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News and comments and events relating to Granada, 'the city where anything is possible, Granada, 'la bella y la bestia, and Federico Garcia Lorca's complicated love-hate relationship with the city, etc


Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Fri, September 29, 2017 10:40:28


Shortly after the nationalist uprising against the democratic republic of Spain on 18 July 1936, the poet Federico García Lorca was seized by the local authorities and disappeared. He was taken to the nearby village of Víznar and shot. This killing was one among many and, as in many of the other cases, the circumstances around it are still unclear after eighty years, largely because the people involved refused to talk, lied, or forgot. Yet, Miguel Caballero Pérez seems confident to know the definitive answers to these unanswered questions as the bold title of his investigation findings Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca (The Last Thirteen Hours in the Life of Garcia Lorca), published in 2011, would suggest.

His thesis is that there was ‘una concatenación de causas’ (p25; note 1), a whole constellation of interrelated causes, which, he insists, had their origin not in political differences but in inter-family and internecine disputes and rivalries that had festered over half a century. Lorca, himself, was unpolitical, he reminds us, with a circle of friends from a wide social and political spectrum. Having demonstrated the poet’s political neutrality, Caballero concludes that the real causes of his death (p27) need to be looked for on the Vega of Granada, where the economic and local political conflicts between his and rival families were played out.

Indeed, Granada-based composer and family friend Manuel de Falla is on record as saying Lorca's death was an act of personal revenge; he knew who was responsible, but his conscience forbade him me from revealing names. (2) Local flamenco artist, Rafael Amargo, was less discrete and happy to put it this bluntly: ‘Everyone knows it was his cousin who did it’.(3)

This is broadly speaking Caballero`s view, too. The main villain of the piece turns out to be cousin Horacio, son of Alejandro Roldán Benavides (p30), contemporary and rival of Lorca’s father, Federico García Rodriguez. Horacio had reason enough to believe his own prospects in life had been obstructed by advantages that their father had secured for his sons, Federico and Francisco, at his expense. Roldán Benavides had suffered socially and economically at the hands of Lorca’s father, being outmanoeuvred and outwitted in economic and business affairs time and again going back to the 1880s. Caballero points to how three important families rooted in Valderrubio (then Asquerosa) competed for economic supremacy and the expansion of the land they exploited, often involving complicated patterns of inter-marriage. The third of these families was the Alba family, famous for being a sort of model for Lorca’s late work La casa de Bernarda Alba, first published and performed years after the poet’s death but known among relevant sections of the local bourgeoisie though a public reading just a few days prior to the nationalist coup (p32). Not only was Bernarda supposedly recognisably based on Frasquita Alba, who had in fact died many years before the play was written, the character Pepe el Romano, secret suitor to two of the Alba daughters, was said to be modelled on José Benavides Peña, Horacio Roldán’s uncle, who was still very much alive.

José Benavides, along with nephew, Horacio, were two of the gang of men from Asquerosa on the Vega of Granada who turned up at the Huerta de San Vicente, the summer home where the poet’s family were intending to spend a couple of peaceful months together, accusing their housekeeper Gabriel Perea Ruiz of being involved in the killing of two local men on 20 July, possibly in skirmishes related to the uprising. This unwelcome visit occurred on 9 August and led to Lorca seeking refuge in the house of the Falange-supporting Rosales family, from where he was seized and disappeared a week later. Caballero makes the point that housekeeper Perea, having been carted off or questioning, was then promptly set free, having had nothing to do with crime; this episode at the Huerta was in all likelihood a show of strength put on for Lorca and his father.

Anyway, this episode at the Huerta gave a hint of what was to come; it was the first step in a chain of events that ended with Lorca facing a firing squad on the roadside outside the village of Víznar a week later.

So was then the poet’s death the consequence of family feuding, with little direct connection to the political landscape? Caballero’s detailed, minutious investigation contradicts his own thesis at almost every step. The political motivation of the identified actors comes across clearly on every page. For the truth of the matter is that, although Lorca constantly claimed to be unpolitical and would have liked to be everybody’s friend, his fame and his artistic success were inextricably tied up with the progressive forces of the Republic. As his brother Francisco said: ‘The atmosphere immediately preceding the Civil War had politicised all of Spain in one direction or the other. You had to take a stand and my brother Federico's, standpoint was very clear’, and he lists the evidence of Lorca’s commitment to the aims and ideas of the liberal Republic. (4)

So even if he didn’t want to be, Lorca was seen by the conservative nationalists as a ‘red’ (= communist), as was virtually anyone who did not subscribe to their reactionary views. And, while denying the poet’s political engagement, Caballero does concede that he did enjoy many of the freedoms offered by republican democracy, - and only by republican democracy, one might add.


