start. «Of course I have been afraid, very scaredeither. But when you have a goal, you swallow your fears. You can’t let them take over you. You know that you have to be at the right time and in the right place and you move forward.

«I started from scratch but I have always believed in myself. Even though many looked down on me,” this petite woman notes with humor. «At first my work was not valued because it spoke of a Spain that everyone wanted to forget. “I went against the flow.” Everything changed with the arrival of democracy. The popular festivals that García Rodero discovered in the country became something that he had to reclaim. From contempt they went on to be promoted and admired.

He recognizes that the photos he took at that time can no longer be taken. «Now there are many more facilitiesin information, better roads and hotels, which in my case were terrible, but there are also many more difficulties, because you will not be as alone as I was, but you will have 80 telephones, 40 photographers and 5 cameras. video and this makes work impossible.

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