Federico García Lorca – Spain’s Belated National Hero

Day 104 of Colourisation Project – August 19

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born in Fuente Vaqueros, Granada, Spain, June 5,1898, Federico García Lorca is Spain’s most highly revered poet and dramatist. He achieved international recognition as an emblematic member of the ‘Generation of ’27’. Spain’s greatest poet of the 20th century ultimately paid the highest price for his liberal views and sexuality.

Federico Garcia Lorca

Photographer unknown – Federico Garcia Lorca  – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

García Lorca, a fully trained classical pianist studied law at at the University of Granada before moving to Madrid in 1919 to focus on his writing. In Madrid he joined a group of avant-garde poets and artists that included Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel and collectively became known as the ‘Generation of ’27.’

García Lorca was a prolific poet publishing numerous volumes of poetry during his short career, beginning with Impresiones y paisajes (1918 Impressions and Landscapes). He is known primarily for his Andalusian works, which include his poetry collections. In 1928, his book of verse, Romancero Gitano, (1928 The Gypsy Ballads), was especially daring for the time with its exploration of sexual themes. It did however bring García Lorca international critical acclaim and was reprinted seven times during his lifetime. Other works of poetry include, Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías (1935 Lament for a Bullfighter) and Primeras Canciones (1936 First Songs )

Whilst exploring the universal themes of romantic love, sex and tragedy, García Lorca epitomizes the culture of his country with his lyrical work and embraces a fierce passion for the Andalusian and Spanish culture of flamenco, gypsies, bullfighting and cante jondos, (deep songs).

García Lorca struggled with a growing depression, exacerbated by his anguish over his homosexuality and the public persona he was forced to maintain in a time of repressed sexual mores. From 1925 to 1928 García Lorca was involved with surrealist painter, Salvador Dalí, though decades later Dalí would deny any romantic involvement.

With the success of Gypsy Ballads came an estrangement from Dalí. At around the same time his love affair with sculptor, Emilio Soriano Aladrén fell apart when Aladrén abandoned García Lorca to marry an English woman, plunging him further into depression.

The 1929 film, Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) a collaboration between Dalí and Luis Buñuel was the cause for further estrangement and depression. This surrealist film  was interpreted by García Lorca perhaps erroneously as a vicious attack upon himself.

Concerned about his mental health, García Lorca’s family arranged for him to take a lengthy visit to the United States in 1929–30. García Lorca went to New York City and spent a lot of time in Harlem, where he found a connection between the Spanish jondos and the African American spirituals. Here he wrote his acclaimed work, Poet in New York, published in 1942 after his death.

In 1930 after the proclamation of the Spanish republic, García Lorca returned to Spain and co-founded La Barraca, (The Shack) a traveling theater company that performed both Spanish classics and his own original plays in small town squares. Despite the rising tide of the fascist movement in Spain, García Lorca did not shy away from his leftist political views or his homosexuality.

It was during his time touring with La Barraca that he wrote his best plays, Bodas de Sangre (1933 Blood Wedding), Yerma (1934) and La Casa de Bernarda Alba (1936 The House of Bernarda Alba). These plays challenged the norms of bourgeois Spanish society and class distinctions, women’s accepted role in society and the taboo issues of homoeroticism. His heavily homoerotic Sonetos del Amor Oscuro (Sonnets of Dark Love) written in 1935 was published posthumously in 1983.

In August 1936 with political hostilities intensifying in Spain between the democratically elected Spanish Republic and Franco’s Nationalists, García Lorca’s brother-in-law, Manuel Fernández-Montesinos, the leftist mayor of Granada, was shot. García Lorca was arrested that same afternoon at his country home in Granada by Franco’s soldiers.

García Lorca never had any definite political affiliations. His outspoken liberal views led Franco to ban all of his works from Spain and his books were burned in Granada’s Plaza del Carmen.

On August 19, after a few days in jail García Lorca was executed by a firing squad. He was 38 years old. One of the men on the death squad reportedly said that he had “fired two bullets into his ass for being a queer.”

To this day, no one knows where the body of Federico García Lorca rests.

A casualty of the Spanish Civil War, García Lorca in death has become the symbol of all the victims of Franco’s fascist tyranny. It was not until after Franco’s death in 1975 that García Lorca’s life and the circumstances of his death could be openly discussed in Spain.

García Lorca’s biographer, Ian Gibson, an Irish historian, and authority on anything García Lorca-related said in a recent interview,

“Spain couldn’t accept that the greatest Spanish poet of all time was homosexual. Homophobia existed on both sides in the Civil War and afterwards; it was a national problem. Now Spain permits same-sex marriage. That taboo must be broken.”

During 40 years of dictatorship his name was anathema; today he is a national hero.

______________________________

“The gypsies are a theme. And nothing more. I could just as well be a poet of sewing needles or hydraulic landscapes. Besides, this gypsyism gives me the appearance of an uncultured, ignorant and primitive poet that you know very well I’m not. I don’t want to be typecast”.   –  Federico García Lorca in a letter to a friend on feeling he was being pigeon-holed as a ‘gypsy poet.’

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