Page numbers refer to Las trece últimas horas en la vida de García Lorca, published in 2011 by La Esfera de los Libros

José Mora Guarnido, Federico García Lorca y su mundo (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1958), p. 200.

For example in the documentary Lorca. El mar déjà de moverse.2006. Directed by Emilio R. Barrachina

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Lorca's breakthrough

Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Fri, June 09, 2017 19:10:27

Lorca fought with some determination to establish himself as a poet and found himself frustrated in his mid-twenties when his play Mariana Pineda ran into trouble with Primo de Rivero’s censorship. The end of the summer 1926 finds Lorca at an impasse. His father is angry with him for what he sees as the lack of direction in his son’s life, with little apparent promise of any artistic success. He threatens to put an end to his idle versifying. “Summer is coming to an end and I’m left stranded without the least sign of any start to my work as a dramatic poet in which I have so much faith and which would bring me such happiness,” he writes to the theatre empresario Eduardo Marquina in the hope that this man might yet rescue Mariana Pineda for him.

Such is his desperation that he begins to toy with the idea of getting a proper job. At the beginning of September, he writes to his friend Jorge Guillén that he has decided to do the exams for the Chair of Literature. He tries hard to convince himself that he has a vocation for the academic life. "Tell me what I have to do,” he asks Guillén, who has just been appointed to the Chair of Literature in Murcia. “Remember I'm neither intelligent nor hard-working. A lazy-bones!"

Guillén’s good humoured and humorous reply seems to be designed to put the aspiring poet off from embarking on any academic career. “First, you must read a lot”, he says. “Not only poetry and prose, but also all the books that have been written about those poetry and prose works. And you must make notes of what you have read.” “But that’s not half so bad,” he continues, “for then you need to keep a file so that you can find all the notes that you have written. As a first step, buy a box to file your notes. That will impress your father no end and show him you are serious about your new academic bent.”

Salvador Dalí, for his part, is equally scathing about his friend’s new-found academic ambition. “Dear Federico, you’re not going to do exams for anything,” (he wrote laconically). “Persuade your father to leave you in peace to publish your books, that is what will make you famous ... “

“If Mariana were to be performed, I would win over my father once and for all,” Lorca predicted. And indeed he was right. The success of Mariana Pineda, when it was performed in Barcelona in June 1927, combined with the publication of Canciones also in 1927, and then followed by the extraordinary success of the First Gypsy Ballad Book, published in 1928, marked the literary break-through Lorca was seeking and after that parental pressure let up. Lorca’s father came to accept his son's literary vocation, and the poet was spared further traumas of having to look for a proper job.

Final note: As with other books published in his lifetime, Lorca gave all his friends and family copies of The Gypsy Ballad Book with a dedication inside the front cover. In the copy he gave to his parents, and only in theirs, he added in brackets after his signature the word “poet”, a telling gesture, asserting his finally achieved independence as a creative writer.

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Ida Vitale - 2016 Winner

The Lorca PrizePosted by Simon Fri, June 09, 2017 18:58:43

The other night I was at the Lorca Centre to attend the prize-giving ceremony for the City of Granada-Federico García Lorca International Prize for Poetry, to give it its full title. The winner was a Uruguayan poet called Ida Vitale, at 93 the oldest award winner yet, a close contemporary of Mario Benedetti (1920-2009).

Choosing such an old woman might have seemed like a bit of a risk if it were not for the obvious vitality of the prize-winner. For the Prize organisers consider it absolutely crucial that the poet selected for the award be present at the official ceremony. This is because the whole occasion is set up to promote the city culturally, so when Blanca Varela (winner in 2006) was too unwell to attend, they decided henceforth to withhold the quite considerable prize money in the case of the winner not coming to collect it. Indeed, in 2011, the Cuban poet Fina García Marruz, aged 88 at the time, was also not well enough to attend, so I wonder if she had to forgo the cash prize? Sounds a bit hard, doesn’t it?

