LIFE magazine staff photographer W. Eugene Smith traveled to Spain in 1950 to document repression and poverty under dictator Gen. Francisco Franco. Smith embedded himself in the small town of Deleitosa. The “Spanish Village” photo essay appeared in the April 9, 1951, issue of LIFE. The most searing image was of three members of the Guardia Civil, who kept the townspeople in line. The caption read: “These stern men, enforcers of national law, are Franco’s rural police. They patrol [the] countryside, [and] are feared by people in villages, which also have local police.” Shortly thereafter, the Guardia Civil paid Smith a visit and questioned him. When they left, he told his interpreter: “Let us pass up our remaining, rather unimportant pictures, and get the hell out of here while I still have the film.” He and his assistant left at 4:00 a.m. to flee across the border into France.

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