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Corto Maltese in Cordoba

On blue summer evenings, I'll go down the paths,
Getting pricked by the wheats, walking on thin grass.
Dreamer, I'll feel its freshness at my feet.
I'll let the wind bathe my bare head.
I won't speak, I won't think about anything.
But infinite love will rise in my soul;
And I'll go far, very far, as a bohemian,
Into Nature, — happy as if with a woman.

Arthur Rimbaud

Corto Maltese was born in 1887, July the 10th, in the Valeta (Malta). His father was a British sailor from Cornualles and her mother was a gipsy, nicknamed "the little girl of Gibraltar" , born in Seville . He was born outside marriage because his mother, a prostitute and one of the favourite models of the painter Ingres, was always too busy to think of marriage.

His mother took a house in the Juderia (historic centre) in Cordoba to bring up the little boy. He played on the banks of the Guadalquivir and was taught by Rabbi Ezra Toledano. One day, near the Mezquita, a friend of his mother’s walked up to him –by then he was in his early teens- to read his palm. Imagine his surprise when he found out that he had no fate line. The boy must have run to his house to look for the cut-throat razor that had belonged to his father. With it, he drew a line on the palm of his right hand, determining that his fate was his to choose.

He then runs away from home to take up a life at sea, like his father before him. For many years, the “Niña of Gibraltar” had little news from him. A letter from the Caribbean, another from Hong Kong, other from Russia. Nothing new.

In 1989, Hugo Pratt publishes the portfolio “Corto in Cordoba” where he tells, in 12 lithographies, the sensations of Corto during a short trip to the city of his childhood.

“Corto returns to Cordoba. During a calm day of may, he wanders the streets again: this spring walk soon turns into a serie of memories. The playmates, the young gipsy girls, the sound of the guitars from the flamenco schools…Till in the heart of a narrow street from the Juderia quarter….”

“Corto en Cordoba” , Hugo Pratt, 1989, Vertige Graphic, 12 Handsigned lithographies, 999 copies in French + 700 copies in Spanish (30x40cm).
Today it is called “calle de las flores”, but it had another name when I used to walk it up on my way home. And a friends family used to live there, the Sanchez.

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He used to go often to the Sanchez and the Molina homes. He used to go out with Molina Martinez “Lagartijo Chico”, who was some years older. Later he became torero, but he never equaled his aunt (Lagartijo). However, he had some elegance with the cape.

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Between a verónica, half verónica and a mexican pass, the torment stars.

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Everytime I walk through the Mezquita and its forest of columns, I feel a deaf resentment when I think in the harmony broken by the baroque excess of the triumphant bishops.

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According to Aziz Balush, a writer from the east of Spain, the Arabs brought the flamenco to Spain. In the IX century, an Arab poet and musician arrived to Spain, called Ziryab, who taught the “cante grande” (flamenco) to the Andalusians.
Whenever I can, I go to Cordoba during the two first weeks of May.
Every two years.
Where are you going
beautiful Jewess, so dressed up and at this unseemly hour?
I am going to meet Rebeco
who will be in the synagogue.

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I walked through the little square where the Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides, used to live (may God be with him!) and I headed to the street “calle de los Judíos”. I passed through the door of the old synagogue, located in the south area of the women’s gallery, and I thought of Ezra Toledano, who used to talk to me about this temple. I went down to the house of "La Niña de Gibraltar": somebody already knew my arrival at Cordoba. I came in the hallway and the perfume of geranium and roses got way more strong. At the end of the shady passageway was a half-opened wrought iron grille. The intensity of the sunlight varied with the course of the clouds, creating golden light games of extreme beauty in the flower-filled patio. That patio was always in bloom. Even in winter, you could see the tiles were impeccable, as the cobble-stoned floor, from the Mudejar fountain you could hear the sound of the running water. I looked around me with indiscreet eyes, I found the dark eyes of my mother.

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Why Im always the last one to know your arrival? …Welcome home.

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