The average age of the prize-winning poets is now well over 80. This is because the Lorca Prize is expressly awarded in recognition of a poet’s entire life’s work. The idea is that the occasion will be of mutual benefit to both city and poet, in that on the one hand the poet’s established reputation is further enhanced by being associated with the city that was home to Andalusia’s greatest twentieth century poet (?), while the city is allowed to bask for a while in the fame and glory of that particular year’s prize-winner.

The City of Granada-Federico García Lorca International Prize for Poetry is a subject I have blogged on on a number of occasions previously, though not since September 2015. I have commented primarily on the advanced age of the award winners and secondly on the delicately maintained balance between Spanish and Latin American poets. Indeed, if we count Tomas Segovia as half Mexican and half Spanish (he was born in Valencia), six-and-a-half of the winners have been from the Iberian peninsula and six-and-a-half from America.

Another common denominator is winning the Reina Sofia before or after the Lorca. I think nine of the thirteen Lorcas have won both. While not wanting to talk of a ‘copycat’ syndrome, there is no doubt that the two prizes are fishing in the same waters.

And lastly, before Ida Vitale, only three of the winners had been lady poets. Member of council for culture Rosa Aguilar made use of her place on the podium to criticise this fact. The award going to Vitale is recognition of the value of poetry made by women, something said counsellor is keen to promote.

While not denying the great contribution made by these prestigious winners of a prestigious prize, I have to express some regret that the Lorca Prize is not granted in a rather more adventurous spirit. Thinking of the struggle it took Lorca to establish himself as a poet and win economic independence to pursue his chosen vocation, the idea of a Poetry Prize named after him seems like a good one. Lorca came close at one time to giving up and knuckling under, tempted to apply for a proper job to please his exasperated father, who saw no future in his son’s poetic bent and lack of conventional professional ambition. (See my following post.) A little formal recognition at the beginning of his literary career in the form of a cash award would have helped him on his way and relieved him of some years’ anxiety and freed him from an at times humiliating dependence on his father.

The City of Granada International Poetry Prize, however, is not that kind of award. Worth 30,000 Euros (reduced from 50,000 when times got hard and money short during the Crisis), the city is not interested in taking risks and seeks its winners exclusively among well established poets who in return for the dosh can lend the city something of their achieved acclaim and glory.

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city of unrealised dreams

granadaPosted by Simon Wed, May 31, 2017 13:40:19

A number of my posts on Granada have been prompted by a passage from Paraíso cerrado para muchos, jardines abiertos para pocos (Paradise closed to the many, gardens open to the few) in which Lorca discusses what he sees as the essential indigenous aesthetic of the city. I quote, selectively:

Granada ( he says) is a city of leisure, a city for contemplation and imagination, a city where a person in love writes the name of his loved one in the earth better than anywhere else in the world. Time stands still in Granada. The hours are longer and more enjoyable. There is no reason to hurry. Let the city feed your imagination, and your senses.

You may say that these conditions are ideal for philosophers. But philosophy, Lorca counters, requires discipline and intellectual rigour and consistency and mathematical balance, things which are difficult to find in Granada. Granada nourishes dreams and day-dreaming, bordering on the mystical/things that are difficult to put into words.

Besides, there is a big and important difference between dreaming and thinking, says Lorca. Granada is full of initiatives, but what it lacks is decision.

Elsewhere, I think it is Lorca who writes that two and two never get to equal four in Granada, but remain two-and-two forever, a never realised potential.

Examples of this suggested difficulty in turning dreams into reality that Lorca suggests is an essential granadino trait have been a constant theme of my observations during the time I have spent in the city's thrall: the delays in infrastructure projects such as the Metro and the Ave (High-Speed Train); the limited success of the supposedly international airport that bears the poet’s name; the city’s irregular development as a tourist destination; bringing Lorca’s physical legacy from the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid to Granada; and the inauguration of the Lorca Centre which was built to house this legacy. And last but not least, the localisation of the poet’s unmarked grave. (He was disappeared at the outset of the Civil War in 1936.)

All this I hope to be dealing with in the coming weeks or months.

For those who read Spanish, I am copying here the relevant extract from Paraíso cerrado para muchos, jardines abiertos para pocos.

