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Eduardo Zamacois is often known as being part of a long Spanish family line of artists, even though he was born in Cuba –he would since that day onward have two nationalities–. Zamacois was a prolific writer who particularly enjoyed writing erotic literature. In 1899, the writer, editor and journalist was 25 years old; 55 in 1927 and more the 60 when he went into exile. He would come back home at the age of 100 but inside a wooden box.

I am only writing about him because of a small book that tells his brief but rich stay in Córdoba. However, despite the shortness of his visit, his words on some of the stereotypes associated with Córdoba and its inhabitants is quite sharp and accurate. It might have something to do with the fact that he spent his childhood in Sevilla or that his first wife was the son of an Andalusian shoemaker. Or maybe the Romero de Torres brothers helped him understand and taught him where to look when in the city. I am more convinced by the later option.

Souls in Córdoba are charming, they are meditative, joyful and idle; this quiet city, old capital of the Caliphate, contains a sweet yet strong voice, a softness that does not deprive from strength, a fierce determination that does not darken kindness nor gentle smiles. Laying at the riverbanks of the great Guadalquivir and pleased by the nuptial fragrance of the orange trees, Córdoba is still deeply embedded in the Moorish Oriental philosophy.

“Why do you run?”, the city asks the river below. And the trains too: “Why do you rush your arrival into the city when you shall so soon have to leave? Come or go… walk or stand still… Is it not the same?”

The sentence “it is never cold in Córdoba” constitutes, by all means, the sole heating system the city has. If the founding fathers of the city had built it thinking of Winter its current inhabitants would be suffering the effects of a never-ending Summer. Thank God, it was not the case. Instead they built it in order to be able to repel the heat, and its inhabitants had shivered for centuries ever since.

“It will pass” they think, and they do not move. Oh, joyful country, sweet and idle country and in its own way wise country, perhaps wiser than any other, where life is never corrupted by the passing of Time!…

The night comes and my interest for the stillness and silence of the old city grows. Houses, with their baroque gates and white marble patios illuminated by lanterns, look like chapels. Streets, clean and narrow. Streets, bad tempered streets, nervous and dreadfully restless streets, they cross and twist like roots. It is often odd to walk a straight line.

How to begin describing such a monument to which not even a photograph –so sincere, so solemn, so fair–  does justice to?… For it is not only its architecture, that is its line, what shocks and surrenders our soul but also, and along with that too, the silence, the light, the cold, the emotion of fate floating in the breeze that little by little and without sound disturbs and contents our heart.

The Roman and Christian cypress begs, pleads and awaits. The cypress has stabbed the sky with its slow-growing sharp fatigue awaiting to be heard. The cypress struggles, cries, obtains: it is a prayer. The palm tree, on the other hand, loved by the Arab, does not fight; its open and calm branches surrendered to power of gravity and lost their hope. The East wind rock them at dusk. Never the sun shall rise at midnight. Never the waters of a river shall go upstream. Just like the sun, just like rivers, so it goes the human Fate. Palm trees know it. They say: “Why do you put so much effort and struggle when it is clear that not a single comma in Nature’s eternal order you shall alter?”

Flamenco is just like architecture, just like streets in Córdoba, where the most detailed analysis will never result in two streets, two facades, two door gates that are the same. In these old cities beauty lies in all that is unalike and capricious; the map is made of corners, angles, surprises; it all seems fragmented, labyrinthine. Whenever a house steps forward the following house step back, and each one will dress a different color; here a balcony there a window. The old art tend to avoid repetition, its thirst for that that is different and unique was infinite.

From Córdoba to Alcázarquivir: types and landscapes from Andalusia and Morocco. 1915-1921.
Zamacois, Eduardo (1873-1971)
Published in 1921.




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