European Times - Madrid: Image That Gave Birth to Spain's New Democracy
Nash, Elizabeth, The Independent (London, England)
TWENTY YEARS ago today, photographer Manuel Perez Barriopedro was resigned to a tedious afternoon in Spain's parliament. MPs were voting, one by one, for a now almost-forgotten prime minister, Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo, and Mr Barriopedro reckoned it would be over by 8pm. But on 23 February 1981, Mr Barriopedro captured the image of a failed fascist coup that defines post-Franco Spain.
Halfway through proceedings, armed paramilitaries burst into the chamber and opened fire, sending MPs cowering. Shiny-hatted, moustachioed Colonel Antonio Tejero brandished a pistol in a moment that summed up Spain's worst nightmare, a return to military rule.
"About 6.20, I heard noises and shouts from outside the chamber, and I knew something strange was happening," says Mr Barriopedro. "The chamber was locked for the vote but Civil Guards kicked down the door, ordered everyone to the floor, and fired shots.
"I turned my camera to the speaker's podium and I saw Tejero in my lens. I recognised him because he had been implicated in a previous coup attempt. And I knew this was a bid to seize parliament."
With gunfire cracking into the walls and ceiling, precipitating a deluge of plaster and debris, Barriopedro shot 11 frames, then rewound and removed his film.
"I realised I must save what I had, so I sacrificed the rest and hid the roll in my hand, because a Civil Guard stood beside us pointing his gun. He told us to put down our cameras and keep our hands visible."
Mr Barriopedro, now 53, was a seasoned photographer even then. He had covered the demonstrations and strikes that followed Franco's death in 1975. "I had developed the instinct of protecting my film. I spent an hour thinking how I could smuggle it out. In the end I slipped it into my shoe, along my instep, and hoped it wouldn't activate metal detectors."
Around 10pm, journalists were released, and Mr Barriopedro tried not to limp as he left the parliament building. He headed for the Efe agency's office, developed his film and put the picture on …
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Publication information: Article title: European Times - Madrid: Image That Gave Birth to Spain's New Democracy. Contributors: Nash, Elizabeth - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: February 23, 2001. Page number: 17. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.