Mariano Murga was a soldier born in Huesca and assigned to Tenerife in 1902, where he was an active part of the sociocultural life of the time, but he was also a great amateur photographer who left an unpublished testimony of hundreds of photographs on stereoscopic glass plates of the Island and different historical and social events between 1913 and 1920, the year in which he died at the age of 42.
Now the book The Old Tenerife. The Mariano Murga collection collects and makes known more than 160 images of this photographic legacy, with the help of Carlos García, writer of this work, and Guillermo de la Barreda, who donated the photographic collection of this soldier linked to his family. And his grandmother was first married to Mariano Murga, and upon her death he inherited the collection, which over the years came into the hands of Guillermo de la Barreda, explained Carlos García.
A family collection that today sees the light. “We have rescued this magnificent and unpublished collection, from a time in the history of Tenerife about which there is not much information, which is during the period of the First World War,” says García, who especially highlights that, “we have found also stereoscopic color plates, called orthochromes.”
“It has been a very important discovery,” he explains, “because no one knew of color photographs from that historical period. There are colored photographs, which was the technique that photographers used before, who took black and white photos and colored them by hand, but this man applied the technique that the Lumière brothers invented in 1914, which was to apply a series of chemical reagents and some very rudimentary color photos came out, because they are not of great quality, but 8 or 10 photos of these have been found.” “Given the date of this collection, we can venture to think that they are the oldest known color photos of the Canary Islands,” he highlights.
The book, with 179 pages, is distributed in three parts, explains Carlos García. A first with a brief explanation about who Mariano Murga was and the photographs that make up the collection. A second chapter called Photographic Album with 80 images of different places on the Island, landscapes, work and daily activities, related to the sea, festivities, religious themes, and a few color photographs.
“And a third chapter that we named Illustrated Social Chronicles” because “we had information, through the press of the time, of many anecdotes, news that did not have graphic information, and we have found them through this man.”
Thus, for example, “we can see for the first time the image of the bullfighter Juan Belmonte in a bullfight in the Plaza de Santa Cruz in November 1915,” says Carlos García. Furthermore, “on a professional level he was aide-de-camp to six general captains of the Canary Islands, and in this collection we have found photos of three of which there were no graphic references.”
“And a very important one,” he added, “is a party that was held at the San Carlos Barracks, of which there are some photographs where a carnival murga, from Cádiz, appears for the first time, and which has dismantled the theory that had been maintained that The first murga that there was in Tenerife was one from a ship called the Laya, since two years before we already found one at that party.”
The book has been published by the Canarian Popular Culture Center and has funding from the La Laguna City Council and the Government of the Canary Islands. It was presented last month within the framework of the La Laguna Book Fair and another edition is currently in print for its presentation, on December 4, in the Sala San Borondón and on the 20th of the same month, in the Santa Cruz Casino.