Granada es una ciudad de ocio, una ciudad para la contemplación y la fantasia, una ciudad donde el enamorado escribe mejor que en ninguna otra parte el nombre de su amor en el suelo. Las horas son allí más largas y sabrosas que en ninguna ciudad de España. Tiene crepúsculas complicados de luces constantemente inéditas que parece no terminan nunca. Sostenemos con los amigos largas conversaciones en medio de sus calles. (81) Vive con la fantasia. Está llena de iniciativas, pero falta de acción. Solo en una ciudad de ocios y tranquilidades puede haber exquisitos catadores de aguas, de temperaturas y de crepúsculos, como los hay en Granada. El granadino está rodeado de la naturaleza más espléndida, pero no va a ella. Los paisajes son extraordinarios, pero el granadino prefiere mirarlas desde su ventana. (...) Es hombre de pocos amigos. (No es proverbial en Andalucía la reserve de Granada?) De esta manera mira y se fija amorosamente en los objetos que lo rodean. Además no tiene prisa. (...) Se me puede decir que éstas son las condiciones más aptas para producirse una filosofía. Pero una filosofía necesita una disciplina y un esfuerzo de dolor querido, necesita una constancia y un equilibrio matemático bastante difícil en Granada. Granada es apta para el sueño y el ensueño. Por todas partes limita con lo inefable. Y haymucha diferencia entre sonar y pensar, aunque las actitudes sean gemelas. (82)

Obras completas III. Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores. 1997. Pp 81/82.

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Federico Garcia LorcaPosted by Simon Mon, February 20, 2017 14:13:05

Of all the projects that have been undertaken in Granada but failed to come to fruition in the many years I have been living here, probably the most astonishing of them all has been the unsuccessful search for the remains of the poet Federico Lorca, murdered outside Viznar, a village just to the north of the city, in August 1936, shortly after Franco’s nationalist uprising against the Second Republic started. In the ‘Fable of the Three Friends’ in the Poet in New York collection Lorca famously wrote:


I realised they had murdered me.
They searched through the cafés, the cemeteries, and the churches,
they opened barrels and cupboards,
they destroyed three skeletons to tear out their gold teeth.
But they didn't find me.
They didn't find me?
No. They didn't find me.

The latest systematic search ended on 20 October last year, 2016, when the lead being followed by Miguel Caballero and Javier Navarro drew a blank. They have recently presented a report on their failure to the authorities and to the public.

Although the findings of the search are inconclusive, the evidence, circumstantial as it is, strongly suggests that the poet was shot and buried at the site indicated by Eduardo Molina Fajardo’s account – Los últimos días de Garcá Lorca (Lorca’s LastDays) published in 1983 - but then his body was dug up shortly afterwards and reburied elsewhere. This hypothesis corresponds with what Antonio Gallego Burín told Emilia Lanos and she told Agustín Penón in the mid-50s: the shock waves caused by Lorca’s murder were such that his remains were secretly moved to a mass grave nearby to make it harder for them to be found and identified.

Caballero and Navarro’s investigations conclude that Lorca was indeed killed at the Peñón del Colorado, on 17 or 18 August, and buried along with fellow victims schoolteacher Dióscoro Galindo and bullfighters Francisco Galadí and Joaquín Arcollas. Later all four bodies were transferred to the mass grave at Víznar which was opened a few weeks after their death. To throw further light on the matter it is vital that the police report on Lorca’s death drawn up by José Mingorance on Franco’s behest be found, says Caballero.

G. Cappa. Granada Hoy, 16 Febrero, 2017

And I'm not here, either!

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MetroPosted by Simon Mon, February 13, 2017 04:03:16

The promised inauguration of the Metro in Granada for March this year (see post 55, 2 Feb 17), - it looks as if it’s going to happen, but in a scaled-down form. That is, like the High Speed AVE was reduced to a Low Speed version, and then a No Speed service (see post 54, 30 Jan 17), at least for 2017, the Metro it appears is going to be introduced as a trial service at first, running from just 9am to 3pm, and that with only one train an hour. A further delay in the full inauguration to autumn or beyond the end of the year is not inconceivable.

If you think that’s bad enough, better not look at the cost, which has risen so far from an initial budget of 260m to over 558m euros. This might suggest that those responsible for calculating the costs are incredibly dim, or something funny is going on. We know who’s paying for all this, but do we know who’s profiting?

