Tag Archives: Arquitectura

Rare views of Cuba, circa 1892-1894

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We just acquired a rare set of Cuban early photography titled Album Panoramico de Yateras, Guantanamo, Isla de Cuba, fotografos : Maurice Hargous y Hermano.

cafetal photography

Cafetal l’Ermitage (owned by Henri Lescaille).

Maurice Hargous, born in Bayonne, France, in 1864, moved to Cuba in 1891, along with his brother Paul (born in 1868). Maurice settled in la Havana, while Paul opened a photographic studio in the Eastern province of Guantanamo. Both brothers left Cuba for Haïti in 1895. We can therefore easily date these photographs around 1892-1894.

Cover of the album

Cover of the album

Almost all the photographs are views of coffee plantations (cafetal in Spanish) from the lush and mountainous Yateras area, around 20 kilometers north-east of the city of Guantanamo.

Most of these cafetales were owned by French colonists, which would explain how this album ended up in Paris. Coffee growing in Eastern Cuba started at the beginning of the 19th century, as the Haitian revolution drove the French out of Hispanolia across the narrow Windward passage to Cuba. Most of them settled in the underdeveloped Guantanamo province. In 1854, the Yateras municipality had thirty-six cafetales, most of them owned by French families. This album was probably owned by a “F.P.”, most likely Fernand Pons, owner of the San Fernando plantation – the photograph of his cafetal is the first in the album…

Cafetal San Fernando

Cafetal San Fernando, Fernand Pons on his horse ?

cafetal photography

Cafetal Santa Rita

cafetal photography

Cafetal Bella Vista (owned by Jean Begué)

cafetal photography

Cafetal San Cornelio

cafetal photography

Cafetal San Dionicio (detail)

cafetal photography

Cafetal San Dionicio

cafetal photography

Cantina de Jesus Navaro

cafetal photography

Cafetal Grignon

cafetal photography

Cafetal la Güira

cafetal photography

Cafetal Silencio

cafetal photography

Cafetal la Deseada

cafetal photography

Cafetal Dios Ayuda (owned by Miss Philipps).

Most of this cafetales were small plantations, with less than 200 acres of cultivated land. Typically, plantations included the owner’s house, terraced drying floors, production areas for milling and roasting, and workers’ quarters.

The entire area of Yateras, and these nowadays ruined plantations, have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.

The UNESCO website states, concerning the integrity of the area : “The Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the Southeast of Cuba has survived intact primarily due to the fact that the area was mostly abandoned in the early 20th century as this region’s traditional coffee growing techniques were increasingly unable to compete with new methods adopted elsewhere in Latin American. The large area included within the inscribed property, of 171 plantations in over 800 square kilometres, has permitted the preservation of a cultural landscape for coffee production from the agricultural level, to its processing, and the roads, trails and bridges that linked the product to market. Individual plantations include the owner’s house (often based on Basque traditions), aqueducts, flourmills, fermentation tanks, drying sheds, and barracks.

Current threats to the inscribed property are primarily due to its status as a largely abandoned archaeological site and the reclamation of the landscape by nature. Efforts have been made to clear and fence plantations in order to protect them from intrusions. The region is an active tectonic zone with a history of earthquakes. In future, this area may come under increased threat from uncontrolled tourism and the exploitation of natural resources although currently accessibility to the majority of the cultural properties is very limited due to its isolation. Additional potential threats to the site are the possible effects of climate change on coffee plantations, particularly drought.”




Of Puerta Mariana and Early Photography on Paper in Mexico.

A few years ago we sold to a private collector a large format salt paper print of a view of the Palacio de Mexico. Recently, we saw in an important private Mexican collection one more copy of the same image (an albumen copy print) in the “Album Fotográfico de la Ciudad de Mexico” by Jules Michaud.

There is quite a few mysteries behind this photograph:

Palacio de Mexico, 1858. View of the National Palace from the north.

Photograph attributed to Désiré Charnay by the Getty Research Institute: Palacio de Mexico and dated 1858. View of the National Palace from the north.                                                                                         (http://hdl.handle.net/10020/95_r_36_7)

Palacio de Mexico, 1851. View of the National Palace from the north.

Palacio de Mexico, c. 1851. The same image, credited to Jules Michaud found in a private collection.

The photograph above is, more often than not, attributed to Désiré Charnay. However, we have found in Mexico one copy of the “Album Fotográfico de la Ciudad de Mexico”  that states the author was not Charnay but Jules Michaud.

One photograph, two credits. Who is the real author? And what about the date ?

We decided to do some research, here are our results:

  • During the first half of the XIX century, the National Palace looked damaged and forgotten, being in 1852 restored under the orders of Mariano Arista (President of Mexico from 15 January 1851 to 6 January 1853), opening a third door on the north side of the facade. This door, known as the Mariana Door, was named in honor of Mariano Arista. The military-style fortified tower on top of the door was not constructed until the mid 1860s. If we compare the photographs above with the ones below, we clearly see that the Puerta Mariana does not appear on the photograph in question at the beginning of the post. So this photograph can not be dated 1858, but BEFORE 1852! (http://www.hacienda.gob.mx/cultura/museo_virtual_pal_nac/shcp_mv.htm)
  • We know for a fact that Charnay first arrived in Mexico in 1857. The image above had to be taken at the latest in 1852, considering that the Puerta Mariana (illustrated below) was build during that year. Therefore, ruling out Charnay as the author…
Building la Puerta Mariana, Palacio de Mexico, 1851. View of the National Palace from the north. Photo by Julio Michaud.

