Digital History Seminar: 20th Century Spain

The Mexican Suitcase

The Mexican Suitcase is one of the great mysteries of the Spanish Civil War.  As Robert Capa was escaping France before it was completely under Nazi control, he gave three boxes containing over 4,500 negatives from the war to his dark room manager.  The negatives were taken by Capa, Taro, and Seymour.  Through several twists and turns, the negatives ended up in the possession of the Mexican Ambassador to France but in Mexico City.  Finally the negatives were given to Capa's estate and then the International Center of Photography in 2007.  An international traveling exhibit ran for six years from 2011 to 2017 and showed some of the negatives along with published photos taken by the trio. [1]

This photo of a woman aiming a gun on a beach was believed to be taken during a training session, but is clearly staged. Her pose is unnatural and not fit for firing a gun, a woman likely wouldn't wear heels to train for battle, and would never wear heels to the beach.  However, it is still an image that makes one think of strong and powerful women, who rise up and help the men fight for a noble cause, while maintaining their femininity. [2]

Other images from the war show the photographers, soldiers, Ernest Hemingway - a close friend of the trio -, and the Spanish civilians trying to make it through the war.  The era of the Spanish Civil War was the very beginning of war photojournalism due to advancements in photographer equipment.  Especially with Franco in charge for decades after the war, the physical documentation of the war and the people that fought was precious and needed to stay safe at all costs.  This is why the suitcase is so important to Spanish history and photojournalism history. [3]

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