What you will find here
OLD VIDEO OF THE SACROMONTE IN THE 1960s
Nowadays we can walk along the Camino del Sacromonte and it seems to us that everything is quite well kept. There are water fountains, beautiful viewpoints, everything is whitewashed and the inhabitants live with dignity. But was it always like this? Judge for yourselves in this old video of Sacromonte.
Directed by Lennart Olson
This video is part of the documentary “Flamenco, encounters with the Spanish Gypsies” (“Flamenco, möte med spanska zigenare”). It was shot by photographer Lennart Olson and guitarist Dan Grenholm in 1962. It was broadcast the same year by the Swedish public television SVT (Sveriges Television).
Olson was primarily a photographer, although from the 1960s onwards he began shooting films for Swedish public television. While Grenholm, the narrator of this documentary, had worked in the 1950s with the dancer Raimundo Heredia Heredia (“granaino”) on a film. Perhaps this was the germ of this audiovisual piece.
WHAT DO THEY TELL US IN THIS OLD SACROMONTE VIDEO
We have translated the video so that you can understand what Olson and Grenholm felt when visiting the Sacromonte in Granada. Below is part of the transcript.
The Gypsies in Sacromonte
“In the south of Spain in the vicinity of Granada lies Sacromonte, the sacred mountain. Here the gypsies have built their nests like migratory birds that have come from far away, it is said that from India. Only agaves and cacti grow here. Long and strenuous walks to fountains or springs in search of water. In this harsh environment the flamingo lives and flourishes”.
“And in Granada there are about 5000 (gypsies) and most of them live in caves, which are cool in summer and warm in winter, but very primitive.”
What is flamenco
“The gypsies say that the devil himself lives like a black spider in his great web and that he forces them to dance. Flamenco is not written with notes, it only lives in the dance, in the guitar, in the songs. It gets melody and steps, nerve and rhythm from the instantaneous feeling and the centenary tradition.
The young man who dances. The Millionaire
“The boy dances a seguiriyas song that transmits in an intense and mystical way. The rhythm changes like the sea, rising and falling. It conceals a controlled sadness throughout. Millionaire, so they call the boy, still poor and unknown, but there is a chance that one beautiful day his dream will come true”.
About the bad living conditions in Sacromonte
“In reality, dirt, poverty, disease and vermin dominate. “The only people who get fat here are the lice“, the gypsies comment with a certain irony. The family pays three kroner a month for the cave, it has electricity and a radio but no sewage or running water.
The gypsy family of Sacromonte
“Before lunch the man of the house blesses the bread with a kiss, a very symbolic rite, especially considering how many hours he has had to work to earn his lunch. Dad Antonio is a car watchman, mum Conchita sells paper flowers, Juan, the eldest son, is a shoe shiner. The other children Isabel, Miguel and Rafael are still playing”.
“(About the girl) In 6 years she will be of marriageable age and her father will have chosen her a husband. Strict customs forbid her to sleep with anyone before the wedding day. Rafael has a freer life, but the woman who finally marries him must be as pure as his sister.
THE FLOODS OF SACROMONTE IN 1963
These images were the last recorded before the terrible floods of ’63. After that, most of the neighbours were forced to leave their caves and the neighbourhood changed forever.
From then on Sacromonte lost its original gypsy essence. The gypsies spread to different neighbourhoods in Granada. Some came back and foreigners also arrived, attracted by the beauty of the place.
THE VALUE OF THIS OLD VIDEO FROM SACROMONTE
These images have an important ethnographic value. They show us the harsh reality of the Gypsy people and, in general, of humble people in the 1960s. As they mention in the video, dirt, lice and the almost total abandonment of the neighbourhood were a constant feature.
The interesting thing about the documentary is that it focuses on the people and not so much on the environment. But it also reflects the essence of flamenco in a simple and pure way at the same time. It shows the inhabitants of the Sacromonte caves in a natural way. It evokes a past time, not so distant and which some will still remember even today. .
Family and friends themselves have been able to identify in this video some of the inhabitants of Sacromonte. The images show a young man Luis Heredia “Millonario”, a boy who started dancing at a very young age in the Cueva de María la Canastera for tourists. At that time the cave was frequented by international film personalities, politicians and artists. Later the boy left Spain with Paco de Lucía and other artists.