Building the tower above the Puerta Mariana, Palacio de Mexico, c. 1865.  Photo by Jules Michaud found in a private collection.

Palacio de Mexico. View of the National Palace from the north.

Palacio de Mexico, with the Puerta Mariana behind the carriage, c. 1868. Photo by Jules Michaud found in a private collection.

  • On the other hand we know that Jules Michaud was active in Mexico City between the 1830s until the 1860s. He was a photographer, dealer in photographic stock, publisher of lithographs and bookseller. During that time he also sold photographic chemicals, and often made trips to Paris where he could have gotten the knowledge necessary to learn how to print on paper.

A big archive of Michaud’s works of art can be found at the Archivo Fotográfico Manuel Toussaint del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM, Mexico City, but no paper negative is described.

The discovery that the picture has to be from 1852 at the latest, and that it is Michaud’s image, changes dramatically what we thought we knew about paper photographs in Mexico. Before Désiré Charnay and Pal Rosti’s arrival in Mexico in 1857 there are very few known images on paper; up until then they were almost all daguerreotypes.

This picture that we have attributed to Jules Michaud and dated prior to 1852 has a strong possibility of being the oldest photograph on paper from Mexico.


Vista de Zacatecas, Mexico, en el siglo XIX.

Vista de Zacatecas, Mexico, en el siglo XIX.

Mercado Jesús González Ortega, Zacatecas.

En enero de 1861 se inicia la construcción del Mercado Jesús González Ortega en la plaza del Tianguis, a un lado de la catedral. Este primer edificio se mantuvo edificado hasta 1886 y ha sido reconstruido y remodelado numerosas veces desde entonces.

Catedral Metropolitana de San Luis Rey.

Catedral Metropolitana de San Luis Rey, Plaza de Armas, San Luis Potosí. Originalmente contaba con una torre, del lado sur. La segunda torre fue edificada en el primer centenario de la Independencia de México y es una copia exacta de la primera.

Especulamos que estas imágenes fueron tomadas a finales de la década de 1860, pero ninguno de los especialistas con los que hicimos contacto en México pudieron validar al fotógrafo.  Esto nos llevó a hacer una conjetura con fundamento o “educated guess” basandonos en la técnica y papel utilizado, el contenido y tema de las fotos, así como el cálculo de las fechas y los fotógrafos de los cuales se tiene conocimiento de su trabajo en México durante esta época.

El Capitán de artillería del régimen del Cuerpo Expedicionario Francés, André-Toussaint Petitjean, documentó sus experiencias mientras realizaba su servicio en el norte y centro de México (ca. 1864-1866) mediante material escrito y visual. Petitjean tuvo un interés especial en procesos de fotografía experimentales, y tomó el campo y áreas rurales como temas favoritos para fotografiar.

Louis Auguste Chateau, teniente del 62­º régimen de infantería de la armada francesa, participó con su régimen en México durante la Intervención Francesa de 1862 a 1867 y fue un fotógrafo activo durante esta época.

Sobre Juan Wenzin no hay mucha información, pero todo indica que Wenzin fue un norteamericano que se estableció en la ciudad de Zacatecas entre 1852-73 y luego en San Luis Potosí alrededor de los años setenta del siglo XIX.

Catedral de Zacatecas

La Catedral de Zacatecas, dedicada a la Virgen de la Asunción, está ubicada en el centro histórico de la ciudad y es considerada su iglesia principal. En 1993 esta iglesia fue declarada Patrimonio Cultural de la Humanidad por la Unesco. La Catedral es una obra arquitectónica excepcional por la armonía de su trazo y la profusa ornamentación barroca de sus fachadas, en las que se combinan los motivos decorativos europeos con los indígenas. La obra no se terminó completamente sino hasta 1904, en que se culminó el remate de la fachada principal y la torre norte.

Tenemos varios argumentos que nos hacen pensar que estos tres fotógrafos no fueron los autores de estas imágenes por ser amateurs y no profesionales, pero su trabajo fotográfico es lo suficientemente contundente para no descartarlos por completo.

Lo primero es el impresionante conocimiento técnico con que fueron tomadas. El segundo es el tamaño grande e inusual para la época de las fotografías (aprox. 25 x 38 cm); y este nos lleva al último punto, la persona tuvo que cargar con esos negativos de vidrio grandes, pesados y frágiles por el país.

Es muy poco probable que un fotógrafo amateur haya logrado todo esto, por lo que concluimos la siguiente hipótesis:

El autor de estas imágenes posiblemente fue el fotógrafo profesional francés François Aubert, quien estuvo en México desde la década de 1850 hasta 1867. A pesar de que residía en la capital, se conoce que hizo varios viajes por el país durante estos años.

Templo de Santo Domingo, Zacatecas.

El Templo de Santo Domingo fue edificado por la Orden de los Jesuitas entre los años de 1746 a 1749. Bendecido y consagrado el 24 de mayo de 1750, fue abandonado en 1767 tras la expulsión de los Jesuitas, y fue tomado (junto con el convento) en 1785 por la Orden de los Dominicos los cuales lo convirtieron en el segundo templo más importante de la ciudad, después de la catedral.

Vista de Zacatecas, Mexico, en el siglo XIX.

Vista de Zacatecas, Mexico, en el siglo XIX.