- This is from Antonio Cambril’s opinion piece in Granada Hoy, 12 Feb 2017 (Calendario flamenco). I have left out the scorn he pours on the political parties, as I take that for given.

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The Lorca CentrePosted by Simon Sun, February 05, 2017 20:10:02

The inauguration of the Lorca Centre was planned with great pomp and ceremony for 2011. A fantastic programme was announced, which I don’t like to think about now. Have a look, for example, at #post16, dated 30 Jan 2011. The declared aim was to make the Centre ‘one of the most important cultural assets’ in Spain with ‘a programme of activities of international relevance’.

Thanks to the fraudulent actions of Juan Tomás, it was not to be. (See previous #post57.) When the Centre was finally opened in 2015, it was a low-key affair without pomp, without ceremony, and without the legacy.

In the meantime, it has organised some quite interesting events, of which I would like to mention a couple I have attended.

From 27 October to 15 December 2016 they ran a Silent Movie Cycle. I managed to get to see for my first time Carl Theodor Dreyer’s La passion de Jeanne d’Arc of 1928, with live piano accompaniment by Jose Ignacio Hernandez. Brilliant! This was originally shown at the Residencia de Estudiantes Film Club, its third and final session, on 14 December 1928.

I missed Le Chien Andalou (1929) which I’ve seen a couple of times anyway. But it was on in a double bill with Jean Renoir’s 1924 film La fille de l’eau. I have loved the Renoir films that I have seen and would have liked to have seen this one.

I did see the Charlie Chaplin double bill The Immigrant (1917) and The Gold Rush (1925) which both lived up to their reputation. This was part of the sixth session of the Spanish Film Club, shown at the Goya Cinema on 4 May 1929.

On Tuesday 7 February I’m going to see a showing of Omega, a documentary about the making of the album of the same name recorded in 1996 by flamenco singer Enrique Morente and the local rock band Lagartija Nick featuring songs and poems by Lorca and Leonard Cohen with an amazing supporting line-up of musicians. The album is a milestone in the history of the fusion of flamenco and rock. It looks very promising.

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The Lorca CentrePosted by Simon Sun, February 05, 2017 15:39:53

We have talked about the Granada Metro, the AVE (high-speed train), and the international airport as fairly ambitious projects that are taking rather a long time to realise. What we haven’t discussed is the time it’s taking for Lorca’s ‘Legacy’ to arrive in his native city. Lorca’s Legacy refers to an archive consisting of over 2,000 sheets of original manuscripts, thousands of other documents, original drawings, musical scores and photographs, all of them relating to the poet’s work and life. This archive has been until now safely looked after at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid.

This archive, we are assured, will be transferred from Madrid to the purpose-built Lorca Centre in time for the 119th anniversary of the poet’s birth on 5 June 2017.

The last time I referred to the Lorca Centre was on 24 October 2013, #post41, when I reported: ‘The workmen have moved in. To finish the job. It's actually happening.’ An agreement had finally been reached between the State (Spain), the Autonomous Region (Andalusia), the City of Granada, and the Province as to how to finance the 4.5 million euros overspent above and beyond the original budget. These additional costs, we were told, corresponded to ‘unforeseen expenses’ which arose during the execution of the work between 2007 and 2013.

The 4.5 million euro deficit that delayed the opening of the Centre for such a long time corresponds pretty exactly to the amount that was embezzled by the Lorca Foundation’s secretary Juan Tomás Martín, who had been entrusted to handle the finances by the president, Laura García, the poet’s neice, daughter of brother Francisco.

So, you might say that it was because of this Juan Tomás that the inauguration of the Centre was delayed from 2008 till 2015.

Pictures: con-man and victim

Does it bode well for the transfer of Lorca’s Legacy from the Residence of Students in Madrid where they have remained safe since 1986 to the Lorca Centre in Granada where corruPSOE crooks like Juan Tomás are on the lookout to take advantage of the gullible to fill their own pockets? My gut feeling is: leave it there, where it has been safe for so long. I cannot say I feel overconfident about this invaluable legacy being held in what still seems to be the land of the ‘chavico’.

Sources: Ángles Peñalver Ideal Granada 4 Mar 2016; R. G. Sevilla, Granada Hoy 18 Jan 2017

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